For a fistful of dollars

 
Published: Monday 15 June 1992

MR BUSH says he will go to Rio as he is now satisfied with the global agreement of climate. Nothing can be a sharper indictment of the climate convention. Whereas the world needs long-term cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, the western nations on whom the onus of change falls, have not even agreed to stabilise their current emissions. To help Bush get to Rio, the bid to make stabilisation targets mandatory was dropped and a weasel phrase, "with the aim of..." was included.

For countries of the South, the framework convention is fundamentally flawed as it makes no attempt to establish the South's share of the atmosphere, and hence its right to claim compensation for the damages caused. Every attempt has been made to dilute the responsibility of the North for current and historical pollution. While mentioning common but differentiated responsibilities of nations, the North insisted on adding the word "capabilities". It now means that the industrialised countries take the lead to cut emissions, because they are more capable of doing so, and not because they are solely responsible for the pollution in the atmosphere. The US delegation had remarked, "We all agree that industrialised countries should take the lead, but we do not agree why". The South, in spite of its insistence, was not able to get the convention to say that "unsustainable consumption patterns" lead to global warming.

The North is obviously shying away from its responsibility and acting like a bully. But, the South, by giving in to the convention, is cutting the very tree on which it sits. The Indian government, which undoubtedly remained the strongest voice for Southern interests, was made up of a bunch of diplomats and bureaucrats for whom the single demand was additionality of aid and technology transfer. Two much repeated and abused demands of the South. What was needed instead was to build up public opinion both in India as well as abroad of the need to share the earth's resources. And to demand, rightfully and morally, an equal share of the atmosphere. And then promise discipline to stay within one's share. If the bully cannot be conquered, it should have been shamed into behaving itself.

The climate framework apes the Montreal convention of protecting the ozone layer. And compounds its faults. Both conventions are bad for the entire world as they set no svstem of disciplined use of a common resource - to atmosphere. They do not acknowledge that all countries share the lesource and not just the burden of cleaning up the mess, and, in turn, establish clear responsibilities for the misuse. And bind the errant nations to compensate for their historical and current overuse of common resources.

The North owes the South an enormous natural debt for colonising its ecological space. The Southers governments, including India, are selling away their peoples' rights for a fistful of dollars and mortgaging the interests of their future generations. Some officials call this a pragmatic attitude.

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