More than two billion people in India and China are only now emerging from a life of drudgery and abject poverty.’ A billion more across sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and other parts of Asia look set to join them over the next decades. This should be a cause for celebration. Instead, much of the contemporary discussion relating to energy needs and climate change portray these trends as a major problem.
The 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen was hailed in advance as reflecting an ‘overwhelming scientific consensus’ on the assumed problem of a link between carbon emissions and climate change, as well as on what needed to be done about it. But instead of agreement there was discord between the developed and the developing nations. The former argued that the latter should monitor and restrain their growth as they view with a growing sense of alarm the possibility of every Indian and Chinese person expecting Western lifestyles. They pointed to China now being the second largest producer of carbon emissions on earth.
From the perspective of the developing countries, however, as expressed by the Indian premier, Manmohan Singh, their growth and development is to meet internal needs and demands, as well as simply to catch up with the West. Their view is that the advanced capitalist countries had the benefit of industrialising first – thereby releasing into the atmosphere the carbon that is now considered to be a problem. Accordingly, it should be for those countries to lead the way in cutting back on emissions. And anyway, in terms of per capita emissions, it is these developed Western countries that remain the single largest polluters.
It appears, then, that the debate over how to meet growing energy demands and manage climate change has reached an impasse. It is difficult to see how, within the current framework, the different perspectives of developed and developing countries can ever be reconciled or resolved.
Reconciling Growing Energy Demand with Climate Change Management, Global Change, Peace & Security, Vol. 23, No. 2, pp.271-282, June 2011