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Climate change challenges for developing countries

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Once the United States, China and Europe have confirmed their commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the world’s developing countries will now need to show that they are also willing to pull their weight. The key lies in getting countries such as Brazil, India, South Africa, Turkey or Mexico on board.

The division between industrialised countries and developing countries that has been typical of various previous summits on climate change looks certain to be a thing of the past. Particularly because China, one of the countries that releases the most greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, together with the United States , has already established plans to reduce its emissions from 2030. According to the latest available World Bank figures, China is the world’s most polluting country, followed by the United States and India. If we look at tonnes of CO2 emitted per capita instead, the United States has much higher emission levels than China, with the most polluting country per capita being Qatar, followed by Trinidad & Tobago and then Kuwait.

Climate change challenges for developing countries
For the moment we need to wait and see what path will be chosen by developing economies like Brazil, India, South Africa, Turkey or Mexico, which are growing fast but have yet to take a clear stance on how they plan to control CO2 emissions prior to the coming Paris Summit.

The United States and China have both sent a message to developing countries that their involvement is essential in the fight against climate change.

The U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, made a plea last February for the so-called BASIC countries (Brazil, South Africa, India and China; who agreed to form a group in 2009 to coordinate their approach to the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit) not to repeat past mistakes (Kyoto and Copenhagen Summit), and for them to view the Paris Summit as the beginning of a new phase. Also, at this year’s World Economic Forum, the Chinese government’s climate change spokesperson, Zou Ji, published an article to confirm China’s commitment, which also underlined the need for the rest of the world’s emerging countries, responsible for a third of the world’s emissions, to also commit to the process.

The work at the UN towards India coming to an agreement and the investments that countries like South Africa have made in concentrated solar plants, such as the three plants that Abengoa has set up there, are further developments that would suggest that developing countries intend to pull their weight in supporting a global agreement. Having finally got China on board, one of the key issues that now needs to be resolved for this group of economies is the system for paying and distributing the funds that will be used to finance the fight against climate change after Paris. It is expected that $100 billion per year will be made available, and that this sum will mainly be provided by the most developed and polluting countries, namely the industrialised countries. The Chinese representative, Zou Ji, also warned that the distribution of these funds and the transfer of technology that the more advanced countries commit to will be crucial for the success of the Paris Summit.

The systems for distributing climate change funds and transferring technology agreed at the Paris Summit will be basic building blocks for an agreement with emerging economies.

Whilst this is all happening, over the course of the year we should learn each country’s specific commitments for reducing emissions, as happened for the summit in Lima. A positive sign can be gleaned from an international insurance firm’s recently published report that states that emerging countries are actually the most interested in fighting pollution and the deterioration of the ozone layer, although the economic forecasts made by the UN are not so bright for these emerging countries: an expected slowdown in Chinese growth means that figures aren’t as promising as they have been in recent years. For now, all we can do is wait and see how the situation develops.

María Elena Fernández Ibáñez, Managing director of Zeroemissions.

María Elena Fernández Ibáñez,
Managing director of Zeroemissions.

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