This year’s first series of UN climate talks are taking place in Bonn, Germany in the first week of May. The talks will focus on the structure and design of an international climate agreement to be set in 2015. Its aims will also include bolstering international ambition and commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions before the new agreement goes into effect.
In advance of the UN climate talks, the chair of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) bloc has called for the 49 countries in the group to become “deal makers.” Prakash Mathema told LDC leaders in Kathmandu last month, “It is time we shaped the agenda and the decisions, instead of having them shaped for us.”
Many of the world’s least developed countries have expressed a commitment to sustainable, low-carbon economic and commercial development. But without financial and technological support from wealthier nations, it is unclear how these goals can be achieved. Ethiopia, Bangladesh, and Nepal are just some of the LDCs that have already begun to plan and implement green development strategies.
Though the LDCs have verbally expressed agreement to legally binding reductions in their greenhouse gas emissions, the countries’ official position on climate change and emissions has not yet been formalized. This is due to the fact that LDCs are not the primary producers of greenhouse gases – in fact, they account for only several percent of the total of emissions. LDCs have called on developing and developed countries that emit far more warming gases to take responsibility for mitigation efforts by first reducing their emissions.
Whether or not legally binding emissions cuts are implemented for the LDCs, they should surely be put into place for developing and developed countries that possess the financial and technological resources to effectively mitigate climate change. Without the legal enforcement of emission reductions, it is unlikely that all countries will respond to moral pressure or other forms of coercion. However, countries like India and China, developing countries responsible for large amounts of emissions, have stated that they expect the same legal requirements to be put in place for all countries.
International disagreement over how best to take responsibility for and mitigate the effects of climate change is understandable. With development comes a need for many products whose manufacture, transport, and usage all emit greenhouse gases. This is why low-carbon, sustainable development initiatives are so important in countries going through the earliest stages of modern development. The Maldives and Costa Rica aim to become carbon-neutral by 2021. But many countries that wish to follow their lead would require extensive external support.
The determination of varying expectations for greenhouse gas emissions among LDCs, developing countries, and developed countries will likely be an important aspect of the 2015 international climate agreement.