Developing Nations Angry in Approach to Copenhagen

With only two short months before the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, alliances are forming and tempers are flaring. Guardian environment editor John Vidal reported yesterday that a group of 130 developing nations is accusing the United States of planning to dismantle the structure of the Kyoto Protocol, in a back-handed effort to dump the responsibility of cutting emissions on the developing world.

Yu Qingtai, China's special representative to the climate talks, blames the UN Annex 1 countries (developed nations) for the continued lack of progress in emissions reductions and climate change mitigation. Lumumba Di-Aping, Sudanese Chair of the developing country conglomerate G77, echoed China's sentiment. Di-Aping characterized the U.S. and European Union's hedging as a "total rejection of their historical responsibilities."

Developing nations have long expressed discontent with what they see as a lackluster plan from the developed world, but the recent uproar was most likely a reaction to the Obama administration's admission that the U.S. Senate will not vote on a national climate bill in time for the Dec. 7 launch of the Copenhagen convention. The U.S. has also suggested dismantling the basic structure of the Kyoto Protocol, in which global emissions goals are agreed upon and bound by specific targets and timelines. The U.S. has proposed, with tacit agreement from the E.U., that legally binding plans be pushed aside in favor of individual national promises that would not be held to specific standards.

The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that developed nations need to cut their emissions by 25-40 percent by 2020 in order to avoid a larger than 2 degree Celcius global temperature rise. But an analysis by the Alliance of Small Island States reports the United States' pledge thus far would only reduce emissions by 16-23 percent, a revelation especially troubling to eroding islands surrounded by rising ocean levels.

Environmental groups from all over the world will converge in Copenhagen at the beginning of December, and there is still hope that world leaders will come up with a meaningful plan of action. Unfortunately, the convention will first have to overcome an increasing rift between nations.