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The Equitable Sharing of Atmospheric and Development Space: Some Critical Aspects


In the quest for an international agreement on actions to address the climate change crisis, three aspects have to be the basis simultaneously:

  • The environmental imperative, to prevent the climate from changing to the extent that would have disastrous consequences.
  • The developmental imperative, in that developing countries have the needs and goals of eradicating poverty and providing jobs, fulfilling basic and human needs of the population, and
  • The equity imperative, as a global agreement that works has to be based on an equitable sharing of responsibilities and rights towards meeting the environmental imperative and be based on the understanding of the developing countries’ development needs.

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The developing countries are facing very serious and difficult challenges.

  • They face a development challenge as in most countries there is still substantial poverty, unemployment and social problems, which require economic growth to resolve.
  • They are still in the initial phases of industrial development and require increasing amounts of energy (both for industry and household use), while fossil fuels are becoming more expensive and renewable energy is still expensive.
  • There is very little carbon space left, and to avoid disastrous climate change, the developing countries also have to contribute in curbing emissions (initially through slowing down their growth) in physical terms.
  • Maintaining the ambition of high economic growth while increasingly economising on carbon emissions so as to eventually achieve emissions reduction or to avoid a carbon growth path altogether (especially for low income countries) is an extremely complex and difficult task, which the developed countries have not had to go through.

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Martin Khor is the Executive Director of the South Centre.  This article was first published by the South Centre in November 2010; it is reproduced here for non-profit educational purposes.

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