Our climate is warming which is glaring and terrifying. A position agreed to by many scientists and all interested in the subject of climate change. Climate Change effects have been felt more and more clearly and severely in every aspect of human being, the environment, and economic development. In particular, without an action today, the global economy in no distant future will suffer from a possible loss of at least 5 percent, or up to 20 percent of global GDP every year, taking into consideration a wide range of impacts. It was, therefore, shocking when the new Head of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the United States of America, the world’s largest per capita emitter, Mr Scott Pruitt recently stirred controversy when he flatly denied the impact of carbon dioxide emission on global warming. The pronouncement of Mr Scott Pruitt contravenes the stands of his organisation. Scott’s position is not surprising as many in the Trump Government hold the same notion which potentially could be a major setback to the recent success of the COP meeting in Paris – Paris Accord. It is very clear that just as the USA failed to commit to the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Accord is likely to suffer the same faith.
In the mix of these swift developments, the question on the mind of many is whether developing countries who still have a significant deficit in infrastructure should adhere to international conventions on emission reductions and adopt technologies which are climate friendly knowing they come at the cost of development. My take is that developing countries must continue to pursue green technologies which will help reduce global warming regardless of America’s position. Such a move would indicate the leadership prowess of Africa towards greater global good. A commitment that would send a strong signal to the hegemonic countries which not long ago developed through overexploitation and pollutions but have now turned their back to global good for nationalism. It will put Africa in the limelight as a competent, capable partner in global governance discourse and take its rightful place in the league of nations.
Historically, the path to economic growth and development has been a fascinating one, especially when looked at from the perspective of environmental damage caused by such development. Advanced countries of America and Europe achieved such unprecedented growth and development during the industrial revolution era by increasing pollution. There is no denial of the fact that the pursuit of economic development during the industrial revolution era took into account little recognition for the environment. Forested resources including flora and fauna were overstretched and squandered for economic development gains. Such greed and unguided levels of world’s common resources exploitation by the West have caused a great deal of damage to the climate thereby requiring remedy action by all. The climate crises, therefore, requires concerted efforts of all and sundry irrespective of location, developed or developing, man or woman in addressing it. The United States must be guided by this historical antecedent and recognise their role in the damaging of our world and be part of the solution.
There are several reasons why developing countries must care about pollution levels and the “right to pollute” concept might hurt developing economies more. Rights come with responsibilities and developing nations have no option but rather contribute towards emission reduction efforts. In fact, developing countries cannot jettison their commitment at the international level towards meeting emission targets. Below, I discuss some of the reasons why developing countries must care about their pollution levels.
Impact argument- Climate change’s impact has no border. The high variability in precipitation and temperature could result in sea level rise, melting ice, increase deforestation, and desertification. As a consequence, agriculture productivity could be low, floods will be frequent, dreaded droughts envisaged, and heatwaves increase will be a common occurrence. These impacts largely are felt in developing nations where adoption and mitigation measures are weak and inadequate. Indeed, Africa and Asia are slated to be the worst affected place of climate change. The economic cost of these adversities could be high and potentially affect the political stability of the two continents. In effect, the social, political, cultural and economic well-being of developing nations is seriously under threat from climate change. Developing nations, knowing this potential impact have no option but to support global level efforts at reducing emission. For instance, in China, the productivity loss due to environmental damage averaged between (1.7- 2.5%) of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and in India, the average is about (6%) of GDP. These costs are forecast to increase exponentially if climate change issues get not properly addressed.
The potential for emission reduction – Developing countries have the largest potential for emission reduction. Economic development is taking place in developing economies, with the rapid expansion of public infrastructure, the manufacturing sector is seeing a surge and production sector is expanding as never before. These rapid growths come with an associated environmental cost. Indeed, infrastructure expansion will continue for a longer period in developing countries due to the inadequacy of public infrastructure in most of these countries. The inherent advantage is that new environmentally friendly technologies are available and should developing countries use such tools, they could reduce drastically their emissions whiles improving on their people. But such energy efficient technologies come at a high cost. Also, there are huge inefficiencies in most developing countries. The efficiency gains to be derived from developing nations opting for clear technology, efficiency in transportation, efficiency in electrical gadgets are enormous and could be potentially a game changer for climate change efforts.
Generational notion – The generational argument is perhaps one of the most sounding and most appropriate. The generation of today has a responsibility of protecting the world for the next generation. Current generation own it a duty to preserve and protect the sanctity and the serenity of the world and make it habitable for next generation. Preservation of our environment for future generation remains a sacred moral responsibility that current generation cannot renege. It, therefore, requires of developing nations to be rectitude in their development process, mitigate pollution, and even conserve some natural resources from over-exploitation. The key is that current generation must approach development such that it does not jeopardise or compromise the future of generations tomorrow.
The cost of pollution argument – The explicit and implicit cost to developing countries from pollution is alarming and is a threat to the long-term development potential of most developing countries. Most developing countries have lax policy regimes and often unable to track back activities of individuals, enterprises, and cooperation(s) operating in their jurisdictions. These economic agents knowing the weakness in government often places private benefit above social benefit. Profiteering by these economic agents, impact on the environment and in turn impact on the general economy. Sometimes, also governmental policy where revenue mobilisation becomes the central focus allow for dirty industries to locate and increase pollution. The resultant impact is increased social cost either through public health cost, the high cost of treatment of drinking water, low IQ due to inhalation of lead from the exhaust of vehicles and reduced productivity and economic activity. These potential costs are avoidable if the national government take a key interest in reducing emission. The costs are country specific which addressing requires individual countries taking action at curbing emission by its citizens.
Advance countries, however, have a sacred responsibility to support developing countries to stay low on emission. In truth to the commitment by the Annexe 1 countries under the United Nations Framework on Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC), financial and technological support were to be extended developing nations in their efforts at reducing emission. This position is still relevant, especially on the technology transfer part. International organisations with responsibility for coordination of climate change activities must continue to provide evidence-based information to support why there is the need to work at reducing pollution in the world.
Technology transfer is the most desired for developing nations on their quest to mitigate climate change. Most developing nations do not have the capacity to develop state of the art and sophisticated tools which are also environmentally friendly. With such inadequate capacity, and without transfer of technology from advanced countries to developing nations, their emission reduction efforts will plummet, and that will be inimical to the global effort at reducing climate change. Mindful of the fact technology development is at most private sector lead, goes to indicate that without support, such technologies will be out of reach of the poor in developing countries whose activities at farm level impact the climate. There is, therefore, the need for advanced countries with the right technology to assist developing countries with technologies which will augment emission reduction efforts.
Rather regrettably, however, I wish to conclude by saying that so far climate change discussions have either weighed more on the science or politics. The politicisation of climate change has been a debacle that requires addressing and the current US government stands is not good for the discussions. The consequence of climate change will be catastrophic. Developing nations stand to suffer the most, and it requires of them to do more. The north- south dichotomy does not suffice when one examines climate change from the consequential point of view. The collection of efforts by all; developed and the developing, rich and poor, urban and rural and old and young is the most desired. Developing nations do have the right to develop, but such development should not exacerbate the already worsening climate. Whereas developing nations are encouraged and urged to do more at reducing emission, developed nations especially the USA also do have a significant role to play and so is China and other emerged countries. Technology transfer support, financial support, and capacity enhancement support will be a step in the right direction. Developed nations need not relent on their efforts at reducing emission, as their per capita emission remains at high levels.
Author: Kwadwo Kyeremeh