Gwynne Dyer explains why the Lima Summit ended in failure and dooms the Paris Summit next year to more of the same.
This is the deal killer. You cannot get the developing countries to cap their greenhouse gas emissions unless they get subsidies from the rich countries to help them build “clean” energy sources instead. And the developed countries regard this demand for subsidies ($100 billion a year was the figure on the table at Copenhagen five years ago) as outrageous.
It is not really outrageous at all. In view of the history of greenhouse gas emissions, it is quite fair. But almost nobody in the developed countries knows that history.
It’s quite simple. The developed countries are rich because they started burning fossil fuels between 100 and 200 years ago and industrialized early. The developing countries only started burning fossil fuels in a big way 30 or 40 years ago, and are still climbing out of poverty. So 80 percent of the greenhouse gases of human origin in the atmosphere were put there by the rich countries.
The rich countries caused this climate crisis; the developing countries only inherited it. So the responsibility for dealing with it—and paying for it—rests mostly with those who caused it.
Until public opinion in the developed world understands that this deal is fair, no government in the rich world will dare to sign up for it. It would be political suicide. And until that deal is signed, no major developing country will agree to cap its emissions.
In the developing world, everybody who counts politically understands the history of greenhouse gas emissions very well. One does sometimes wonder if the rich world’s apparent ignorance of this history is a little bit self-serving.It is the same intransigence on the climate change front that will undermine any effective action on over-population and excessive consumption of our planet's resources. We can't solve any of these truly existential threats without solving them all and no one is willing to accept the peaceful solutions. We'll mumble and dither and drag our heels as those best solutions, difficult as they may be, those peaceful solutions, one by one slip through our fingers and are foreclosed forever.