OECD Nations Unwilling to Internalize the Costs of Climate Change

One of the developments out of the UN Climate Talks this week in Poland was the launching of an Adaptation Fund to help poorer nations deal with the disastrous effects of climate change such as drought, floods and rising sea levels. Where the fund fell short was its endowment as just $80 million dollars  were allocated to addressing this critical element of the fight. The cash will be raised by a levy on a U.N. system of projects to cut greenhouse gas emissions in poor nations. The real question is, should countries most responsible for climate change contribute most to mitigating its consequences?

Despite the current standing of China as the top carbon emitter and the rising emissions of nations of the global south, the western world has undoubtedly contributed the largest share of carbon dioxide over the last century. Over this time, the cost of these emissions has been externalized onto all parts of the globe, and these costs are now manifesting as humanitarian catastrophes. While we should address current emissions of developing economies, it is important to recognize the culpability in the present-day situation as a result of past activity.

This fund will help alleviate some of the costs, but it is a pittance compared to the funding required for a myriad of projects. At the same time, it is some of the countries that are not as responsible for this predicament that are doing the most to address it. Mexico has the most ambitious plan of anyone, promising to cut CO2 emissions to half of 2002 levels. South Africa is hoping to peak emissions by 2025.

As these nations make concessions in climate talks, it becomes clear that the West is not doing nearly enough to change their ways now, and also failing to display a sense of global justice. Is it fair for us to allow the poorest nations to bear the price of our prosperity?

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