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FEATURE

COP 15: Accepting Responsibility





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Imagine you’re a well-to-do person attending a dinner of your peers. The food is top-rate and there’s plenty of it. Course after course is laid upon the table.

A group of less-advantaged people has been watching from the sidelines. When the dinner is done, you invite them to join you at the table. After the restaurant staff has served coffee, the bill comes. You and your rich peers insist that everyone now at the table must share in paying the entire bill.

If that seems unfair, then you have just understood the position of the delegates from emerging economies, now negotiating with their wealthier colleagues from the North over a climate deal at Copenhagen.

Some poorer nations have taken the position that because the industrialized world is responsible for most of the greenhouse gas emissions already in the atmosphere – in effect exhausting the environment’s capacity to cope with carbon – rich nations must pay “damages” or “reparations”. These payments presumably would be used by emerging economies to cope with the climate changes that already are devastating some of them, and to increase their standards of living while minimizing their emissions.

But the United States’ chief negotiator, Todd Stern - an attorney and by all accounts a very good and moral man – rejects that argument. Speaking at COP-15, he repeated President Barack Obama’s recent promise that the United States will pay a “fair share” of financial assistance to emerging economies. But, he said: "We absolutely recognize our historic role in putting emissions in the atmosphere, up there, but the sense of guilt or culpability or reparations, I just categorically reject that."  Continued...



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