Wednesday marks the beginning of 18th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP 18) talks regarding climate change in Doha, Qatar. This discussion is the latest in the annual series of talks regarding global climate change that the UN hosts every year. Over the past decade, discussion has centered on the Kyoto protocol, which was initially adopted on December 11, 1997 and entered into force on February 16, 2005. An increasing number of countries have signed on to this agreement, but a lack of support from key players — namely the United States — has hobbled its effectiveness.
The Kyoto protocol and subsequent climate change agreements have stalled as different UN members cannot seem to agree upon the necessary scope of climate protection that should be included. Developed countries argue for stringent regulation that will establish strong environmental protections. However, developing nations argue for loose regulation or exceptions for nations that cannot afford new technology to reduce emissions.
This debate centers upon the question of pollution: how much is each nation entitled to pollute? Wealthy, industrialized nations argue that the planet is in crisis and every country must work toward reducing global emissions. This argument is grounded in fact: emissions have indeed increased with time and these effects are felt around the globe. However, poor nations that are still in the process of industrializing argue that they cannot bear the cost of stringent environmental standards. Furthermore, they argue that current climate change is the result of industrialized nations’ previous habits. They are also technically correct: the majority of emissions come from the United States and China, two nations that already experienced their industrial revolutions. These developing nations argue for a similar opportunity that previous countries had to modernize their industrial process and improve their economy.
Both arguments have fact behind them. There is no easy answer to this debate. Moving forward, a successful climate change agreement must balance the different demands of developed and developing countries with the environmental concerns. It remains to be seen whether COP 18 talks in Doha will be able to meet this challenge.