Climate change: historical responsibility or common efforts

Before Ban Ki-moon’s climate summit, which will take place in New York in September, four countries with developing economies that are Russia’s colleagues at BRICS claimed to be ahead of developed countries in fighting climate change.

This statement was made in New Delhi and sounded like a message to the climate summit of nation and government leaders of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, BBC reported.

Brazil, South Africa, India, and China are known for their ‘special’ attitude to a number of fundamental issues of climate negotiations. The role of BRICS countries in addressing climate change is essential, as the four abovementioned emerging countries and Russia are considered the leaders among fast-growing economies of the world. China is on the top of the list of the world’s biggest carbon polluters, followed by the USA and India. According to Goldman Sachs, by 2050 the total size of their economies will exceed the total size of the economies of the richest countries of the world (G8). At the same time, the economy of BRICS is hardly environmentally friendly; if the current trends come true in the next 30 to 40 years, these countries will provide a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

Before the climate meeting, BRICS members accused the developed countries of not having serious enough ambitions to reduce emissions. “Our efforts in mitigating climate change and fighting against climate are much greater than those of developed countries,” said Prakash Javadekar, Environment Minister of India. “Voluntary action that our states have planned will reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide and raise the energy efficiency from 25% to 50%.”

A year ago, the BRICS alliance including Russia signed a plan to develop a ‘green economy’. The alliance then announced that it is ready to work in accordance with the principles of equality and common but differentiated responsibility as well as in view of the available opportunities.

There exists an opinion that the previous rounds of climate negotiations have failed because of conflicting attitudes of developed countries and countries with rapidly growing economies. The latter were convinced that they should not bother with commitments to reduce emissions, because this historical responsibility lies with the rich industrialized countries.

Immediately after the declaration of the ‘BRICS Four’, EU representatives provided numbers indicating completely the opposite, namely, “In the latest report of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), it is stated clearly that developed countries are reducing much more. From 2000 to 2010, the share of global emissions in developed countries decreased from 51.8% down to 40.9%, while the share of developing countries increased from 48.2% to 59.1%.”

For the sake of fairness, it should be noted that Russia’s colleagues at BRICS that support “differentiated responsibility” have not stopped in anticipation of action by other countries. For example, one of the most prominent participants of the global economic arena, China, has imposed a tax on greenhouse gas emissions. Right before the June climate negotiations in Bonn, China announced that it would follow the example of Europe and America and commit to limiting greenhouse gas emissions for the first time in its history. The Asian country has become a world leader in investments in renewable energy. Another Russia’s partner at the alliance of growing economies, South Africa, is implementing over 30 large-scale projects in wind and solar energy with a total capacity of approximately 1.5 GW.

Unfortunately, Russia, which agrees with its BRICS colleagues on many matters, cannot boast any major low-carbon projects yet. However, positive impulses to the climate process are very much expected from the September meeting of the leaders. Representatives of the Climate Secretariat of the Russian Socio-Ecological Union have repeatedly emphasized that the country has good chances to become a leader in low-carbon development, and therefore the ‘greening’ of the economy is fully consistent with not just the international context but also the national interests of the state. According to Russian Socio-Ecological Union, the most efficient way to solve the climate change problem in the power sector is introducing renewable energy sources and energy-saving and energy-efficient technologies, i.e. everything that is fully consistent with the principles of ‘a green economy’. Environmentalists are completely supportive of the BRICS countries’ desire to be in the forefront of the climate process.