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India and China must not take Paris Climate Conference lightly

Right to industrialise versus protection of the environment is a dilemma for both countries.

 |  3-minute read |   29-09-2015
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Climate change represents a unique dilemma for India and China as both countries try and reconcile their “natural and legitimate right” to continue their industrialisation and modernisation with the need to adapt to the effects of climate change. Both countries are, however, “doing their best to reconcile these seemingly contradictory goals,” says Nobel laureate (1996) José Manuel Ramos-Horta, who is also the chairman of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations.

Climate negotiations at Paris this December represent a challenge for the two Asian giants – China and India. The Nobel laureate described the challenge confronting India and China as one where the two countries are trying to reconcile their “natural and legitimate right” to continue their industrialisation and modernisation with the need to adapt to the effects of climate change. Both countries are however, “doing their best to reconcile these seemingly contradictory goals”.

Pointing towards the fact that the G7 economies have committed themselves to a decarbonisation of the economy, he also complimented both China and India. China had done “much to assist other developing countries in their national efforts to lift their people out of extreme poverty.” India, too, another giant Asian emerging power, “has adopted policies and taken steps to redress the environmental degradation caused by demographic pressures and industrialisation”, he said.

Ramos-Horta, who served as president of Timor-Leste, after leading a movement for his country’s independence from Indonesia, described the damage to the Earth’s environment as “barbaric”. People of the developing world have not benefited from the industrial revolution of the 19th and 20th centuries, and they are “blameless for the barbaric damage done to planet Earth,” the Nobel laureate said. “Yet they are the most vulnerable to climate change,” he quipped. He said this while delivering a keynote address at the Regional Forum on Climate Change organised at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) in Thailand.

The Nobel laureate is particularly critical of what he termed as “transboundary environmental crimes” perpetuated by powerful countries. “Centuries of transboundary environmental crimes have included dumping of nuclear, chemical and industrial wastes in the East African coast, overfishing by fleets from faraway richer countries leading to depletion of fish stocks, impoverishment of tens of millions of people whose livelihood depend on the seas, and uncontrolled logging in Asia and Africa,” he pointed out.

Ramos-Horta also raised the issue of the impact of wars on environmental damage in his keynote address delivered at the Regional Forum on Climate Change. The humanitarian crisis which ensured from these conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Mali, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, South Sudan and Ukraine, have no parallel in history as they set back decades of economic and social indicators besides causing “colossal environmental damage.”

Wars and environmental damage are related, Ramos-Horta said, adding that “besides killing people, wars inflict a heavy toll on the environment and setback efforts towards sustainable and equitable development which is a sine qua non condition for peace”.

Without pointing at anyone, Ramos-Horta asked politicians to show statesmanship since failure of the United Nations Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP21) at Paris, is not an option, he said.

Writer

Bajinder Pal Singh Bajinder Pal Singh

He is a journalist based in Thailand, who specialises in south and southeast Asia. His interests include science, environment and education, and their interface with media.

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