Rich countries seldom compromise their national interests for the greater good of the world at large. This was the moral of the Durban climate summit which ended achieving only a postponement.
Political scientist Harold Laski once said, "A state divided into a small number of rich and a large number of poor will always develop a government manipulated by the rich to protect the amenities represented by their property."
By extension, the saying also applies at the international level. We could say a world divided into a small number of rich nations and a large number of poor ones will inherit a system which is manipulated by the rich to protect their wealth-amassing instruments at the cost of misery to the poor.
One such rich nation that epitomizes this saying is Canada. On Monday Canada withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol, virtually killing it. Though the treaty is not the best of instruments to control the global temperature rises and their adverse impacts, it is regarded as a stepping stone to a comprehensive climate deal. Canada said on Monday that it was unable to meet the Kyoto limits on greenhouse gas emissions or buy carbon credits, arguing that noncompliance with the treaty would mean that it would have to pay a $ 14 billion fine or every Canadian would have to bear an additional financial burden of 1,600 dollars.
But the announcement dealt a death blow to the Kyoto Protocol as it encourages other polluters to consider similar exits from the anti-global warming treaty, which in any case expires at the end of next year.
In other words, Canada is not prepared to sacrifice its economic growth or wealth amassing process at the cost of adhering to the Kyoto deal. Compliance with the treaty will hurt Canada's booming oil sands sector, which is the country's largest greenhouse gas emitter.
Canada's Environment Minister Peter Kent said the withdrawal allowed his country to continue to create jobs and growth and avoid paying a $14 billion fine for not meeting the treaty's emission targets.
The justification exposes Canada's moral nakedness. The withdrawal from the treaty came as no shock to those who are aware of Canada's ultra nationalist or neoconservative foreign policy.
Overtly Canada appears to be championing human rights, promoting democracy and opening its doors to those who flee alleged persecution in their home countries. But its record tells a different story — its complicity in imperialist crimes.
Canada contributed troops to George W. Bush's invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq and joined in the bombing raids on Libya. Its hands are stained with the blood of more than a million civilians killed in the three conflicts. Besides, Canada under its present Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a staunch supporter of the Zionist state of Israel and vehemently opposes a solution to the Palestinian question based on justice and fair play.
With a major polluter putting self or 35 million Canadians before the wellbeing of the 6 billion 965 million comprising the rest of the world people, it is hardly surprising that the Durban climate talks produced only an agreement on a future agreement.
Ministers and experts from nearly 200 countries on Sunday could only agree to a 2015 deadline for a new climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol. Needless to say environmentalists and climate scientists slammed the Durban talks as a tragic failure and accused the politicians of putting the planet on the fast track to doom, although optimists hailed the outcome saying that for the first time three major polluters — China, the United States and India — had agreed to negotiate legally-binding emissions limits under a new treaty.
Like Canada on Monday, the US had also dealt a killer punch to the Kyoto Treaty. That was when the Bush administration in 2001, under pressure from the industrial lobby, threw out the treaty, which the previous Bill Clinton administration had agreed to ratify. The Bush administration, however, said it would not ratify a one-sided deal that gave big-time polluters such as China, India and Brazil a free pass.
Such undercurrents continued to plague climate talks and were visible at Durban too, with the European Union pulling in one direction, while the US, Canada, China, Russia, Brazil and India pulled in another direction. In this tug o' war, the poor developing countries, which are the worst hit by climate change, tried to pull the talks in the right direction but failed.
The undercurrents at Durban were that no deal was greater than the economic interests of the developed world or rapidly developing countries such as China and India. In other words, the industrialized nations would continue to pollute the environment while paying lip-service to measures aimed at keeping the global temperature rise to below two degrees Celsius in the coming years.
The developed world has caused enough damage to the environment. They became rich by plundering the poor nations' resources and causing harm to the environment.
The best climate deal is one that also ensures a fair distribution of the global wealth. The existing carbon quota system is probably one such method whereby the rich nations which use up their carbon quota fast can buy unused quotas from the poor at a decent price. However, it needs to be further streamlined so that it would not lead to corrupt leaders in poor countries making fast bucks through underhand deals with rich countries by agreeing not to industrialize their countries.
The poor nations can become rich only if they are allowed to make maximum use of their resources through industrialization instead of selling their minerals for a pittance to the rich nations and buying the finished product from them at an exorbitant price.
This is why diamond-rich Ivory Coast, uranium-rich Niger and oil-rich Angola are still poor. What Africa needs is not aid but a fair deal whereby the poor African nations will get a fair price for their agricultural produce and industrial goods in the world market, which is now manipulated by rich nations by means of farmer subsidies and high import standards. No climate deal should pose a hindrance to poor nations' prosperity or industrialization.
Ecological balance is intricately linked to a balance in the income distribution of the world. If this does not happen, doomsday will not be far away, possibly in the coming year as predicted in an ancient Mayan tablet.