CAMPAIGNERS pointed a finger at the rich yesterday for dangerous warming of the planet as negotiators from 195 nations fought a grinding battle over the text of a pact to avert climate disaster.
The rich-poor divide, which has for decades bedevilled climate talks, re-emerged on the sidelines of the UN conference in Paris, where participants reported mounting frustration over progress towards the post-2020 deal.
The UN talks aim to seal a deal that would slash carbon emissions – which come mainly from burning fossil fuels such as coal and oil – and deliver hundreds of billions of dollars in aid for climate-vulnerable countries.
It is the latest chapter in a 25-year diplomatic saga marked by spats over how to share the burden of reducing emissions, and hobbled by a negotiation system of huge complexity.
Behind their vows of support, many leaders have often preferred the short-term benefits of burning cheap and dependable fossil fuels to power prosperity, ignoring the consequences of carbon pollution.
British charity Oxfam issued a study saying the richest 10% of people produce half of Earth’s climate-harming fossil-fuel emissions, while the poorest half contribute a mere 10%.
An average person among the richest 1% emits 175 times more carbon than his or her counterpart among the bottom 10%, the charity said.
“Rich, high emitters should be held accountable for their emissions, no matter where they live,” Oxfam climate policy head Tim Gore said.
“But it’s easy to forget that rapidly developing economies are also home to the majority of the world’s very poorest people and, while they have to do their fair share, it is rich countries that should still lead the way,” he said.
Developing countries say the West has polluted for much longer and should shoulder a bigger obligation.
They are also calling on rich nations to make good on a 2009 pledge to muster $100-billion (R1.4-trillion) a year in climate aid by 2020.