People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 20

May 16, 2010




Imperialist Stance would be Disastrous for Planet Earth


THE EMS Chair for Marxian Studies and Research in Calicut University organised on April 17 a national seminar on “Global Warming: After Copenhagen,” in the university’s Seminar Hall. It was attended by people from all walks of life including teachers, scholars, students and employees of the university. CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury inaugurated it.




Inaugurating the seminar, Yechury pointed out that the day of the seminar recorded the highest ocean temperature in history while the volcanic eruption in Iceland caused suspension of air traffic in Europe. He said the global warming might lead to the extinction of all species, including man. The rise in temperature is due to emission of certain gases into the atmosphere, which is causing the greenhouse effect.

The United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), began in 1990, has by now established that the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is rapidly approaching the levels beyond which irreversible and potentially catastrophic changes in global climate could occur. While these changes will affect all of humanity, the worst affected will be the poor especially in the developing world. India is likely to suffer severe damages with the melting of Himalayan glaciers, drastic changes in rainfall pattern, floods, raising sea levels and displacement of millions. Undoubtedly there is an urgent need to limit such emissions and ensure that temperatures do not rise beyond 2° C.

There is, however, another view that global warming may be due to factors beyond human control. Despite all scientific advances, one area where little is known is about what is happening below our feet. Drilling for 19 years to probe the depths of Earth whose radius is over 6000 km, the Soviets reached a depth of nearly 13 km before the USSR collapsed. No one has ventured beyond this. Even this minuscule penetration sprang many surprises negating what scientists presumed on the basis of seismic waves and by other indirect methods. For instance, at a depth of 10 km the temperature was found to be 1800° C, nearly twice the forecast level. The happenings below may well be impacting the surface temperatures.




Yet this must not detract us from the efforts to ensure that we breathe cleaner air and reverse the changes that affect both livelihood and quality of life of billions --- what the last two decades of negotiations aimed at achieving. This was based on the inviolable principle of “common but differentiated responsibility,” underling the fact that the developed countries, having contributed the most to greenhouse emissions, must take greater responsibility now in reducing them. The Kyoto Protocol (1997) set binding targets for developed counties while exempting developing countries, but calling upon them to take measures commensurate with their capacity. However, instead of reducing emissions by five per cent compared to 1990, developed counties increased their cumulative emissions by ten per cent; the USA, which refused to ratify the protocol, increased its emissions by a massive 17 per cent. That is why they are now asked to commit to mandatory emission cuts of 40 per cent by 2020 and 90 per cent by 2050. 

It is precisely this that they are resisting by calling upon all countries, including themselves, to announce voluntary, internationally monitored cuts. They are thus jettisoning the accepted concept of differentiated responsibility and imposing an unjust ‘common’ order. The USA has offered to cut 17 per cent from the 2005 levels, i.e. just three percent from the 1990 level --- less than what was proposed at Kyoto. This is virtually mocking at the world. 

Copenhagen was no milestone in the journey started in 1990. There are two fundamental foundations of the UN Convention, and the US wants to violate them. First, during the last 150 years developed counties made big contributions to the rising of temperature. Thus developed countries have to take greater responsibility to limit the rise in global temperature below 20° C. The second principle is that everybody has the right to equal access to the atmosphere.

Today the situation is the per capita emission in USA is 20 times more than that in India. So if India is to reduce greenhouse emission by one unit, the US needs to reduce it by 20 units, by the ideals of national justice. That is why the per capita measure was accepted. So “common but differentiated responsibility” and per capita measurement for reduction of emissions were accepted as two fundamental principles. This came into effect in 1994.

These are the two principles imperialism wants to negate today.




As far as developing countries like India are concerned, they need more energy to removes poverty. About 70 per cent Indians do not have modern sanitary facilities; 55 per cent of the households do not have electricity. Hence it is certain that India will have to emit more greenhouse gases. We can reduce the emission if we use green technology but this is costly.

However, there was no accord at the Copenhagen conference. Instead, only a declaration was made. The only saving grace of the Copenhagen summit is that the process has not been aborted; there will be another meet next year in Mexico through which time negotiations are to continue. But the formulations of this accord open up new windows that can completely jettison the United Nations Framework.

The first of these windows is aimed to negate the very fundamental underpinning of the negotiations so far, viz recognition of the fact that developed countries have contributed the most in damaging global climate and hence must bear the greater burden of correcting this trajectory. From this emerged the concept of “common but differentiated responsibilities.”  In a not so clever nuance, President Obama, speaking at the summit, changed this by announcing “common but differentiated response.” In one stroke, he thus attempted to change the so far established understanding that while the developed countries will adhere to legally binding targets of greenhouse emissions, developing countries will take non-binding responsibilities keeping in mind their respective levels of social and economic development and poverty eradication requirements.

Further, the Kyoto protocol envisaged legally binding penalties for countries that have violated the reduction targets. But some developed countries have transgressed these targets by as much as 40 per cent. These legally binding targets and penalties have been given the go-by through the “further guidelines adopted by the Conference of Parties.” Thus the coming year is crucial in ensuring that the Kyoto protocol is not jettisoned. Already, attempts have been made to negate this protocol by circulating two appendices, one for the developed countries and another for others, asking them to voluntarily declare their levels of reduction. This negates the legally binding mandatory levels for the former. The effort to impose undifferentiated responsibility must be strongly resisted during the run-up to COP 16 in Mexico.




The second subterfuge concerns the obligation of the developed countries to provide adequate financial resources to the developing countries for what is called “mitigation and adoption.” Accepting their “historical responsibility” in damaging the global climate in the past, developed countries were obliged to fund such efforts in the developing countries through the state exchequer. This commitment is now being negated by making such transfer of resources conditional on the adherence to domestic plans of action declared by individual developing countries. The Copenhagen accord says, “In the context of meaningful mitigation actions and  transparency on implementation, developed countries commit to a goal of mobilising jointly US 100 billion dollars a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries. This funding will come from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multinational, including alternative sources of finance.” In other words, state funding by developed countries is to be abandoned and resources are to be raised from the market. Clearly, in times of a global recession, such resource raising would be virtually impossible. The developed countries thus seek to escape from their previously agreed obligations. During the course of the coming year, this window needs to be closed.

The third window is of an international mechanism to measure, report and verify (MRV) the domestically declared action plans by developing countries. This is dangerous in the sense that once it is internationally accepted, the USA, for instance, can, in accordance with its existing laws, impose trade and other sanctions on any country that they declare as not adhering to their domestic action plan. The world is witness to the blatant lies having been passed off as scientific assessments by the US to target specific countries. This move to convert the consultations and analysis into MRV must be rebuffed. They have publicly stated that this clause would provide the “legal framework” to virtually catch India and China by the collar on the implementation of their domestic action plans.

The fourth window would negate the commitment of technology transfer to developing countries without the obligations of the international property rights (IPR) regime. The redrafted version reads: “in order to enhance action on development and transfer of technology we decided to establish a technology mechanism to accelerate technology development and transfer in support of action of adaptation and mitigation that will be guided by a country driven approach and be based on national circumstances and priorities.” Thus the developed world wants to escape its own previously agreed responsibility on this issue and make this transfer conditional upon action taken. Of course, there is no mention of exempting the IPR.

Thus, what emerges from Copenhagen is an undisguised effort by the developed world to negate the very understanding of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change and to jettison their commitments and responsibilities as contained in the Kyoto protocol and the Bali plan of action. While the ongoing negotiations will continue, the coming year would establish if the world is able to arrive at a consensus on tackling climate change, limiting the rise in global temperature to below 2° C, and ensuring that the developed countries part with their due share and obligations.




In the effort to resist the developed world’s efforts to jettison the entire process at Copenhagen, an important element that played a crucial role was the unity of four “emerging economies,” viz India, China, Brazil and South Africa. This needs to be strengthened along with the other developing countries of the G77 during the course of this year in order to resist the developed countries’ pressures. Such resistance is needed to ensure that the process of climate change is tackled on the basis of justice and equality. Justice and equality demand that every human being on this planet must have an equal share of carbon space. This can be ensured only if developing countries together put up firm resistance to the continued pillage of the global climate by developed countries.

The bursting of the bubble that the finance economy had created has pushed the developed countries into severe recession. To overcome it, developed countries want the freedom of greater gas emissions at the expense of developing countries. We must guard these evil designs of imperialism to transfer the burden of their recession to developing countries in the context of climate change.

Everybody knows that India’s posture vis-à-vis the US is submissive. This will prove catastrophic. Hence we have to mobilise public opinion to bring pressure upon our government.

Dr M P Parameswaran, and Dr A Achuthan and Dr T M Anil also spoke on the occasion. Advocate C H Ashique, member of the Calicut University syndicate, presided over. P Asokan, coordinator of the EMS Chair, made the welcome speech. V Stalin proposed the vote of thanks.