Experts often assert and India has raised this issue time and again about historical responsibility in the context of climate change. The “historical responsibility” champions assert that those developed countries that have been spewing CO2 since the dawn of industrial age have already usurped 50 per cent of the CO2 emission space in the atmosphere. These developing countries insist that the developed countries should pay for their historical sins. The payment should be made in the form of constant dollar or Euro flow and there should be no inspection of how the money is being used.
All the talk of historical responsibility sounds very good and makes great emotional pitch. However, a closer scrutiny shows that these positions are inherently untenable. To begin with you can’t ask someone to pay for his or her great grandfather’s sins. Yes we can pressurise them and bring them to the negotiating table and ask them (justifiably so) to fall in line and do their bit to save the earth from the ills of climate change.
For example an average American spills 20 tons of carbon in the atmosphere every year. They can surely commit themselves to bringing it down to 5.6 tons a year which is global average. Apart from this if they commit themselves to cleaning efforts and bring money on the table for the developing countries than they would surely want to know where and how the money is being used. History is replete with examples of grants and donations as well as IMF and World Bank funds being siphoned off by ruling elite in the developing countries when there were no systems of checks and balances.
So if we talk about historical responsibility in terms of payment than the developed countries too are well within their right to talk about historical responsibility in terms of accountability.
The way IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and its chief Rajesh Pachauri were targeted for not doing their home work on glacial melt study is a case in point. Also, the man who did the research, Syed Iqbal Husnain, received a grant of a million euro knew of the discrepancy but kept quiet. If this is the case, than we are responsible for creating a very low integrity quotient for ourselves.
In such a scenario of mutual mistrust and resentment, it is better that we remain tentative and work with iron clad dos and don’ts to create a comfort zone where sometimes in future the donor and the receiver both have a fair degree of faith among them to take up climate cleaning programmes with a greater degree of purpose and camaraderie.
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