Climate envoys from India, China and other major developing nations offered Wednesday to hold the line on their contributions to global warming, based on the amount of pollution each person produces when compared with the United States and other, richer nations.
A recurring theme during the U.N. General Assembly's debate this week on climate change was that climate change produces victims and culprits, and that the United States and other rich nations bear a greater historical responsibility for adding more carbon dioxide and other gases from fossil-fuel burning that trap atmospheric heat like a greenhouse.
"The reality is that developed countries are responsible for the bulk of current and historical greenhouse gas emissions," said Vanu Gopala Menon, Singapore's ambassador to the U.N. "So clearly, they have an obligation to take the lead in reducing emissions."
Nirupam Sen, India's ambassador to the U.N., said his government would keep its greenhouse gas emissions at a per capita level below that of developed countries. China's climate envoy, Yu Qingtai, told The Associated Press, that China would seek to keep a lid on its growing levels of warming gases _ measured against U.S. emissions on a per capita basis.
"I cannot accept the argument that I, as a Chinese, is only entitled legally to one quarter of what you are entitled to," he told the AP. But, he added, "Being equal to an American when it comes to per capita emissions would be a nightmare for the Chinese."
So many nations wanted to speak during the General Assembly's planned two-day conference that a third day of speech-making was added.
"For Papua New Guinea and I suspect many other countries, the time for mind-numbing debate has passed. The time for leadership has arrived!" said Robert Aisi, that nation's ambassador to the U.N. "We cannot idly watch our island communities slip silently under the waves of sea level rise, our villages torn apart by cyclones of increasing fury or our children die of new virulent diseases."
Numerous poorer nations appealed for help in adapting to a warmer world. The U.N. Development Program estimates that industrialized nations must provide $86 billion a year by 2015 to help the most vulnerable people adapt to climate change.
For adaptation, too, "the developed countries will have to shoulder a bigger responsibility, but the developing countries will also have to play their part," said Baki Ilkin, Turkey's ambassador to the U.N.
John McNee, Canada's U.N. ambassador, said his nation is committed "to meeting our obligations" as part of an international climate treaty that includes the participation of "all major emitters" _ including fast-developing nations and richer, industrialized nations with an "historical" responsibility.
"In particular, the major emitters, we must all show leadership," McNee said. A day earlier, Alejandro Wolff, deputy U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said the United States would "do our part to contribute to this global effort."
The conference was called by General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim, a Macedonian diplomat and economics professor, both to shape U.N. policy and to support its efforts to craft a new global climate treaty for mandatory greenhouse gas reductions within two years. It would replace the Kyoto Protocol, affecting developed nations, which expires in 2012.
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U.N. General Assembly: http://www.un.org/ga/