Even as it recognizes that developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region like India must to grow to eke millions of its people out of poverty, a United Nations' report has made it clear that given the realities of climate change "growing first and cleaning up later" is no longer an option for these developing countries.
The report, "One Planet to Share" by the United Nations Development Programme, marks a subtle change in the global approach to climate change in that it now calls on emerging economies to take on a greater role in reducing emissions.
This message that developing countries of the region, particularly countries like India and China need to do more coincides with the change in approach in the global climate change negotiations. While it doesn't deviate from the broad principle of differentiated responsibilities between developed and developing countries, it does make the case that developing countries that are growing at a fast pace need to do more to limit emissions.
The suggestions in the UNDP report fits in with the agreement reached at Durban to devise a new climate regime in which all countries, developed and developing, would be included.
The report acknowledges that the industrialized countries did not have to deal with the dilemma of balancing prosperity and rising emissions.
The report stresses that growth in Asia-Pacific is important for the world economy and for poverty reduction in the region. At the same time, the region "is starting to contribute noticeably" to global emissions. The share of global emissions of the developing countries in the Asia Pacific region was at 23 per cent in 1990, rising to about 32 per cent in 2005, "only 4 percentage points lower than the high-income OECD countries in 2005". Excluding India and China, the region's share in global emissions is at 11 per cent.
"One Planet to Share" drives home the point that the developing countries in this region have to reduce the emissions intensity of their growth while at the same time reduce poverty. Access to cleaner energy, better infrastructure and services, it argues will serve the twin purpose of poverty reduction and resilience to the impacts of climate change. "Unless climate change challenges are much more fully addressed, current progress will be difficult to sustain, and the brunt of the impacts will be faced by the poor of Asia-Pacific."
Echoes of the arguments that the existing legally binding regime of the Kyoto Protocol address only 14 per cent of global emissions leaving nearly 80 per cent out is present through the report.
The UNDP report is a tacit endorsement of the need for emerging economies to agree to emission reductions. The Asia-Pacific region "will need to change the way they manufacture goods, raise crops and livestock, and generate energy" in the face of climate change. This will mean "moving to greener, more resilient, lower-emission options that not only sustain the environment but also offer opportunities to the poor for employment and income".