Who is really to blame for climate change?

Jocelyn Timperley, BBC Future

We know that climate change is caused by human activity, but pinning down exactly who is responsible is trickier than it might seem.

…The problem is that wealthy countries still have an “emissions debt” to other countries due to their principal responsibility for climate change, argues Mohamed Adow, director of energy and climate think tank Power Shift Africa and a well-known voice at international climate conferences.

Rich polluters should not only reduce their own emissions, but also deliver on promises of finance and technology to help poorer countries develop via a lower carbon path, says Adow, as well as supporting them to deal with climate impacts which are already locked in.

“At the heart of an effective regime should be a fair process for sharing the effort between countries in a way that is sustainable,” says Adow. “Addressing climate change requires urgent action by all people certainly, including rich and poor, but with wealthy countries taking the lead.”

However, Adow is still cautious about assigning blame to richer countries. “You wouldn’t want to start with a frame of going out and blaming the US,” he says. “But you will go with a frame that allows you to talk about the Earth and atmosphere as shared global commons that should be fairly enjoyed by all, including the poor, future generations and all life.”

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