Cancun: As pressure builds on China and India to accept greater obligations to cut down carbon emissions, both countries have asserted that measures to combat climate change need to factor in the principle of equitable access to development opportunities.
Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said developing countries have to strike a balance between growth objectives and emission mitigation as experts reminded that developed nations have over-used their fair share.
"I want to reiterate that we are not talking about the right to pollute... Sustainable development is a fundamental right," said Ramesh at an event hosted by India on the sidelines of climate talks here.
The larger developing countries, he said, "needed to ensure that the commitments that they take or have taken does not come in the way of these growth objectives," the minister said.
He pointed out that academic work on equitable access was not being factored into negotiations.
"Somehow the negotiating committed is oblivious of this work," he added.
China, the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, has also maintained that developed countries should take major responsibility for climate change and shoulder due obligations as the unrestrained emission during their 200-year industrialisation process was largely to blame for the global warming.
Michael Khor, executive director of South Center, said that between 1850 and today about 1300 gigatonnes of CO2 have been emitted, and in the next five years the world could only afford to pump 600 gigatonnes more, if global average temperature rise had to be limited to 2 degree Celsius.
"What is the historical situation and who has put it into the atmosphere... the developed countries have over-used what is their fair share (by 500 gigatonnes from 1850 to 2008)," he said, defining fair share as the share in accordance with the country`s share in the world`s population.
"We need the environment, we need development and we need equity to clinch the two," he added.
Most developed countries, however, do not see the vast amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as their fault since for the majority phase of their development, they did not realise the long-term impact of their actions, he said.
Indian scientist T Jayaraman said that even if developed countries slashed their carbon emissions by 90 percent from 1990 levels, India would develop as much as Portugal and developing countries would still never have their fair share of atmospheric space.
"Even with the technology transfer it is not very clear developing countries would be entirely able to take care of their development needs without some fancy innovative work in the future," he said.