28 Aug 2013
The BRICS and Climate Change
by Rafeal Leal-Arcas
The Kyoto Protocol places the responsibility of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions only with developed countries (i.e., Annex I countries) as if they were the only countries guilty of causing climate change, when in fact the whole world is collectively responsible for this. In the early 1990s, developed countries decided to “take the lead in combating climate change.” Twenty years later, the climate change situation has changed. Instead of asking only Annex I countries to reduce GHG emissions, it is argued in this paper that a more effective (and presumably fairer) way to tackle climate change today is by bringing on board the major GHG emitters, irrespective of their GDP, and asking them to reduce their GHG emissions in an equitable manner without ignoring the historic responsibilities on the part of developed countries. Why? Because the Kyoto Protocol’s stipulation that only Annex I countries reduce their GHG emissions does not reflect today’s or tomorrow’s climate change reality, nor is it acting fast enough to reduce GHG emissions at the agreed levels. Given the transnational nature of climate change, the current situation is similar to a diagnosis of cancer with metastasis. It is therefore not enough to ask only Annex I countries to reduce their GHG emissions if the aim is to solve the climate change issue. This means the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) are part of the solution to climate change mitigation.
Climate change will have a significant impact on the BRICS. Conversely, the expected impact of the BRICS on climate change is considerable. The size and rate of growth of the BRICS’s economies, of their energy demand, of their energy imports (for instance, in the case of China and India), and of their atmospheric emissions of various types make these countries essential major partners in any regional or global discussions relating to climate change or the production and consumption of energy.