In its recent article, 'The Independent' criticised India for insisting that only countries historically responsible for planet-heating greenhouse gas emissions should foot the bill


According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an independent executive agency of the US federal government tasked with environmental protection, carbon emissions from fossil fuels across the world have significantly increased since the beginning of industrialisation. Since 1970, Co2 emissions have increased by about 90 percent, with emissions from fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes contributing about 78 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions taking place from 1970 to 2011.

Amongst industrialised countries, the US alone has released more than 509GtCo2 since the start of industrialisation in 1850. As per Carbon Brief analysis, the US is responsible for the largest share of historical emissions, with more than 20 percent of the global total. While Germany, Europe’s largest economy, released the equivalent of about 762 million tons of Co2 equivalent in 2021 alone; it was 4.5 percent increase from 2020, said Germany’s Economy and Climate Ministry.

On the other hand, Europe’s another industrialised economy, the UK, which was once the world’s biggest colonial power, released more than 505 million tonnes of Co2 equivalent between 2020 and 2021. France released 340 million tonnes of Co2 equivalent in 2021, while greenhouse gas emissions in Italy were recorded at 322 million tonnes of Co2 equivalent in 2021. Rome was responsible for 32.3 percent greenhouse gas emissions between 2010-2021. The European Union, like the US, is also a large historical contributor at 22 percent emissions, said Carbon Brief in its report. The UK-based website specialising in the science and policy of climate change said India has not been among large contributors of greenhouse gases in a historical context. From 1870 to 2019, India’s emissions have added up to a miniscule 4 percent of the global total.

This clearly shows that those countries which have been historically responsible for planet-heating greenhouse gas emissions should compensate those poor and vulnerable countries that suffer from climate change related adversity. India has itself suffered 1058 climate-related events between 1995 and 2020, with losses totalling about $87 billion dollars. At the UN climate summit in Copenhagen, thirteen years ago, rich countries had pledged to provide US $100 billion a year to developing and poor countries, beginning from 2020, to help them adapt to climate change and mitigate further rises in temperature. Three years have passed and this pledge has not yet been fulfilled. Last year, a sad and heartbroken UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had to ruefully remark: “The only realistic scenarios showed the US $100-billion target was out of reach. We are not there yet.”

But then the US $100-billion pledge is also minuscule compared with the investment required to avoid catastrophic levels of climate change. According to Nature, the London-based highly prestigious weekly scientific journal, “Trillions of dollars will be needed each year to meet the 2015 Paris agreement goal of restricting global warming to “well below” 2 °C, if not 1.5 °C, above pre-industrial temperatures. And developing nations (as they are termed in the Copenhagen pledge) will need hundreds of billions of dollars annually to adapt to the warming that is already inevitable.”