Crux of climate summit: Will rich, poor nations be able to work together?

The debate leading up to the United Nations' climate talks in Paris has at times become mired in a divisive battle between wealthy and developing nations. Negotiating a meaningful pact will require cooperation, experts say.

Jacques Brinon/AP
Fog and smog swallow up the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Monday. Paris authorities have put in place measures to limit traffic after high levels of pollution in the French capital. France is proposing the automatic updating of countries' emissions targets in a climate deal to be thrashed out at a UN conference in Paris beginning later this month.

After years of climate change discussions and as world leaders ready for another round during next month’s Paris summit critics say it may be another effort in futility.

If poorer nations don’t get they financial support of industrialized nations like the United States they won’t be able to meet new demands, particularly bringing in renewable energy as a means to address climate change, Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko, a high-ranking summit member representing 134 developing countries involved in the talks, told reporters.

But some experts like Elina Bardram of the European Commission said viewpoints like that need to change in order for a climate change plan to work. 

"To be effective, the new agreement must reflect today's reality and evolve as the world does," Ms. Bardram said last month.

Other EU officials have dismissed the the idea that only wealthy nations can reduce carbon pollution as unbending and “outdated rhetoric.”

Instead, they say, only a more inclusive dedication to climate change will begin to spur a turnaround from the dire consequences scientists say the world now faces.

After six years of negotiations, leaders from 155 nations have presented plans to address climate change including 114 developing countries, which are often on the receiving end of disasters linked to climate change like flooding, droughts, and tsunamis.

Saleemul Huq, the director of the Bangladeshi International Centre for Climate Change and Development, recently acknowledged that reality when he told Reuters that developing nations must turn toward renewable energies like wind and solar and halt widespread deforestation even though economic resources may limit those efforts.

"The world has changed significantly, and Paris will be a recognition of that," he said.

But the question remains, ‘How much?’ A UN Climate change commission released data last week showing a pledge by roughly 40 countries to reduce emission hinged on outside financial support and technical assistance.

'We'll do something, and if we get more money we will do even more, and so it's about how much money are you going to give us?” Mr. Huq told Reuters.

Wealthier states lead the pack in carbon omissions with China topping the list followed by the US, the EU, and India.

A proposal to raise $100 billion annually through 2020 for developing nations to move toward renewable energy will be part of the discussion in Paris even as questions begin to swirl around who will fund such and endeavor. Regardless, the funding may give the world’s biggest polluters more power to negotiate with less-developed states.

"For Paris, you can almost guarantee that this is going to be an end game," Athena Ronquillo-Ballesteros, a finance expert with the World Resources Institute, told Reuters.

This report contains material from Reuters.

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