In November 2002, in Delhi, India, representatives of some 185 nations adopted the Delhi Declaration. The process of negotiation that led to its final draft highlighted substantial differences in national attitudes toward global climate change, especially those of developing nations as opposed to developed nations.
Historical Background and Scientific Foundations
Staged in Delhi between October 22 and November 1, 2002, the Eighth Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Climate Change Convention—the annual meeting of the signatories of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)—was intended primarily as a discussion on the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. However, the conference was dominated by tensions between developed and less developed countries, as represented by the Group of 77 (G77). G77 nations sought cash aid from wealthier countries to help them adapt cleaner technologies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and rejected limits on their emissions. Many G77 nations sought the support of the United States, an opponent of the Kyoto Protocol, to remove mentions of Kyoto from the final declaration. The European Union (EU) strongly objected.
WORDS TO KNOW
CONFERENCE OF THE PARTIES (COP) TO THE CLIMATECHANGE CONVENTION: Annual meeting of representatives from nations that are signatories of (parties to) the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, a treaty drafted in 1992. The treaty entered into force in 1994, and COPs have been held ever since. It was at COPs that the Kyoto Protocol was drafted.
GREENHOUSE GASES: Gases that cause Earth to retain more thermal energy by absorbing infrared light emitted by Earth's surface. The most important greenhouse gases are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and various artificial chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons. All but the latter are naturally occurring, but human activity over the last several centuries has significantly increased the amounts of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide in Earth's atmosphere, causing global warming and global climate change.
GROUP OF 77 (G77): Group of developing countries, originally founded in 1964 with 77 members but having 130 members as of 2007. The group was formed as a counterpoint to the Group of 7 (G7) nations, a group of the world's wealthiest nations formed to advance their economic interests.
KYOTO PROTOCOL: Extension in 1997 of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), an international treaty signed by almost all countries with the goal of mitigating climate change. The United States, as of early 2008, was the only industrialized country to have not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, which is due to be replaced by an improved and updated agreement starting in 2012.
At one stage, India's environment minister, who was chairing the conference, threatened to end the meeting without a resolution if parties could not reach a consensus. Under continued pressure from many industrialized nations, a reference to the Kyoto Protocol appeared in the final wording of the Delhi Declaration. However, the declaration lacked specifics on how developing countries would regulate and reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions.
Impacts and Issues
The Delhi Conference exposed some of the dilemmas facing developing nations when it came to climate change. Rapid urbanization and industrialization are aiding the economies of developing nations, but industrialization and development often negatively impact the environment. The cleanest technologies are often the most expensive to implement. Thus, adopting greener solutions for energy production and industrial emissions management is more of a burden on less-wealthy nations.
Although per capita emissions in the developing world are substantially smaller than those in the most developed nations, growing populations and rapid industrialization have created a growing emissions problem. While the United States remains the world's largest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases, in 2007 China overtook the United States as the world's largest overall polluter by total volume.
Under the Kyoto Protocol, developing countries are exempt from the emissions reduction targets to which developed nations are subject. At the Delhi Conference, the most developed nations, led by the European Union, asserted that many developing nations begin negotiations toward establishing targets and restricting greenhouse-gas emissions after 2012. Delegates from developing countries repeatedly rejected such demands. This schism continues to burden ongoing international efforts toward reducing emissions worldwide.
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“Delhi Declaration.” United Nations, 2003. < http://unfccc.int/cop8/latest/1_cpl6rev1.pdf> (accessed November 21, 2007).
“India Rejects Climate Change Pressure.” BBC News, October 30, 2002. < http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/2374551.stm> (accessed November 21, 2007).