Merkel suggests new way of fighting global warming
By Honor Mahony
German chancellor Angela Merkel has outlined a new model for fighting global warming in a bid to get both industrialised and developing countries on board.
In a speech in Japan on Thursday (30 August), Ms Merkel suggested that carbon dioxide emissions - thought to be the main reason for climate change - should be tailored to the size of a country's population.
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"We have to assume that emerging nations naturally don't want the same responsibility" as industrialised nations, the chancellor said, according to Deutsche Welle.
She went on to suggest that developing countries should be allowed to increase their emissions per head while industrialised countries should decrease emissions per head until the two sides meet.
The proposal is aimed particularly at countries such as India and China who are growing at a fierce economic pace and fear their competitiveness will be harmed if they have to adhere to strict green limits.
They believe they should not have to pay for the current state of the environment when it was largely richer countries that caused it.
Rich countries, on the other hand, see big emerging states as the future major pollutants and say they need to be fully signed up to fighting climate change.
Ms Merkel also stressed that countries need to set specific targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions indicating that vague commitments to do better are not enough.
"We are not going to get around the need for quantifiable reduction goals," said the chancellor.
She also said that the US must be a part of any international deal on climate change for it to be a success.
Until now Washington has refused to commit itself to the world's main tool for combating global warming - the international Kyoto treaty on climate change.
"I think America will cooperate - America must cooperate. If we can't find a regulatory regime that is accepted by the USA, then China and India will never agree to reduction targets," said the chancellor.
This is the second time she has made such a public stand on the issue. In June, as current president of the G8, she chaired a meeting that saw six of the world's most industrialised countries agree to at least halve global carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.
Russia and the US - as the remaining two of the G8 countries were not on board - but she is credited with getting US president George W. Bush to agree that all G8 countries should make substantial but undefined cuts.
Ms Merkel's latest ideas are part of an ongoing international discussion on the period after 2012, when the Kyoto protocol expires.
Efforts at fighting climate change at the political level have stepped up recently as ordinary people see and feel the effects of drought, flooding or other catastrophes of global warming.
The EU likes to see itself as the world leader on this front. It has pioneered the first multi-country emissions trading system for businesses – something it also intends to extend to aeroplanes. It is planning to start producing cleaner cars and has set itself ambitious CO2-reducing goals.
However, it is also undergoing much internal debate on whether it can manage to compete economically while adhering to strict green targets.