Equity intergenerational and international

In our world community of human beings we are not all equal. Equality may be cited as an aim but before it can be pursued its terms need careful definition. Reality is full of inequities of many kinds. In the context of global warming, because it is long term and global, two equity issues are particularly important - both have already been mentioned. Firstly, there is our responsibility to future generations. A basic instinct is that we wish to see our children and grandchildren well set up in the world and wish to pass on to them some of our most treasured possessions. A similar desire would be that they inherit from us an Earth which has been well looked after and which does not pose to them more difficult problems than those we have had to face. But such an attitude is not universally held. I remember well, after a presentation in 1990 I made on global warming to Mrs Thatcher's Cabinet at Number Ten, Downing Street in London, a senior politician commented that the problem would not become serious in his lifetime and could be left for its solution to the next generation. I

do not think he had appreciated that the longer we delay in taking action, the larger the problem becomes and the more difficult to solve. There is a need to face up to the problem now for the sake of the next and subsequent generations. We have no right to act as if there is no tomorrow. We also have a responsibility to give to those who follow us a pattern for their future based on the principle of sustainable development.

The second major equity issue is that of international equity where climate change creates an enormous challenge to the international community. The world's developed and richest nations have largely grown their wealth over 200 years from the cheap and bountiful energy available from coal, oil and gas without realising the damage that would do to the Earth and its climate - damage that will fall disproportionately on the poorest countries and people in the world. It is not just a problem of the past but the current disparity between the industrialised and the developing world in carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning continues to be very large (Figure 10.4). This disparity presents a strong moral imperative to the developed world, firstly to take strong action to reduce their carbon emissions and so reduce the damage they are continuing to cause, secondly to use their wealth and their skills to assist the developing world to develop their energy sources as sustainably as possible, and thirdly to find ways of providing some compensation for the damage already caused.42 This is in fact an imperative expressed in the international Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) (see Chapter 10) that states because of the benefits so far received by developed countries, they have to be the first to take action.

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