The UN Climate Change conference held in Lima, Peru was aimed at setting down the framework for the conference to be held in Paris next year, where a historic international agreement to curb global warming is envisioned. Not surprisingly, after an intensive debate, which threatened to break down any consensus, all 194 countries reached an agreement –albeit a much watered down one. It seems that despite reams of scientific data the world is yet to truly accept global warming as a catastrophe of a scale which requires them to make hard, difficult choices.

In climate change debate that focuses on reducing emissions, there has emerged a telling divide. The developing countries maintain that since they are negligible contributors to CO2 emissions, they should not be required to curb them substantially; doing so will mean switching from cheap and robust fossil fuels to other methods and technologically revamping the industry, both resulting in extreme expenditure and damaging their emerging economies. Especially since the traditional cause of global warming is the developed world, who reached its development by freely utilising fossil fuels and still is the biggest emitter of CO2. This binary view of the world has been struck down at Lima to an extent – but not without a fight. The environmentalists, who’s imaginative and daring protests were a constant fixture throughout the talks, have been pushing for a stronger and more uniform international oversight system, claiming that this issue is bigger than individual GDPs and growth indexes. While it seems unfair to hold an emerging economy to the same standards as a developed one, maintaining this distinction is hardly fair. China and India are both in the “Non-Annex 1” list, which classifies them as developing countries, yet China is the leader in CO2 emissions and India is close behind.  The poor-rich distinction has become untenable. It makes arbitrary distinctions which allow some countries to pollute without check, while others are required to cut down. Part of the reason why developed countries are unwilling to reduce emissions is because it is felt that they are being asked to bear the burden alone. Most importantly, it forgets the planetary crisis at hand, bogged down in historic and semantic niceties.

The better solution is to have a global push towards reduction, with provisos, such as those at the Lima agreement, saying that rich countries have a mandate to help buffer the "loss and damages" that climate change is already causing. It also recognises that states have “common but differentiated responsibilities".  Yet, by replacing the word “shall” with ”may”, in the clause relating to pledges countries have to make, the developing world, primarily India and China, have tried to maintain the distinction which would allow them to roar ahead at the cost of the planet.