What is it about?

It has become common to use the phrases ‘global North’ (to refer to developed countries) and ‘global South’ (to refer to developing countries). The gaps between these two groups are still growing. For example, there is a growing gap between levels of education and income. This divide is beginning to affect discussions around climate change. Each group thinks the other side bears more responsibility for causing (and tackling) climate change. Developed nations have higher levels of human and industrial activity. This means they cause the majority of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. However, they say that developing nations are responsible for the majority of damage to the environment, and that developing nations must take equal responsibility for protecting biodiversity and reducing emissions. Developing nations think this is a sneaky attempt to control and limit their development, in the name of environmentalism. This debate started at the United Nations Conference in Stockholm in 1972. Since then, many conferences and policies have tried to bring different countries together to reduce global warming. These efforts have sometimes highlighted inequalities between countries and increased the divide.

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Why is it important?

All countries bear some responsibility for global warming. Developed countries need to do better at demonstrating support for sustainable growth in underprivileged countries. It is important that policies to tackle climate change be fair, based on contribution. KEY TAKEAWAY: The North–South divide makes it harder to work together to tackle climate change. All countries need to feel they are equally represented, and that goals are fair for all, if we are to make progress together.

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This page is a summary of: Climate Change and Global Environmental Politics: North-South Divide, Environmental Policy and Law, October 2017, IOS Press, DOI: 10.3233/epl-170022.
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