Environmental protection is a luxury for developing nations

I am Yang Lei from Shanghai Fudan University Middle School.

The Copenhagen meeting is under way, but I do not hold out much hope.

One reason is that the world is still recovering from the economic crisis. Nations are busy investing in economic stimulus, and there is not much hope that the environment will get the attention it deserves. After all, as far as traditional industry is concerned there is conflict between environmental protection and economic development – particularly heavy industry, which has been brought to the brink of collapse by the crisis.

And even if we ignore the current economic freeze, the global implementation of the Kyoto Protocol is still facing opposition from some important nations. America’s greenhouse-gas emissions account for 25% of the global total, more than any other nation – but the Bush government refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol. We should not hold out any hope for the Obama administration. Remember that every elected president receives huge donations from business tycoons, and Obama’s campaign – which raised more funds than any other in history – is no different. Those donations were not without conditions; the candidate made commitments for every donation.

The third reason is that developing nations are currently unable to make any further commitments. Environmental protection is a luxury for developing nations, where many still struggle to feed and warm themselves. The US once criticised developing nations for not being able to undertake emissions reduction responsibilities – showing that some developed nations are unable (or unwilling) to understand that developing nations are willing, but unable. It is hard to imagine, with major emitters like the US using this as an excuse to be uncooperative, and developing nations genuinely willing but unable to act, that the Kyoto Protocol will have any noticeable effect.

Overall, in the current international environment, the global natural environment is still under threat, and we still need the right opportunity for all nations to join together to protect our planet. I hope that will happen before disaster is almost upon us.