“Developed nations should play a greater role in fighting climate change.” Do you agree?

(Follow-up from our Facebook post on Obama’s Clean Power Plan.)


1. Identify key words: “should”, “greater”

  • The broad issue is the role of developed nations in fighting climate change. However, a hasty treatment of the question can sometimes cause students to treat the question as though it says, “What is the role of developed nations in fighting climate change?” When that happens, the essay loses focus.
  • “should”: suggests that developed nations have an obligation to play a greater role.
  • “greater”: The comparative “-er” should trigger you to think about what entities are being compared here. For the context of the question, it can be interpreted as:
    • Developed countries should do more than less developed countries. Or
    • Developed countries should do more than what they are currently doing.

2. Key issues

  • How should the responsibility of environmentalism be distributed? Equally among all or some should take on a larger share? What is the basis for the allocation?

    3. Trigger questions
  • Why should developed countries contribute more than less developed ones? What are some possible reasons?
  • Which is fairer – i) expecting some stakeholders to do more or ii) everyone to contribute equally?
  • Why might countries be hesitant to do more? What are the costs?

Possible stands

Stand 1: Developed countries should play a greater role.

  • Moral obligation 
    • Many less developed countries’ GDPs are only a small fraction of that of developed countries’. With so much more resources, developed countries have a responsibility to contribute more to environmental protection.
    • Many developed countries, especially the G8, arrived at their current stage of development due to unfettered urbanization through the Industrial Revolution, which inadvertently resulted in opulent amounts of carbon emissions and significant environment degradation.
  • Greater capacity to act effectively
    • Green technology are expensive and costly to adopt.
    • WIth more financial resources and greater political stability, developed countries are in a better position to contribute to environmental protection. Less developed countries usually have more pressing issues on their hands e.g. dealing with high unemployment rate, civil unrest or even war.
    • Developed countries also possess the necessary human expertise and infrastructure support to aid them in adopting green practices.
  • Better able to bear the costs of slowing down development
    • Reducing carbon emissions often mean slowing down development. This was also one of the primary reasons stated by US President Bush when  he did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol.
    • Developed countries should not seek economic development at the expense of environmental degradation. Slowing down development may mean lesser economic progress, but developed countries have deep reserves that are more than able to support the environmental efforts and other externalities.
    • Setting an example for others to follow

Stand 2: Every country should do her part to fight climate change. It is unfair to expect developed nations to contribute more.

  • Moral argument
    • The earth belongs to everyone, not just developed countries. Everyone should have an equal responsibility
  • More cost efficient for less developed countries to adopt green technology
    • It may even be more feasible for less developed countries to take the lead in adopting green technology. Their infrastructure are not as deeply connected and entrenched like the developed countries and so, it is easier for them to incorporate green technology into their relatively newer infrastructure. It is very expensive for developed countries to overhaul their existing infrastructure, that is heavily dependent on coal.
  • New technologies mean that less developed countries are also equally capable of adopting green technology to fight climate change. 
    • In early 2015, Costa Rica went 75 days straight on 100% renewable energy.The country also targets to rely on renewable energy for more than 95% of their electrical consumption for the year. This feat is testament to the country’s policy that saw them begin on their journey in eliminating fossil fuel from their energy infrastructure, as part of their efforts to reduce carbon emissions.
  • Development need not always be at odds with environmental protection.
    • New creative ways of ensuring sustainable development means that less developed countries can also play a major role in fighting climate change.
    • The UN Resolution has also recognized eco-tourism as a viable and key method of adopting sustainable development, one that even less developed countries can adopt.
    • Singapore is a prime example of a developed nation that has been adopting green technology for sustainable development.
      • Can you think of some examples of sustainable development that Singapore has adopted? Many of our new malls e.g. Star Vista andCity Square Mall are built with the intention of reducing energy consumption. These buildings are equipped to collect rainwater and even harness solar energy to meet a good proportion of the buildings’ energy needs.
      • Click to read up more on Singapore’s efforts.

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