Who Is Responsible for Climate Change?

Why do developed and developing countries disagree about who is responsible for climate change? Explore the history of industrialization and its impacts on climate in this video.

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Addressing climate change is a collective responsibility. Early climate negotiations at the United Nations recognized a shared responsibility for climate change but—driven by a principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities”—relied on developed countries, and not developing ones, to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Developed countries had released most of the greenhouse gases to date, beginning in the industrial revolution, the thinking went, and their advanced economies could better absorb the costs. 

Now all countries—including developing ones—need to address climate change. But the historical difference in responsibility is echoed in current climate debates, as developing countries such as India face the challenges of a growing economy alongside a changing climate.