Cancun, COP16, and the North-South Divide

Professor Simone Pulver

In recent years, political battles about the environment have pitted wealthy countries against poorer countries. Although the geographic terminology is not perfect, these two groups of countries are often referred to as the global “North” and the global “South.” The dispute is not about the importance of the earth’s ecology, but about questions of responsibility and obligation.

In the video Simone Pulver talks about these tensions in relation to UNEP, but they are relevant to the larger question: What are the responsibilities and obligations of wealthy nations in regard to climate change? More particularly, what are the responsibilities and obligations of the United States?

Just a few days into the COP16 in Mexico, there seems to be very little interest in the event in the media in the United States. Last year's conference at Copenhagen was big news, perhaps in part because President Obama and other world leaders were in attendance. A year later with competing political winds blowing in Washington, I worry that there is little interest in beginning to address the questions of responsibility and obligation.

Pulver also worked with the Choices Program on its curriculum resource for high schools classrooms Global Environmental Problems: Implications for U.S. Policy. She also sat down and answered a series of questions on environmental politics and issues that are worth a look.