As I tried to complete my work yesterday evening, my house not unusually experienced a series of lengthy power outages. These went on from around five o’clock in the evening until long past midnight. Not only did this mean that all light in the room vanished, that temperatures soared into the high and humid 40s Centigrade, and that I could no longer see the mosquitoes coming silently closer; it also made me think.
This is Delhi, India’s capital city; and one of the most affluent, vibrant and well-resourced cities in the country. Yet even here, power outages are a daily occurrence, water only reaches the taps for certain hours of the day, infrastructure is still being built, and people of all ages sleep on the streets at night. Further afield, things are in some ways better and in many ways, worse. Whereas cities concentrate some problems, with the crowding, sanitation and infrastructural challenges that a booming population brings, many rural areas have no electricity at all and far more scarce or polluted water supplies. Job availability, access to education, healthcare and many other opportunities are often much more limited than in cities.
This is the reality of a developing country. All of these conditions have a marked impact on people’s efficiencies and productivity, making goals harder to achieve and tasks take longer. Yet how often do we remember this fact as we bandy around the term ”developing nation” freely in the international negotiations. Non-Annex 1,” “emerging economy,” “global south”… These have become so technical, but do we stop enough to reflect on what these terms truly mean?
In this regard, I can’t help but think about the challenge that preparing for the climate negotiations must be for each of these countries. To different extents, they are all working to build roads, find and secure essential resources, expand education and healthcare, create jobs and improve the wellbeing of their many poor. Their capacity is oftentimes spread so very thin. This simple fact alone puts developing nations at a disadvantage as they seek to come head to head with their ”big brothers” in Copenhagen. Can they sufficiently prepare?
The light flicks on and the fan kicks into gear as quickly as it vanished. I don’t know how long it will last this time, but I hope a little longer.