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[DAR ES SALAAM] Some of the world’s poorest countries are planning to demand that developed countries adhere to the 'polluter-pays principle' at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference in Argentina next month.

Meeting in Tanzania last week, the group – comprising 25 of the least developed countries (LDCs) – drew up an agreement designed to galvanise the industrialised world into taking responsibility for its relatively high emissions of greenhouse gases by helping LDCs reduce their own emissions and prepare for impacts of climate change.

"It is time for polluters to pay the cost," says the meeting's chairman, Richard Muyungi, who heads the climate change team in the environment department of the Tanzanian vice-president's office. "LDCs feel it is unfair to carry developed countries' burden of pollution at the risk of crippling their own economies."

Muyungi told SciDev.Net that delegates at the meeting said LDCs feel it is vital that developed countries pay for their conversion to safe environmental practices in industry, which is crucial to their economies. Otherwise, they say, LDCs will be forced to channel meagre resources into reducing emissions, which will hinder efforts towards essential development goals such as improving water quality, education and infrastructure.

The LDCs will make their call at the UNFCCC conference due to take place on 6-17 December in Buenos Aires. They will also demand progress on technology transfer from North to South. They say that while there has been much discussion about how to do this since the 1980s, there has been little in the way of implementing recommendations.

"The problem is the international community has the technology, but is not ready to assist the South," says Muyungi. "If they decide to help us with solar technology, people would not cut trees for cooking ... It is a question of willingness. Without their assistance, we say we will continue to emit [greenhouse gases], as we need to develop."

LDCs will also demand capacity building assistance from the North during the UNFCCC meeting. They say that without this, people will remain dependent, and poorly equipped for future climate change negotiations.

The LDCs participating in the Tanzania conference included Afghanistan, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, The Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Guinea, Haiti, Jamaica, Kiribati, Liberia, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nepal, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. A number of United Nations officials also attended.

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