When it comes to political action on climate change, it’s the richest nations in the North that demand developing nations also act, which seems fair at first glance.

But it’s the rich nations of the North that reaped the benefits of industrialisation leaving the rest of the world in an economic backwater. And it’s the polluting gases from that industrialisation that’s driving the climate change now reigning down on the developing nations in the global South.

Drought India

Now that the developing nations are doing just that – developing – they have become the engine of the global economy. Or put another way, unlike when the North jumped ahead economically, the progress in the South benefits the world as a whole.

It’s a cruel irony that now that those developing nations have raised their economic game to claw back some of the gains made by the North, the impact of climate change from industrialisation should be visited upon them most.

The 2013 United Nations Human Development Report released yesterday warns that “environmental inaction, especially regarding climate change, has the potential to halt or even reverse human development progress in the world’s poorest countries and communities.

“The number of people in extreme poverty could increase by up to three billion by 2050 unless environmental disasters are averted by coordinated global action.

“The rise of the South and its potential for accelerating progress for future generations should be seen as beneficial for all countries and regions, as living standards improve and the world as a whole becomes ever more deeply interdependent,” the report adds.

So the global South got a raw deal from industrialisation and now it’s happening again from industrialisation's monster child, climate change.