This is a term with which the developed world is going to become increasingly familiar, so I thought I'd write a little primer. Basically, here’s how things look to the developing world (and this is a vast oversimplification, of course, but a place to start):
The last several hundred years of human history have been rife with one version or other of colonialism – from when Portugal and Spain could throw their weight around and the sun never set on the English empire to multinational corporations making gazillions of dollars while polluting the planet and owing no money or allegiance anywhere but to their stockholders, to whom they are unconditionally obligated to maximize profits.
The countries which have been getting the short end of the stick (pointy end of the sword/bang end of the rifle/downstream end of the sewer) on this colonialism deal are full of large numbers of very poor people who are only getting poorer.
These same countries, which have contributed very little to greenhouse gas emissions, are the ones who are currently suffering the most severe effects of climate change. Low-lying island nations like Tuvalu and Maldives are already experiencing rising sea levels which threaten their very existence. African nations like Sudan are locked in drought and their farmers have very little chance of growing enough food to feed their long-suffering people. Countries like Bolivia (or most of SE Asia) which get their fresh water from glacial runoff are having their water supplies threatened by rapidly melting glaciers.
As you might imagine, they’re feeling pretty pissed about it, and they want this climate treaty to make sure that the US and other rich countries pony up enough money to help them develop in a low-carbon, sustainable way, and help pay for all the damage they’ve sustained up to now.
As you might imagine, the rich countries don’t want to do that.
This is a big problem. And it doesn’t even get into how some of these countries feel about free-market capitalism overall, but I’m not going to get into that, because then you get into economic buzzwords that start with sounds like “com” and “soc” and people just stop listening to you completely.
The bottom line is that we’ve been eating all the snacks, using all the toys, and pooping in the sandbox, and the rest of the kids are tired of it.