Britain ruled the waves for a couple of centuries and used its military power and commercial instincts to loot the world and become fabulously wealthy. The industrial revolution compounded that wealth.
It then had a couple of all-mighty rows and lost the lot to the new kid on the block, America.
America decided it would loot the world (Er… I mean, bring Democracy) using Wall Street, Dollar Hegemony and a huge military. It did this quite successfully for a few decades, but then its population got lazy and, urged on by Wall St., lost its bag of marbles to the next new kid on the block, China.
Where did that those marbles come from?
A lot of them came from stuffing up the environment, which subsidised a lot of the wealth creation during the industrial revolution and the growth of industrial America (and the developed west, read America for the purposes of this argument).
China essentially swapped its huge resource of cheap labour for the marbles. Along the way, in order to make things that the people in America wanted to buy ( but were too lazy to make) China also sacrificed its environment. Once again, the environment subsidised marble creation.
America and Britain (along with other developed nations which all seem to nod in agreement) now say that because China now has the marbles, it should be responsible for cleaning up the mess.
China begs to differ, saying that it is happy to do its share, but why should it curtail its marble creation due to a problem largely created by America and Britain in the first place. However, it ignores the fact that the majority of the marbles it is holding were first made in Britain and America.
So, the tricky political ( and possibly moral) problem is whether those marbles came with a hidden liability, the cost of repairing the environment that was damaged during the creation of said marbles.
The argument then shifts from being responsible for the environmental mess made by Britain and America during the manufacture of the marbles. A responsibility which at first blush is not China’s. To one of accepting the hidden liability which came with those marbles. Even though a seemingly fair exchange had taken place; Chinese widgets for American marbles.
However, the marbles China received for its widgets were in effect over-valued. They did not reflect the environmental damage that was caused in their creation. That is, there would be less marbles if the environment had not been damaged along the way or repaired soon after it was damaged.
Mind you, the widgets America purchased with their over valued marbles were under valued, since they did not factor in the damage to the environment either.
That hidden liability is now being clearly recognised by the world.
The environment is not concerned about who pays. There is a real liability against the marbles and someone has to pay. If we take too long arguing over who is responsible for that debt the environment might just foreclose and we will all lose our marbles.
As I said, tricky.