The next, much-evolved version of GDRs was published with the snappy title of Greenhouse Development Rights: An approach to the global climate regime that takes climate protection seriously while also preserving the right to human development. We call it “the Nairobi draft” because, while it was ready for COP12 in Kenya (December 2006), we already knew that it would not be the last word.The Nairobi Overview of the Greenhouse Development Rights approach: Greenhouse Development Rights: An approach to the global climate regime that takes climate protection seriously while also preserving the right to human development. (Nov 2006)
Years ago, when we first spun up EcoEquity, we saw equal per-capita emissions rights as the essential foundation of a just and effective global climate regime. It’s been a long trip since then, and for better or for worse this has changed. Our goal remains the same — the proper marriage of justice and realism — but we’ve come to take the diversity of “national circumstances” very seriously indeed when trying to understand what such a marriage implies.
And when we say that national circumstances have to be taken into account, we don’t simply mean that some countries are hotter that others. We also mean that some have a great deal more responsibility for the climate crisis, and that some are a good deal richer than others. The bottom line is that we still see per-capita rights as crucial, but no longer see them as emissions rights per se. In fact, we think that the best way forward, for those of us who still see rights-based approaches as critical, might well be the entirely different terms of “rights to sustainable development.”
Such rights are asserted by the Berlin Mandate, though working out what they mean in practice isn’t easy. One thing that seems pretty clear is that sustainable development rights must be animated by a system that leverages the Polluter Pays Principle to fund a rapid global clean-energy transition. Beyond that matters get less clear, though we think we’ve worked out a useful approach to the problem, one which we intend to be taken as both a proposal and a reference framework by which other proposals can be judged. We call it Greenhouse Development Rights.
The Greenhouse Development Rights approach is very much a work in progress. Given this, we’ve decided to set up this page to make it easier for interested parties to follow its evolution.
First, the people behind the curtain. The original “Greenhouse Development Rights” group, which evolved from the group that, after the Climate Action Network’s 2002 “Equity Summit,” set out to further develop the “Per Capita Plus National Circumstances” approach. There are three of us: Tom Athanasiou and Paul Baer of EcoEquity and Sivan Kartha of the Stockholm Environment Institute, all doing business, at least as far as GDRs is concerned, as EcoEquity. There was a forth in our ranks, Steven Bernow of the Tellus Institute, but Steve died just as we really picking up steam. Still, his name belongs here.
The Greenhouse Development Rights approach debuted at a side event at COP 10 in Argentina, with a paper and presentation by Siv, Paul, and Tom that was introduced by Deborah Cornland of Sweden’s Mistra, an early supporter of the GDRs project. This paper was called Cutting the Gordian Knot, but this, alas, did not translate well. The final, reworked version was published on April 15 2005, under the title Cutting the Knot: Climate Protection, Political Realism, and Equity as Requirements of a Post-Kyoto Regime.
There followed a long pause in the development of approach, during which we bemoaned our lack of funding, debated the feedback which we had received at COP10, and pursued other projects. Recently, however, things have picked up speed. For one thing, a number of people and organizations have become interested in the Greenhouse Development Rights approach, most notably the estimable British development group Christian Aid. For another, we have completed and published two relevant new papers.
The first is a brief, well-focused new paper, with the snappy title of Greenhouse Development Rights: An approach to the global climate regime that takes climate protection seriously while also preserving the right to human development. We call it “the Nairobi draft” because, while it’s ready for COP12/MOP2 in Kenya, it’s hardly the last word on Greenhouse Development Rights.
The Nairobi draft does, however, mark real progress since we debuted the GDRs approach at COP10. Since then we’ve been grinding slowly through the issues and improvements needed to make it really useful. For one thing, we’re no longer treating countries as monolithic, but rather calculating their “responsibility and capacity indexes” in a manner that is sensitive to intra-national income disparities. Not to say class. For another, and just as importantly, adaptation, and obligation to pay for adaptation, are now fully integrated into the GDRs framework.
And we’re happy to say that the GDRs drafting group is not alone in trundling the Nairobi draft around the halls of the conference center. Christian Aid is now a full partner, and some other prospective partners are also in the wings. Our hope is to put our core point onto the political agenda as quickly as possible – that if we actually intend to build a climate regime that can hold the warming to 2C or less, we had best think very clearly indeed about how that regime can preserve, and actively promote, the right to human development.
Finally, and only a bit tangentially, we’d like to mention second report, this on precautionary emissions pathways, published by the UK’s Institute for Public Policy Research and authored by EcoEquity’s Research Director, Paul Baer. It’s called High Stakes: Designing emissions pathways to reduce the risk of dangerous climate change , and it was written by Paul Baer of EcoEquity and co-authored with Michael Mastrandrea of Stanford University.