The following remarks were made by Tom Athanasiou, speaking as a member of the Climate Action Network, and in particular as the co-chair of its Equity / Effort-sharing Working Group. The video is here, at 1:12:50.
I’d like to begin with two comments on Prof Garnaut’s slides. First, “concerted domestic action” will indeed be needed, and much else besides. As Garnaut noted, the current global emissions trajectory, if we stay on it, would likely to yield “a breakdown in international order.” Second, “concerted domestic action” (Garnaut’s name for bottom up action that is way better than pledge and review) is not going to happen by itself. The ambition imperative calls for a process designed to “guide national targets” with an “independent expert assessment” of national targets and the remaining 2020 to 2050 global emissions budget.
Which budget, as we all know, is not large.
Let me put this this a bit more emphatically. What is needed is a process that would allow for a proper Equity Review of the pledges, to be conducted in parallel with the equally-critical Science Review.
To that end, the Parties should launch an open, expert process to develop an equity reference framework that is suitable to the evaluation of national pledges. This framework would have to be designed to maximize both ambition and participation. Parties, when making pledges, would be guided by the knowledge that these would be evaluated within both the Science and Equity Reviews.
Parties would of course be free to accept or reject the guidance provided by such an framework. But be clear. They would do so against a background in which the possibility of cooperation and ambition is obvious to all, even while it eludes our collective grasp. Even as the suffering and destruction increasingly surrounds us on every side.
They would not be thanked for their trouble.
How to think about such an Equity Review? The first point is that the demands of equity have already been agreed. This is true at the level of the Convention’s keystone text on CBDR & RC, and it’s true of the four fundamental equity principles – ambition, responsibility, capacity, and development need – that underlie the principle of CBDR & RC and, of course, our shared vision of “equitable access to sustainable development” as well.
None of this is going to change. Nor should it. Climate, after all, is a global commons problem. The cooperation needed to solve it can only exist if the regime – as it actually unfolds in actions on the ground – is widely seen as being not only “fair enough,” but an actual positive driver of developmental justice around the world.
What is needed is dynamic equity spectrum approach. This is our key point. And here I must note that a dynamic equity spectrum approach would be entirely consistent with the principles of the Convention, and in particular with the principle of CBDR & RC.
A renegotiation or rewriting of that principle, or any other Convention principle, is not needed. Rather the opposite. Such an approach as this would give life and meaning to the principles of the convention.
There will be skepticism about a process as ambitious as the one I propose. But do note that equity frameworks – based upon indicators that transparently represent the principles of ambition, responsibility, capacity and development need – are actually pretty easy to model. And note as well that a generic, non-equity based spectrum approach, one that is for example confined to the “type and scale” of commitments, will not suffice. We need an equity spectrum. A spectrum without equity will not work. In fact, it would be an invitation to free riding.
It would not give us a way forward.
Critically, the agreement that we need would support comparability, which can only be based on equity principles. It would show us which countries are doing their share, and which are not. And it would do so in a way that encouraged all countries to find creative ways of doing more. There are, after all, creative and innovative ways forward. Many of them. And we need them all. We particularly need creative ways forward on the all-important adaptation front, and of course on means of implementations.
But the bright idea that we’re discussing here – a dynamic equity spectrum approach — is particularly critical, for it would give us a way to know equity, and a way to negotiate EASD, that is appropriate to the rapidly-changing world of the greenhouse century.
One final point. We do not have to agree to “a formula” to have a way forward. Reasonable men and women can disagree about the indicators appropriate to, say, capacity. And if we approach the problem in good faith, we may yet find that all plausible, dynamic approaches to CBDR & RC yield approximately the same, or at least strongly overlapping results. Which might just be good enough, at least in the short term.
To sum up, we need a solid Science Review, we all know it. But we need an Equity Review as well, and on this front it will take some time to work out the details. But we already know the key thing – will not succeed without a deal that’s at least, as the Australians say, “fair enough.” And the equity spectrum approach may just be the best way to get one.
 The equity spectrum would be defined by a basket of specific equity indictors. The basket would have to contain well-designed indicators that, taken together, measure both responsibility and capacity, and take account of development need. It could include, inter alia, measures of per capita income, measures of per capita emissions, measures of standards of living, measures of historical responsibility, and measures of international income inequality.