In late 2012, just before Doha, the Belgian and Swedish governments hosted a high-level meeting on equity in Brussels. Quite a number of negotiators were there, and so were we. The event presentations are archived at the website of the Belgian federal Climate Change Section. Note in particular the reflections by senior negotiator Michael Zammit Cutajar, wherein you will find quite a few traces of our work.
NEW: See this brief, clear summary of the BASIC experts approach and its conclusions. It’s not by any means complete, but it’s useful.
It’s unwise to predict the future, particularly the future of the climate negotiations. But if you believe that their outcome is critical, and that it will bear heavily upon our common future, then you’ll hope that Equitable access to sustainable development, a long-in-the-making report by climate and climate-equity experts from India, China, Brazil and South Africa, will be taken seriously.
The EASD report was released on December 3rd in Durban, just about the time that the talks started hotting up, so it’s unlikely that most negotiators had time to read it with any care. But if Durban goes at all well, if that is it manages to save the Kyoto Protocol and to otherwise open the door to serious consideration of a next-generation climate accord, one that’s actually fair enough to support real ambition, then this report will, eventually, be recognized as a turning point.
The South’s Ministers, at least, will take it seriously. They know the problem of “equitable access to sustainable development,” and that it must be solved if there’s to be a successful global climate regime. And, at this point, it may also be reasonable to hope that, after Durban, the environmental NGOs will finally begin to face the challenge of fair-shares global burden sharing.
The governments of the North are another matter. The Europeans, certainly, do not imagine that the demands of sustainable development can be put aside, and even the United States, despite its political crisis, is in some kind of motion. Not that the Obama team will welcome this reassertion of the equity agenda. That would be too much to hope for from the “realists” that brought us the Copenhagen-era push for Pledge and Review. But at the same time, it seems clear that the orthodoxies of traditional realism no longer charm as they once did. They have become cover stories, and this no realism can survive.
This report, for its part, is a serious one. It wastes no time pretending that the global carbon budget has not already been essentially exhausted, or that development-as-usual is still a viable option for the South. Nor does it pretend that we can muddle through with bottom-up accounting and a bit of technological optimism. These are all things that just can’t happen if we seriously intend to stabilize the climate system. Developmental justice is a precondition for high ambition, and this report imagines that we’re serious enough to face this bottom-line fact.
The fair-shares discussion has long percolated though the climate movement. The drafting of an official Climate Action Network discussion paper on effort-sharing frameworks is nevertheless a bit of milestone.
This paper was written cooperatively by people from a variety of CAN member groups — including people from Greenpeace, Oxfam, and Christian Aid, as well as CAN staff and members of the Greenhouse Development Rights team. A much larger group is following its development. It contains a nice concise introduction, but let us add that it’s particularly notable for its principles-first approach, with which it does a pretty good job.
Note especially that only a few of the frameworks that are analyzed herein — GDRs is among them — seem capable of actually supporting both the right to sustainable development (R2SD) and a high-ambition transition. Which, when you come right down to it, the bottom line in all this.
One recent, notable development in the movement response to the low ambition of the current negotiations has been a focus on the “loopholes” by which the Annex 1 countries avoid taking meaningful mitigation action. This response has been extremely wide — beginning with the “Gigatonnes gap” effort launched by CAN in Copenhagen and subsequently generalizing into an effort that is supported across most all sectors of the global movement.
This effort touches on the GDRs project, of course, for the simple reason that loopholes aim to reduce or even eliminate the total global effort that we seek to instead quantify and fairly divide. Our contribution to it has so far consisted of a presentation given by Sivan Kartha at a UN workshop that was recently held at the “Bonn III” intersessional. This presentation — described here — will be followed soon by a technical paper.
Recently, the Climate Action Network has begun to take the effort-sharing question more seriously, a development for which we take some credit. In any case, we have made a considerable effort to participate in the CAN debate, and to learn from it. This effort has included a framing paper called Principle-based burden sharing in an MRV world, an invited statement to the CAN post-Copenhagen strategy conference, and a sustained, and influential, role in the subsequent “Common but differentiated Responsibilities and respective capabilities” working group. The headline here is that, as the post-Copenhagen negotiations continue, this working group only becomes more important — both AOSIS and the LDCs have requested input from CAN on the equity and effort questions.