We must push for a burden-sharing arrangement because we cannot allow carbon cuts to be put on hold.Agreeing to legally binding national emission limits will secure our fair share of the remaining global carbon budget.Developing countries must propose new rules for national carbon budgets based on equitable allocation criteria.
The atmosphere is a strategic resource needed to establish the infrastructure necessary for eradication of poverty and climate change cannot be considered only in terms of environmental damage.
Climate change is a difficult subject for multilateral cooperation because of the limitations in developing a shared assessment of a challenge posed by competition for scarce resources.
The evolution of the Climate Convention has only addressed the interests of developed countries to secure their lifestyles and not the long-term interests of the global community. For example, the IPCC acknowledges (in a footnote) that its emission reduction scenarios do not take into account lifestyle changes.
We need to be strategic in our response because of two recent developments.
First, the safeguards in the Climate Convention that developing countries were able to wrest at the last minute in 1992 are in danger of evaporating.
Under Article 4.7, legally binding measures taken by developing countries for mitigation are contingent on the provision of financial resources and technology, and this requirement was waived at Copenhagen.
The second safeguard, that eradication of poverty remains the overriding priority of developing countries, is planned to be negated at Cancun by focusing the agenda on international monitoring of developing county mitigation actions ignoring the infrastructure needs for eradication of poverty, and the attendant inevitable increase in emissions of carbon dioxide.
Second, it is being argued that the challenge of climate change is too complex for the ‘cumbersome’ current institutions to deal with. Informal institutions outside the Climate Convention decision-making structure are being created.
The UN Secretary-General has also set up a panel on sustainability charged with recommending how a 50% reduction in global emissions can be brought about by 2050; a target first proposed by the G8.
While this panel, as a part of the United Nations framework has more legitimacy than other groupings, like the G20 and the Major Economies Forum, the emerging framework is driven by developed countries seeking to legitimise their overoccupation of the carbon space.
The policy issue before us is how best to navigate the different processes while simultaneously shaping the agenda in the climate negotiations to retain the priority of eradication of poverty with respect to actions by developing countries.
Rather than challenge the selective approach of the US to current commitments, we should take up their challenge, that “we’re not pushing to have legally binding commitments on China or India or Brazil or anybody else... we’re only saying that if it were to go in a legally binding direction then it would have to be legally binding for all the major players,” as a reflection of the shift to a multipolar world.
America’s climate change negotiator Todd Stern, speaking at the end of the Major Economies Forum meeting in New York, stressed that at Copenhagen “all major economies developed and developing agreed to implement a set of actions... the old Kyoto paradigm that developed countries have to do things on a mandatory basis and developing countries don’t... was not a feature of a Copenhagen Accord.”
This suggests the exploration of new frameworks where North-South divisions do not affect international cooperation, which we can also endorse.
We must push for a legally binding burden-sharing arrangement because we cannot allow carbon cuts to be put on hold; otherwise we will loose our fair share of the remaining global carbon space/budget. The nature and scale of the problem is such that codes of conduct will not be enough and rule-based approaches to assess adequacy of national actions will be needed.
Developing countries must propose new rules rather than just oppose existing ones.
National carbon budgets, based on equitable allocation criteria that are legally binding for all countries, will focus national policy in all countries on the transformation of the world economy and human activity, leading to patterns of resource use that are common for all countries.
The new framework, for wider acceptability, could build on a recent report from the National Academy of Sciences of the US that the policy goal must be stated as a quantitative limit on domestic GHG emissions over a specified time period — in other words, a GHG emissions budget, with national shares of global emissions to be agreed at the multilateral level as the basis for developing and assessing domestic strategies.
The analysis also acknowledges that ‘global least cost’ economic efficiency criteria for allocating global emissions among countries, as is being done by developed country institutions, leads to a lesser reduction effort for them as compared with an approach based on global ‘fairness’ concerns.
The biophysical limits to growth should mean lifestyle changes, not depriving the poor.
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