The `hot' de­bate

Op­er­a­tional­i­sa­tion of eq­uity and fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance will de­ter­mine the fu­ture of cli­mate ne­go­ti­a­tions


HURTLINGTOWARDS a cli­mate dis­as­ter, the world’s car­bon diox­ide (CO2) level reached 400 parts per mil­lion (ppm) in 2013 com­pared to the prein­dus­trial level of just 280 ppm. To have a rea­son­ably high prob­a­bil­ity of lim­it­ing global warm­ing to un­der 2°C, the In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change’s Fifth As­sess­ment Re­port ex­plains that the world has a car­bon bud­get of 800 bil­lion tonnes. The alarm­ing re­al­ity is that we have al­ready emit­ted 531 bil­lion tonnes and are cur­rently emit­ting close to 40 bil­lion tonnes an­nu­ally. At this rate, the re­main­ing car­bon bud­get is likely to get ex­hausted in 15-20 years, even if one con­sid­ers some amount of emis­sion cuts and tran­si­tion to more en­er­gy­ef­fi­cient tech­nolo­gies.

In the quest for growth at all costs, de­vel­op­ing coun­tries are fol­low­ing a car­bon-in­ten­sive ap­proach sim­i­lar to the West .China has al­ready over­taken the Euro­pean Union (EU) in terms of per capita car­bon emis­sions. While In­dia’s per capita emis­sion is still only a frac- tion of the US or even China, there is a les­son here: un­less de­vel­op­ing na­tions follow low­car­bon growth, the world will end up do­ing what sci­ence has been warn­ing us against— ir­re­versible and cat­a­strophic dam­age to the planet as a re­sult of cli­mate change.

De­mand for ac­tion

In what can be seen as mighty global support and sol­i­dar­ity, an es­ti­mated 400,000 peo­ple got to­gether in New York on Septem­ber 21 for a “Cli­mate March”. They were joined by tens of thou­sands across the world in over 2,000 events held in 150 coun­tries, de­mand­ing de­ci­sive ac­tion on cli­mate change.

At the on­set of the New York Cli­mate Sum­mit on Septem­ber 23,United Na­tions Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon urged the world lead­ers to de­liver “bold pledges” on how to tackle cli­mate change. A lot was ex­pected from this high-pro­file gath­er­ing of heads of na­tions and business lead­ers from 120 coun­tries.

While there were a few note­wor­thy com­mit­ments—con­tri­bu­tion of $1 bil­lion by France to the Green Cli­mate Fund (gcf ),pledge to end for­est loss by 2030 and EU’s pledge to re­duce car­bon emis­sions by 40 per cent be­low the 1990 lev­els—state­ments from many key play­ers fell well be­low ex­pec­ta­tions. Rich coun­tries like the United States, the United King­dom, Canada and Aus­tralia failed to make any spe­cific com­mit­ments to gcf, a fi­nan­cial mech­a­nism un­der UN to help the de­vel­op­ing coun­tries ad­dress cli­mate change. State­ments from the lead­ers of Aus­tralia and Canada drew wide­spread crit­i­cism as nei­ther coun­try sug­gested any change in its his­tor­i­cal stand of mea­gre emis­sion cuts of five per cent and 17 per cent over the 2000 and 2005 lev­els re­spec­tively. For the first time, though, busi-

ness groups an­nounced coali­tions to de­cide on car­bon pric­ing.

Bar­ri­ers in cli­mate ne­go­ti­a­tions

Since the start of cli­mate ne­go­ti­a­tions in 1992, there have been per­cep­tional dif­fer­ences be­tween the de­vel­oped and de­vel­op­ing na­tions. Even after two decades of global dis­cus­sions, the world is yet to ar­rive at a com­pre­hen­sive le­gal frame­work to ad­dress cli­mate change. Some of the con­tentious is­sues in forg­ing a global deal are listed be­low:

In­ter­na­tional Day of Cli­mate Ac­tion

North-South di­vide : The West ar­gues that the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal-eco­nomic re­al­ity can­not be equated to that of 1992 when unfccc came into ex­is­tence.The huge eco­nomic dif­fer­ences be­tween the de­vel­oped North and the un­der­de­vel­oped South were re­flected in the form of prin­ci­ples of Eq­uity and Common But Dif­fer­en­ti­ated Re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and Re­spec­tive Ca­pa­bil­i­ties in unfccc. Cur­rently,the de­bate is cen­tred on de­vel­oped coun­tries push­ing for bind­ing com­mit­ments for all and the de­vel­op­ing coun­tries ad­vo­cat­ing their right to growth.

Eq­uity : This is one of the most tem­pes­tu­ous is­sues in cli­mate ne­go­ti­a­tions. In­dia worked hard to get eq­uity in the cli­mate agenda at the Doha Sum­mit in 2012 against the wishes of the de­vel­oped coun­tries.But the mech­a­nism to share the bur­den of cli­mate change among coun­tries re­mains con­tentious. Dif­fer­ent mod­els have been floated based on pa­ram­e­ters such as re­spon­si­bil­ity, ca­pa­bil­ity and de­vel­op­ment needs. In­dia has put forth the ar­gu­ment that his­tor­i­cal emis­sions should be the sole cri­te­rion of as­sess­ing eq­uity.

Fi­nance and tech­nol­ogy trans­fer : Fi­nance and tech­nol­ogy trans­fer from the de­vel­oped to de­vel­op­ing coun­tries con­tin­ues to be an un­re­solved is­sue. The de­vel­op­ing coun­tries have sought fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance of $15 bil­lion in 2014, but the de­vel­oped coun­tries are re­luc­tant. There has been no break­through in trans­fer of tech­nol­ogy ei­ther.

Is there a way out?

On the lines of War­saw Sum­mit 2013, coun­tries are ex­pected to come up with “con­tri­bu­tions” to pre­vent global warm­ing beyond 2°C in the up­com­ing Peru Sum­mit in De­cem­ber. This sum­mit is ex­pected to agree on an “ex-ante mul­ti­lat­eral process” that can as­sess whether the con­tri­bu­tions are in con­so­nance with the tar­get. It is hoped that coun­tries would reach a con­sen­sus on in­di­ca­tors like per capita emis­sions,an­nual emis­sions or hu­man de­vel­op­ment in­dex that can op­er­a­tionalise eq­uity. A ref­er­ence frame­work to ap­ply eq­uity as sug­gested in War­saw could find fur­ther mo­men­tum and ac­cep­tance.In Peru, more fo­cus needs to be on adap­ta­tion,which has been a rather ne­glected is­sue in cli­mate ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Fol­low­ing the re­cent New York Sum­mit, Peru could wit­ness more con­tri­bu­tions by business groups and coali­tions to de­cide on a global price for car­bon. Gen­er­ous con­tri­bu­tions are an­tic­i­pated from coun­tries like the US,the UK,EU and Aus­tralia to gcf.They are also ex­pected to ad­dress tech­nol­ogy trans­fer to the de­vel­op­ing coun­tries.Is­sues like short­lived cli­mate pol­lu­tants, such as hy­droflu­oro car­bons and black car­bon, are likely to find some space in the ne­go­ti­a­tions,as also the is­sue of de­for­esta­tion. Peru has to de­liver on con­crete ac­tions and tan­gi­ble out­comes if a le­gal global frame­work on cli­mate change is to be agreed upon in the Paris Sum­mit in De­cem­ber 2015.

Lead­ing up to the 21st yearly ses­sion of the Con­fer­ence of the Par­ties (cop 21) in Paris is a se­ries of events that should give an in­sight into what can be ex­pected from the global cli­mate deal (see ‘Ac­tion-packed year ahead’). With the World Con­fer­ence on Dis­as­ter Risk Re­duc­tion, con­fer­ence fi­nal­is­ing the post-2015 sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment goals,con­fer­ences on ecosys­tem based adap­ta­tion and brics Sum­mit fo­cus­ing on re­new­able en­ergy, it is go­ing to be an ex­cit­ing and packed year un­til the Paris Sum­mit for cli­mate ne­go­ti­a­tions.Th­ese will hope­fully de­liver on the chal­lenges where past con­fer­ences have failed.


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