Down to Earth - - EDITOR’S PAGE -

Cne­go­ti­a­tions are by now pre­dictable. LI­MATE CHANGE The al­ready-in­dus­tri­alised come to each con­fer­ence of the par­ties (cop) with a clear game plan, that is, to erase their con­tri­bu­tion to the emis­sions al­ready present in the at­mos­phere, thereby ef­fec­tively re­move the dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion be­tween their re­spon­si­bil­ity and that of the rest of the world to act. This would re­write the 1992 con­ven­tion on cli­mate change and let them evade the obli­ga­tion to pro­vide funds and tech­nol­ogy for ac­tion in the de­vel­op­ing world.The prob­lem is that de­vel­op­ing coun­tries do not come with an equally clear plan or proac­tive po­si­tion.As a re­sult, in each meet­ing, in­clud­ing the re­cently con­cluded cop20 at Lima, de­vel­op­ing coun­tries lose.The terms of the agree­ment change pro­gres­sively and de­lib­er­ately against the poor and the Planet.

In­dian ne­go­tia­tors be­lieve they can main­tain the sta­tus quo and de­lay any new agree­ment, but as cli­mate ne­go­ti­a­tions show, this tac­tic does not work.We block but the rich coun­tries shove and the ground slips from un­der our feet.We need to re­vise our strat­egy.

For in­stance, In­dia went to the Lima cop all guns blaz­ing to op­pose ex-ante re­view of mit­i­ga­tion com­mit­ments. It has been de­cided that all coun­tries will de­clare their In­tended Na­tion­ally Determined Con­tri­bu­tions (indcs)—how much emis­sions they will cut, why and when.The ex-ante re­view is to mea­sure and re­view whether a coun­try has met its tar­get. It is also to see if the sum of th­ese ac­tions is suf­fi­cient to keep the world be­low the guardrail of 2°C in­crease in tem­per­a­ture.If not, then to de­cide on fur­ther ac­tion.

Why did In­dia op­pose this? Be­cause when the idea was first pro­posed at the Copen­hagen con­fer­ence in 2009,it was def­i­nitely un­ac­cept­able.The pro­posal was to move the world from set­ting manda­tory car­bon diox­ide re­duc­tion tar­gets to vol­un­tary ac­tion. Un­der the tar­get ap­proach, the world would de­cide on the car­bon bud­get—how much can it emit and still stay be­low 2°C rise—and then set tar­gets for each coun­try, based on past con­tri­bu­tions to green­house gases. Un­der the vol­un­tary ap­proach, coun­tries would de­cide how much emis­sion they would (or could) cut. Th­ese com­mit­ments would be ex-ante re­viewed.

In­dia rightly fought the oblit­er­a­tion of the prin­ci­ple of dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion, which meant tar­gets would be based on eq­uity and past re­spon­si­bil­ity.The re­view was also seen as a di­lu­tion of na­tional sovereignty.

But that was the past. Since then In­dia has agreed that the post2020 cli­mate agree­ment is not just ap­pli­ca­ble to all coun­tries, but that all will take vol­un­tary mit­i­ga­tion com­mit­ments (called con­tribu- tions) which will be do­mes­tic ac­tions. So, it has al­ready tac­itly agreed to di­lute the prin­ci­ple of dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion.The only peg it is hang­ing its hopes on is that all this ac­tion will be done un­der the prin­ci­ples of the con­ven­tion, which in­scribe eq­uity.But in this new regime, In­dia has to be proac­tive and nim­ble to op­er­a­tionalise the prin­ci­ple of eq­uity.

If it wanted to do this, In­dia could have pro­posed to hold the rich accountable for their com­mit­ments through the ex-ante re­view.In this way, each coun­try’s do­mes­tic con­tri­bu­tion would in­clude an eq­uity met­rics of its per capita emis­sions and the car­bon space it will oc­cupy. This con­tri­bu­tion and sub­se­quent ac­tion would be re­viewed be­fore the post-2020 cli­mate change agree­ment is signed so that tar­gets can be re­vised to take into ac­count am­bi­tion and fair­ness. This way we not only keep the world safe, but also en­sure that each coun­try’s ac­tions are based on rightly shared com­mon at­mos­phere.

In­stead at cop20, In­dia de­cided to stand with China, which has a def­i­nite in­ter­est in op­pos­ing the ex-ante re­view be­cause it aims at peak­ing its emis­sions by 2030.China has al­ready dumped us and moved on. Un­der an agree­ment with the US, it has agreed to match its emis­sions with that of the US at a mas­sive 12 tonnes per capita per year in 2030.The two big pol­luters will ap­pro­pri­ate the bulk of the car­bon space, leav­ing noth­ing for the growth of the rest of the de­vel­op­ing world.

In the Lima Call for Ac­tion, there is no pro­vi­sion for ex-ante re­view.Now coun­tries will pro­vide in­for­ma­tion about how their indcs will be fair and am­bi­tious, but in light of na­tional cir­cum­stances.We have no mech­a­nism to en­sure that the com­mit­ments by the rich coun­tries are eq­ui­table, and not crip­pled by what coun­tries can do. In the fi­nal com­mu­niqué in Lima, even the ba­sic prin­ci­ple of eq­uity—com­mon but dif­fer­en­ti­ated re­spon­si­bil­ity and re­spec­tive ca­pa­bil­i­ties (cbdr)—has been fa­tally twisted.Now it says cbdr will be “in light of dif­fer­ent na­tional cir­cum­stances”. Ef­fec­tively ,this means the US can say it can­not do more be­cause its Congress will not pass leg­is­la­tion. It has le­galised lack of am­bi­tion or in­equity of ac­tion.The rest can fol­low this course as well.

We can call this a “win” for de­vel­op­ing coun­tries or for our heat­ing Planet, only if we are delu­sional.

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