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Climate Action 2012-2013


POLICY, GOVERNANCE AND FINANCE THE CLIMATE JUSTICE DIALOGUE By Edward Cameron, Director, International Climate Initiative, World Resources Institute and Tara Shine, Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice. In the global climate debate, there is a window of opportunity for issues of equity to be discussed, analysed and reshaped in an open and constructive manner. It is now a full 20 years since the adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is designed to stabilise “greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”. Despite important steps in the conferences in Cancun and Durban, and notwithstanding the considerable efforts undertaken by some countries domestically, governments acknowledge in the Durban Platform that there is a gap between their combined efforts in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and their collective goal to limit a global average temperature increase to 2ºC. In addition, it is clear that the means to catalyse the transition to low carbon, climate resilient development through technology, finance and adaptation policy are inadequate. Indeed, the UN Environment Programme’s Emissions Gap Report has found that there is a significant gap between where we are today and where we need to be by the end of this decisive decade to safeguard people, planet and prosperity. Closing that gap will require an urgent and effective ramp-up of ambition on mitigation, adaptation, technology and finance – the four building blocks that together comprise the climate regime. This enhanced ambition may remain beyond reach unless we succeed in rethinking and operationalising the principles of equity and ‘common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities’. The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities can be traced to similar concepts in Principle 23 of the Stockholm Declaration of 1972 and Principle 7 of the 1992 Rio Declaration. The application in the UNFCCC is derived from Article 3, which states that “Parties should protect the climate system for the benefit of present and future generations of humankind, on the basis of equity and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. Accordingly, the developed country 32

POLICY, GOVERNANCE AND FINANCE Parties should take the lead in combating climate change and the adverse effects thereof.” Numerous grounds for differentiation have been suggested over the years including historical responsibility, different levels of economic development, and differing vulnerabilities and needs. However, this remains a central point of contest in the climate negotiations. Rather than promoting a race to the top and the type of bold collective action needed to safeguard development, the current approach to equity has become a tug-of-war between countries that are reluctant to do more without assurances that others will also act. Low ambition is not conditioned by the equity dispute alone. Too few of the leading emitters currently view the transition to low carbon development as being aligned with their national, political or economic interests. However, the inability to resolve the equity question exacerbates these problems and as a result we are now on a collision course with environmental integrity. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 4th Assessment Report and the UN Development Programme Human Development Report 2007/2008 explain, breaching the 2ºC temperature target risks undermining vital ecosystems, the services they provide, and the vulnerable communities who depend on them for food, water, jobs, and health. This is also understood by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights as a justice issue because climate change undermines the realisation of a range of human rights, including the right to food, the right to minimum means of subsistence, the right to health, the right to adequate standard of living and even the right to life. In the new climate agreement equity cannot be about sharing failure. It must become a means to share both the opportunities and challenges of the transition to low carbon, climate resilient development. A NEW WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY In December 2011, more than 190 countries gathered in Durban, South Africa for the 17th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP17) and acknowledged that climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to both human societies and the planet and thus requires urgent and sustained action by all. In the Durban Platform, governments agreed to launch a new round of negotiations that will culminate in 2015 with the adoption of a new agreement under the Convention and applicable to all. As a result of this document, there is renewed hope that countries can agree to act together to take positive action on climate change and embrace a new model of development that reduces greenhouse gas emissions, builds resilience to climate change and delivers sustainable development. To capitalise on this opportunity and to build an atmosphere of trust and reciprocity between countries, issues of equity will have to be discussed, analysed and reshaped in an open and constructive manner. BUILDING A POWERFUL NARRATIVE FOR ACTION Beyond the negotiations, there is a need to mobilise domestic constituencies in countries around the globe to demand greater ambition from political and business leaders. Compelling arguments built upon a solid evidence base will be needed to motivate domestic stakeholders, including citizens, consumers, corporations and 33