No one will be surprised to hear that the Brazilian Proposal – which is to say Brazil’s move to reintroduce its classic 1997 analysis of historical responsibility – has been a bit controversial. But as a proposal to kick off a formal work program on Equity Indicators, Brazil’s move should be welcomed.
Historical Responsibility, after all, is a keystone Equity Indicator. In fact, it is one of five – Ambition, Responsibility, Capability, Development Need and Adaptation Need. Any serious attempt to operationalize equity must take them all into due and proper consideration.
Not that this will be easy. While it’s clear that there can be no acceptable road to climate stabilization that doesn't take into account both responsibility and capacity, and both development and adaptation needs, it’s equally clear that there’s no precise agreement on the meaning of these terms.
Reasonable people can disagree about the proper definitions of responsibility and capability, and the relationship between the two. Which is exactly why we need an expert process to study the proper formulation of equity indicators, and why that debate must be mainstreamed into the ADP.
We’re long past the point where historical responsibility, taken alone, can usefully stand for the overarching problem of climate equity. And this is why Brazil’s reintroduction of its old proposal – though helpful – is also a bit limited.
The real challenge before us is to find a new approach to equity, one that’s actually robust enough to be helpful when evaluating pledges. And this requires an entire set of core equity indicators, not just historical responsibility.
And there is really no choice but to take this challenge head on. We finally have reached an important moment: all agree that equity cannot be ignored. Ambition cannot be achieved without equity, and equity is beyond our grasp without ambition.
The way forward must include an open exchange on equity indicators, one that clarifies the trade-offs, builds consensus and prepares the ground upon which Parties will soon make pledges of action that are both strong and fair.
So we welcome Brazil’s proposal on historical responsibility. Responsibility alone is not a sufficient basis for meaningful equity review, but Brazil’s proposal provides a well-considered starting point and responsibility is a necessary pillar of any such review.
The challenge now is to build upon Brazil’s proposal, expand it into a larger process designed to clarify the core, measurable characteristics of pledges, assessing the extent to which they are fair enough to pass muster in the challenging years ahead.