If Durban is to be at least somewhat successful then Saturday’s release of the BASIC Experts paper on fair-shares global effort sharing will be recognized as a key breakthrough. That can help decide a 2nd commitment period for the KP while putting on the agenda serious consideration of a next generation mandate that’s fair enough to support real ambition.
The BASIC Experts paper does not pretend that the global carbon budget hasn’t already been essentially exhausted. Nor does it say that development-as-usual is still a viable option and we can muddle along with bottom-up accounting and a bit of technological optimism. These are things that just can’t happen if we actually intend to stabilize the climate system. But in addition,
developmental justice is a precondition of high ambition, and this report does foresee that soon we’ll be ready to face this bottom-line reality.
The BASIC authors can be commended for illuminating the salient core of the climate-equity debate. That outcome has clearly involved compromise, and it has clearly had a cost. For example, the paper focuses on a 2000-2050 global emissions budget of 1440 Gt CO2, one that many among us view as dangerously high.
All the same, the benefits of compromise are also visible. The authors were able to mark out a first-order consensus that, while vague, indicates a way forward. If ‘equity’ is defined as the human right to sustainable development, then only two approaches to a global fair-shares reference framework – cumulative per-capita budget sharing and “responsibility and capacity index” based effort sharing – are at all promising, and the BASIC paper clearly moves these two approaches forward.
There certainly are problems as well. The report, for example, gives almost no attention to economic stratification within countries. Even South Africa, while speaking for an approach that includes economic capacity as well as historic responsibility, passes too lightly over that subject. But all told it’s the accomplishment here that are highly notable. The BASIC Experts report is a signpost to the debate that’s actually needed.