The Sword of Equity

15 May 2012

ECO has long wrestled with this foundational dilemma of the climate talks, but has noticed something different in the negotiating air since Durban. There seems a new ¨C or a renewed ¨C recognition from all sides that the issue of equity cannot be pushed aside or wished away any longer. It is at the heart of the negotiations, and must be the foundation on which the Durban Platform is built.

The development of a broad consensus ¨C even if only rough or approximate ¨C of the fair shares of different countries in tackling climate change is essential to increasing the ambition of action sufficiently to avoid climate catastrophe.  Without such a common understanding and its codification, Parties will continue to fear that they are doing too much while others free-ride on their efforts. The emissions gap will only widen as a result. Only a fair deal can close it.

ECO is therefore looking forward to tomorrow’s workshop on Equitable Access to Sustainable Development, and hopes that Parties will see it as an opportunity to look afresh at the equity question. But after 20 years, no one should imagine that one workshop will find all the answers. Parties will need time to build understanding and trust. They have three and a half years left under the ADP in which to do it.

The equity workshop should therefore be the start of a process with perhaps three phases. In the first phase Parties should make good faith efforts to understand each others’ approaches and their underlying assumptions. ECO recalls certain, perhaps well-meaning, European ministers and leaders in Copenhagen who did not understand why some developing countries blocked their proposals for a 2050 global emissions reduction target. Some capacity building efforts on all sides are in order, and equity must take an integral place in the ADP agenda to allow this to happen.

Second, in 2013 Parties should begin negotiations to reach agreement on key equity principles and criteria for their operationalisation. After all these years, ECO thinks there are three that really matter ¨C adequacy of efforts to avoid catastrophic climate change; CBDRRC; and the right to sustainable development.

Third, in 2014 Parties should begin negotiations on applying these principles and criteria to the central issues of mitigation, finance, adaptation, loss and damage and so on. In short, they must bring numbers to the table. ECO is clear on one thing ¨C whichever way Parties agree to slice up the cake, the current efforts of developed countries fall very far short of what can be reasonably expected of them. However we look at equity, developed countries must be prepared to do much much more.

This three-phase approach could provide the setting in which the equity question finally receives an answer that all Parties can accept, and in time to make sure COP21 in 2015 does not repeat the fate of COP15 in Copenhagen. ECO hopes Parties approach tomorrow’s workshop with this in mind and in this spirit, and that no Party attempts to rule anything in or out this week. Starting a process in this way, they can finally take down the sword of Damocles and use it instead to carve the fair, ambitious and legally binding deal that all countries need.

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