Mothers of Ambition

29 April 2013

Plato observed in The Republic that necessity is the mother of invention.  Parties, he was speaking about you.  Humanity formed the State to enable the conditions for sufficient food, shelter and security.  Today we face an unprecedented challenge – how will we respond? 

At this early stage in developing the global climate agreement in 2015, “ambition” dominates the agenda – and for good reason. The IPCC’s forthcoming AR5 will shine a bright and unyielding light on the planetary emergency we now face.  
It’s not just about the need to close the emissions gap. While those 11 gigatonnes will help the atmosphere, they won’t break the back of the politics to get us below 2°C.  What is required is for collective agreement to dramatically change the course of human development with the climate clock ticking. So it’s simple: the 2015 deal must deliver ambition compatible with a below 2°C trajectory.  
There is a sense in some quarters that a top-down method to achieve that kind of ambition is out of reach politically, so a bottom-up approach will have to suffice. But these underachievers are missing the point.  Either they wilfully ignore the fact that climate change will ravage the globe and its inhabitants, or they think Plan B[ottom-up] can keep us out of harm's reach of unavoidable climate change. But Plan B isn’t working.  After all, despite floods, droughts, fires and the vanishing Arctic sea ice, developed country commitments have hardly changed since Copenhagen and the Green Climate Fund still has no money.
For those of us, like ECO, who defend the legally binding regime, we get pinned as idealists.  But ECO begs to differ. You are the idealists. We are the realists. We know what is needed to avoid dangerous climate change and to keep us on a below 2°C trajectory.
Of course, these bottom-up actions are helping, but it’s not enough. Moreover, those proactively promoting Plan B[ottom-up] are neglecting the investors and businesses that require a strong signal from governments to shift their assets. And ECO knows that a strong signal doesn’t mean a “yeah, I can do that, for sure”.  Nope, it needs a legally binding, long-term commitment for governments to decarbonise their economies. 
So ECO wants to see everyone behave in our new (albeit temporary) accommodation here in Bonn. And in particular on equity.   ECO would like to see here in Bonn the development of a strong equity framework that provides both context and metrics to measure progress.  We are seeing notable progress in refining that framework, anchored firmly in the Convention and the foundational, but dynamic, concepts of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, and equitable access to sustainable development. But progress is not yet completed, and Parties must stay focused on achieving a shared understanding on equity.
While necessity is the mother of invention, invention, in this case, requires a top-down regime.

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