Equity: a pathway to ambition and sustainable development

23 October 2014

ECO has done some late night soul searching and come to the conclusion that the Paris agreement will have to be fair if it is to achieve the extremely high ambition that the science demands. Equity is not just the pathway to ambition; it is also the pathway to survival. As ECO has concluded, and as you know in your heart of hearts to be true, to be fair the new agreement will have to actively promote sustainable development, facilitate poverty eradication, protect livelihoods, and promote robust adaptation solutions even as it facilitates the rapid and more or less complete elimination of carbon emissions.

It will simply not do to say that equity is a matter of opinion. The pre-Paris assessment of the adequacy and equitability of INDCs needs to be based on the Convention’s equity principles of adequacy, CBDR+RC, and equitable access to sustainable development. In case Parties are wondering how to operationalise these high-level principles, ECO suggests these five core indicators that together can do the job quite nicely: adequacy, responsibility, capability, sustainable development need, and adaptation need.

Equity and adequacy reviews must be an integral part of the new agreement, so that in each commitment period contributions are finalised only after a robust, science-based Equity Review. Unfortunately, such a fair and straightforward process is out of our grasp to implement today, because, if ECO may be frank, the level of trust is far too low. Consider then, dear delegate, a few difficult questions:

Will an Equity Review shift responsibilities to the South?

ECO believes that developed countries’ failure to inscribe contributions in line with science and the Convention’s equity principles is effectively shifting responsibility onto developing countries. This situation is aggravated by the sad fact that support for developing country mitigation and adaptation remains entirely inadequate.

Would an Equity Review shift even more responsibilities onto the South? Not if it were a proper review, one based on the Convention’s equity principles and the indicators above. It would affirm and clarify that the larger efforts lies with developed nations on both domestic mitigation and support for developing countries. The adequacy of aggregate effort and of each country’s contribution could be assessed, thus preventing the transfer of responsibility from developed to developing countries. It would provide a sound basis for developed countries to finally take the lead.

A well designed Equity Review would show that significant increases in developed countries’ international support and domestic mitigation commitments are required to keep warming below 2°C and certainly 1.5°C. For the lowest-income countries, it would likely show that all mitigation below the baseline would remain conditional on international support.

What will it take to ensure equitable access to sustainable development?

In a fair, equitable and safe post-Paris world a strong review, and ratcheting-up mechanisms, could drive ambition and sustainable development for all. To do so, the Paris deal must support faster and more expansive low-carbon climate resilient development around the world, and provide the mitigation support necessary to empower developing countries to facilitate their own sustainable development strategies. Such a review would not only benefit the climate, but it would also allow developing countries to shape the transformation towards low-carbon societies, grow their economies and reduce global inequality.

Building cooperation

Acknowledging our differences is crucial in order to build cooperation. All countries must do their equitable share(s) in the common global effort. A proper science-based Equity Review that builds on the Convention’s core equity principles would do just this, by prioritising the needs of the developing countries. This way, it would make real cooperation possible. Not inevitably, but possibly.

Equity: a pathway to ambition and sustainable development

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