ECO has spent years calling for serious discussion on differentiation, and was pleasantly surprised when, yesterday, one materialised. Even better, the “spin off” meeting unfolded as a probing exercise that cast some real and useful light.
The fundamental question – what is the purpose of differentiation? – saw lots of good answers. One, offered by Mali, was that a proper differentiation system would ensure that all countries, whatever their level of development, could make their “best efforts”. ECO wants to add that in an economically stratified world like ours, a differentiated regime is key to equity, trust, solidarity, and action.
If the level of effort is nationally determined, one crucial point – repeatedly noted – is that we must not lose focus on the need for developed countries to take the lead. Self-differentiation, the theme of yesterday’s discussion, is what we have to work with. And clearly, we have to make it work.
The EU said that it never wanted self-differentiation, but rather a “spectrum of commitments” that takes the complexity of the modern world into account. Can we reach that same goal by a path other than self-differentiation? It won’t be easy, but that’s because the only spectrum currently open is one of nationally determined actions.
Such happy outcomes are possible, but not without principle-based ex-ante assessment. ECO was a bit taken aback when China went out of its way to insist that such assessment, and even“common indicators,” were doomed to lead to “name and shame.”
ECO wonders if naming and shaming is always a bad thing though. After all, there really are leaders and laggards among us when it comes to climate action. China helpfully added some perspective to this view yesterday when it argued that the existing “categories” had not, in fact, dissuaded the developing countries from voluntarily, and substantively, increasing their ambition.
On this point, ECO is happy to agree. But this seems to support the need for a principle-based assessment, one capable of identifying such ambition where it exists and constructively highlighting where more work needs to be done.