In a recent article in Ethicsandclimate.org, we explained why there is an urgent need of nations to respond to climate change be reducing their greenhouse gas emissions to levels required of them by “equity” to give the world any hope of limiting warming to tolerable amounts. On the Extraordinary Urgency of Nations Responding To Climate Change on the Basis of Equity
This article was written to explain in simple terms why national responses on the basis of equity are an indispensable ingredient in any global solution to climate change. This article was also written because the media in the United States and other parts of the world are utterly failing to explain the importance of equity in national responses to climate change. This failure makes it easier for economic interests who perceive that they will be harmed if a nation reduces its carbon emissions to manipulate the public with such arguments as the United States should not reduce its emissions because China is the largest polluter in the world. Citizens around the world need to understand that all nations have a duty to reduce their emissions to levels required of them by equity regardless of what other nations do to retain any reasonable hope of finding a global solution to climate change.
Since posting this article, nations have met under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Bonn in early May, 2013 and in the first two weeks of June. In these meetings, equity continued to be a major focus of concern because of increasing scientific awareness of the urgent need of nations to increase their ambition in their greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions reduction commitments to have any hope of preventing dangerous climate change.
Equity was not the only important issue under consideration at the Bonn meetings. Other significant issues under discussion were loss and damages, REDD (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation), market mechanisms under the UNFCCC, NAMAs (nationally appropriate mitigation actions for developing countries), and technology transfer, and completion of the architecture for the second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol.
However, perhaps the most important issues in discussion in Bonn were those relating to structuring a new global climate change treaty that the world has agreed to complete by 2015 in Paris under the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform referred to by acronym ADP. These discussions focused on finding agreement on pre-2020 ambition national emissions reductions commitments and a framework for post-2020 agreement, carried out in two different work streams.
Parities working under the ADP are working to get a comprehensive deal by the 2015 deadline. The Bonn meeting marked the beginning of that “road to Paris” where 2015 COP-21 that is expected to finalize a new climate change agreement with legal significance that will come into force in 2020 .
Parties at the May Bonn meeting stressed the need for nations to align their commitments on the basis of equity as required by the UNFCCC. During the May Bonn meeting some developing countries argued in behalf of a proposal by Brazil that developed countries must take the lead on emissions reductions that took into account historical responsibility.
Other equitable frameworks were also discussed in May including frameworks known as “contraction and convergence,” “greenhouse development rights,” the “Indian Proposal,” and others.
There was also discussion on a new framework that is based upon the idea that all people everywhere should have the same right to use global atmospheric space.
A number of Parties spoke of the urgent need to close the ambition gap, as well as the quantification of the amount of adaptation that will be required in the light of the current scientific assessment of adaptation needs should current commitments not be met.
At the just concluded Bonn meeting in June, there was very little progress made in getting nations to increase their ambition based upon equity or on agreement about what equity requires. Although the June Bonn meeting saw some modest progress on a few issues including REDD, little progress was made on the substantive content of future national commitments under the new treaty to be negotiated by 2015. These issues will be taken up again in Warsaw at the next conference of the parties under the UNFCCC in mid-November.
Donald A. Brown
Scholar in Residence
Sustainability Ethics and Law
Widener University School of Law
Almost a bumper-sticker
How about: “Equity precedes ambition”