Posts Tagged 'shared vision'

Perspective on Copenhagen

By:  Lavanya Rajamani, Professor of International Law, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi

1. What do you expect will happen at the Copenhagen meeting?

At this point hopes for a legally binding treaty have receded. The most likely outcome at Copenhagen is a “politically binding” agreement which addresses itself to the pillars of the Bali Action Plan – shared vision, mitigation, adaptation, technology, and finances. Given the political nature of the expected outcome, the “shared vision” pillar is expected to be the central decision, pulling together progress on the other pillars.

A “shared vision” on climate change is expected to cover both qualitative (in terms of principles to guide burden sharing) and quantitative (in terms of a long term global goal, possibly to limit temperature increase to 2 degrees, and/or stabilize GHG emissions to 450 or lesser ppm) aspects. It will also likely cover aspirational/provisional/conditional mid-term greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets for developed countries. The IPCC has recommended stabilization levels of 450ppm CO2 eq and a reduction target of 25-40% below 1990 by 2020 for industrialized (Annex I) countries. The mitigation pledges announced thus far by developed country Parties to the Kyoto Protocol are expected to result in aggregate emissions reductions of 16-23% below 1990 by 2020. If the US Waxman-Markey target is included, the aggregate reductions fall to 10-23% in one estimate, and 11-18% in another. The current pledges fall below even the lower end of the IPCC suggested range. The political agreement at Copenhagen is expected to require more of developed countries than they have been willing to offer thus far. The agreement is also likely to include a listing of nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs) for developing countries, and to put in place a framework for registering these actions, and matching actions with available financial and technological support.

2. Is it important for the world to reach agreement on a climate change treaty in Copenhagen?

It is of crucial importance for the international community to reach an agreement, (whether legally binding or not and whether in Copenhagen or not) on climate change. The IPCC and Stern Review based on thousands of peer reviewed papers have predicted dire impacts if temperature increases beyond 2 degrees C. And, this is a classic global commons problem. No one country can prevent climate change by itself, and every country, to differing extents, is likely to suffer the consequences. The small island states and African dry regions are on the front lines in terms of impacts. Countries like Tuvalu have already negotiated a deal with New Zealand to move their populations when they sink, as they expect to. This issue is a test of humankind’s collective conscience to solve a problem of its own making.

3. Some criticized the Kyoto Protocol for not requiring developing nations like India to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and the burden for reducing emissions fell largely on richer nations, like the United States and the European Union. Is that going to change with a Copenhagen agreement?

These criticisms of Kyoto are founded on self-serving and a historical renderings of the nature of the Kyoto deal. The Kyoto Protocol does not include GHG mitigation targets for developing countries, but this is in recognition of the historical responsibility that industrial countries bear for causing the climate change problem.  Historically 2/3 of cumulative carbon emissions come from the developed world. It is true that industrial countries degraded the environment in the absence of scientific knowledge establishing such degradation to be irreversible, and damaging to others across time, and in the absence of international rules prohibiting states from degrading the environment. However these countries and their current generations benefited and continue to benefit from the fruits of industrialization which caused climate change, and they must therefore assume leadership, and take responsibility. The Kyoto Protocol is based on this philosophy. The burden was expected to be borne, at least, initially by developed countries. And, developed countries recognized and accepted this historical responsibility, some more reluctantly than others. The Kyoto Protocol has 189 parties. It has almost universal participation. All accept the US. And, the emissions of the US, since it rejected the Kyoto Protocol, have increased by approximately 17% from 1990 levels. And, it is already responsible for 20% of the world’s GHG emissions (with only 4% of the world’s population).

This is not to suggest that developing countries bear no responsibility or never should. According to World Energy Outlook, if current policies continue unchecked, CO2 emissions will increase by 57% between 2005 and 2030, with the US, China, India and Russia contributing to 2/3rds of this increase. Clearly to ensure effectiveness developing countries must shift away from carbon-intensive growth patterns. The Copenhagen Agreed Outcome will seek to assist this shift away from current high-carbon growth patterns, by incentivizing listing, and supporting nationally appropriate mitigation actions for developing countries.

4. What should we expect India and other developing countries to commit to in a new international treaty? What should we expect from developed nations like the U.S. and nations in the European Union?

Developing countries will likely commit to scaling up nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs). They will agree to a system to register and match NAMAs with support. They will also likely agree to more frequent national reporting, and system for peer-review of NAMAs.

To expect targets similar in form, nature and content to those required of developed countries would be unrealistic and inequitable given development needs and priorities of developing countries. To place NAMAs from India, for instance, in context: India is placed 128th on the Human Development Index, 34.3 % of its population lives on less than 1US$ a day (80% on less than 2USD a day), and an estimated 44 % does not have access to electricity. Its energy use, now at a low per capita emissions rate of 1.2 metric tons annually, and a cumulative share of 4.6%, will grow if the energy needs of the 44% that does not have access to electricity are to be met. And, indeed it must.

We should expect developed nations to place credible and ambitious numbers on the table – numbers for mitigation targets and for financing. Without such pledges, the deal will not be struck.

A redistribution of the ecological space – such that industrial countries emissions, in absolute terms and as a proportion of global share, decrease, as emissions from developing countries increase (in a low-carbon, and energy efficient way) – is central to the burden sharing arrangement agreed to in the FCCC and the Kyoto Protocol. And, this concept will find its way in whatever altered form into the Copenhagen agreement.

5. How will a new global climate change agreement impact the world economy?

The world has been moving to a low carbon economy in leaps and bounds. If the agreement creates the right incentives, it will influence investments in various energy products, and impact prices. It will also dilute the uncertainty that has plagued the carbon market, and permit the carbon market, especially given the various domestic schemes that are in the process of being put in place, to flourish. The carbon market is currently valued at approx 100 billion USD.

6. Why should the business community follow the progress of the negotiations and the outcome of the conference?

In addition to the obvious and mundane profit motive inherent in the instrumental cooption of market forces in the battle against climate change, perhaps because some of them care about the world we live in – not just environmentally but also in terms of equitable sharing of common resources – and the world we leave to future generations?

Lavanya Rajamani, Professor (International Law), Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, is a legal consultant to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat.

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