TWN Info Service on Climate Change (Jan09/01)
23 January 2009
Third World Network

Developing countries call for a more “equity oriented” shared vision to implement Climate Convention

Poznan, 12 Dec (Matthew Stilwell) – Developing countries have called for a more equitable global effort to tackle climate change matched by deeper emission reductions by developed countries in order to avert dangerous climate change and to provide sufficient “atmospheric development space” for developing countries.

Some countries called for a more ambitious global mitigation effort to avert rising and potentially catastrophic impacts on the poorest countries and communities. Some also called for deeper emission reductions by developed countries, both to support a more ambitious global effort and to ensure the burden of doing so is not shifted inappropriately to developing countries.

These views were expressed in formal written submissions by developing countries to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The submissions were made by the countries during the December UNFCCC meeting in Poznan, Poland, and they were compiled by the Secretariat in a document as inputs to be considered for a Chairman’s document (known as the Assembly Document) on views of member states that in turn could be used for making a draft to be negotiated for the outcome of the Copenhagen meeting of UNFCCC in December 2009.

The contributions were on the theme of a “shared vision” to implement the Convention and other elements of the Bali Action Plan, which are being addressed in a subsidiary body to the Convention known as the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA). 

[Unless noted, the submissions reported here are contained in the document entitled “Ideas and proposals on the elements contained in paragraph 1 of the Bali Action Plan: Submissions from Parties” (FCCC/AWGLCA/ 2008/MISC.5/Add.2), and were submitted on or before 6 December as additional contributions to the Assembly Document compiled by the Chair of the AWG-LCA, Mr. Luiz Machado of Brazil. This article focuses primarily on written submission by developing countries in Poznan relating to “shared vision” and associated elements of the Bali Action Plan. Previous submissions are not addressed].

Under the Bali Action Plan, Parties are to agree on a “shared vision” for long-term cooperative action to “ensure the full, effective and sustained implementation of the Convention”. This shared vision is to include a “long-term global goal for emission reductions”.

The Bali Action Plan also commits Parties to agree on mitigation “commitments or actions” for developed countries, as well as “mitigation actions” for developing countries supported and enabled by financing, technology and capacity building from developed countries. 

Submissions by developing countries responded, in part, to proposals by other Parties in the negotiations – including those by some developed countries.

A number of Parties have proposed a global goal for emission reductions of 50% from 1990 levels by 2020. The G8 developed countries, for example, have said they seek a shared vision of “achieving at least 50% reduction of global emissions by 2050.”

A number of Parties have also proposed emission reductions by developed countries in a range of 25 to 40% from 1990 levels by 2020 and in a range of 80 to 95% from 1990 levels by 2050. The European Community (EC), for example, has called on developed countries to collectively reduce emissions by 30% by 2020 from 1990 levels.

These figures draw on information contained in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and in particular the Contribution of Working Group III (for example, Chapter 13, page 776, Box 13.7), which summarizes a variety of studies that seek to link climate outcomes (e.g. atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations or temperature levels) with levels of participation by different countries or regions in reducing emissions.  

In Poznan, France on behalf of the EC, went further to propose that developing countries should undertake “substantial deviation from baselines by 2020” as a contribution to achieving a global goal. “Developing countries, in particular the most advanced among them, would have to reduce emissions by 15 to 30% below business as usual” based on recent scientific research, according to the EC.

The effect of these proposals, read together, would be to define a global framework for burden sharing between now and 2020, including the efforts of developed and developing countries, set within the context of a global goal for 2050 in terms of emission levels (e.g. cuts from 1990 levels), atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations (e.g. 450ppm) and/or temperature increases (e.g. 2°C). 

The EC’s proposal confirmed concerns held by some developing countries that a global goal and mitigation commitments for developed countries would be used – implicitly or explicitly – to establish a “residual amount” or “target” to be addressed through actions by developing countries, sources said.

In the recent submissions, some developing countries questioned the way that developed countries are using information summarized in the IPCC report. Some countries proposed alternative approaches to defining a shared vision and global goal for emission reductions. Some have also said that effort-sharing or burden-sharing is a political/equity issue that must be resolved by Parties to the Convention on the basis of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities, and is not merely a question of science of the kind considered by the IPCC. 

Equity concerns – the extent and distribution of global emission cuts

Philippines on behalf of the G77 and China said “while noting the midterm quantified emission reduction targets announced by some Annex I parties, we emphasize that much deeper reduction commitments are required and these must result from a multilateral agreement. These emission reduction commitments must reflect their historical responsibility as well as evolving scientific evidence.”

In its submission, China said that the emission of Annex I Parties (excluding countries with economies in transition) grew 11% between 1990 and 2004, despite their commitment to reduce emissions under the Kyoto Protocol and Convention. By the end of 2004, developed countries will have contributed 75% of historical or “accumulative” emissions with only 20% of the world population.

China added that the emissions of developed countries are still growing even after their industrialization and that developing countries need carbon space for their industrialization. Due to their excessive historical emissions and their current high per-capita emissions, developed countries should faithfully observe their commitment to the Convention and Kyoto Protocol, it said.

The Small Island Developing States said that a 2ºC increase compared to pre-industrial levels would have devastating consequences on small island states as a result of sea level rise, coral bleaching, coastal erosion, changing precipitation patterns, increased incidence and re-emergence of climate related diseases and the impacts of increasingly frequent and severe weather events.

They called for temperature increases to peak well below 1.5°C of pre-industrial levels, for atmospheric GHG concentrations to stabilize at well below 350ppm, and for global emissions to peak by 2015 and reduce by more than 85% by 2050.

Even at ranges for emission reductions addressed in the IPCC report and other relevant sources the Small Island Developing States will be “challenged to survive and provide a livelihood for their population”, they said.

Least Developed Countries, in a joint statement during the final day of the Poznan meeting, stated “that temperature must not exceed 1.5 degree and global concentration of 350ppm as long term target”.

In its submission, Algeria suggested that the use by some Parties of information summarized by the IPCC “presents a number of serious methodological flaws”:

  • It misrepresents as prescriptions or even objectives numbers given by the IPCC as examples (i.e. as elements of a scenario among many conceivable ones). As a scientific body, the IPCC has no mandate to prescribe a burden-sharing formula between developed and developing countries, which is a political issue, and it does not claim to do so;
  • The approach identifies emission reductions efforts to be carried-out by developing countries without indicating what corresponding level of financial and technological support by developed countries would be required to enable these efforts, thereby ignoring Articles 4.3 and 4.7 of the Convention, as well as paragraph 1(b) (ii) of the Bali Action Plan;
  • The approach makes no reference to past emissions and/or the historical responsibility of developed countries, which amounts to forgiving a major environmental debt; and
  • The approach apportions global atmosphere by identifying first the needs of the small minority of the world’s population living in developed countries, and considering as residual the needs of the vast majority of the world’s population living in developing countries, without verifying whether the balance of environmental space apportioned to developing countries is compatible with their economic and social development needs.

Micronesia called for a better understanding of the figures referred to by some Parties (including those set out in Box 13.7 of the IPCC Report). According to Micronesia:

  • Even the most ambitious scenarios reviewed by the IPCC should not be characterized as “aiming to keep global temperature increase to 2°C” as only two of the six underlying studies estimated the likelihood of pathways staying below that temperature.
  • The figures say nothing about where physical emissions reductions need to be made, but rather reflect the burden-sharing assumptions of the studies summarized by the IPCC.
  • The figures include no explicit evaluation of the historical responsibility of developed countries. Any allocation of emissions allowances within a carbon constrained world should take into account the aggregate historical emissions and not merely current emissions of Parties.
  • The ranges for Annex I emission reductions could be characterized as the creation of emissions allowances or rights, which may be substantially above what should ultimately be required of them on the basis of equity, historical responsibility and common but differentiated responsibility.
  • The 40% figure is not the maximum level of Annex I reductions described in the scenarios reviewed by the IPCC. Two of the studies summarized in the table include variants of 47% and 50% cuts by Annex I countries below 1990 levels by 2020, but these were not reported by the IPCC.

According to Micronesia, the allocation of emissions allowances within a global goal is a distributional question that must be considered in light of considerations of equity as well as effectiveness. It must take into consideration issues of historical responsibility as well as current emissions. It must recognize that the initial allocation of rights (inherent in the setting of Annex I assigned amount units) within a global goal will affect the distribution of resources and wealth on Planet Earth.

“Current and unsustainable emissions pathways of the Annex I countries should not be ‘grandfathered’ into a new agreement through allowances or ‘emission rights’ that are inconsistent with principles of effectiveness (based on the emerging science) and equity (based on an equitable effort sharing arrangement)”, it said.

These and other submissions by developing countries raise at least two key questions of equity for the negotiations. One relates to the extent of global emission reductions – if emissions are not cut deeply and rapidly enough, then poor countries and communities will suffer disproportionate effects and costs of adapting to climate change.

The other relates to the distribution of global emission reductions – if the burden of reducing emissions is not fairly shared by developed countries, based on equity and common but differentiated responsibility, then poor countries and communities may suffer disproportionate effects and costs of mitigating climate change.

Additional questions of equity are raised by the nature and level of financing, technology and capacity that are to be provided by developed countries to support and enable nationally appropriate mitigation actions by developing countries and to enhance action on adaptation, in accordance with the Bali Action Plan. 

Understatement of climate risks

Some developing countries have said that the information summarized in the IPCC reports may understate some key risks associated with climate change, suggesting the need both for deeper global emission reductions and for deeper emission reductions by developed countries.

Micronesia said that information in the Fourth Assessment Report is based on studies that are now three or more years old (as the cut-off date for considering studies is formally two years before final publication). It also noted that the report explicitly limits consideration of rapid dynamical changes in ice flows and climate-carbon cycle feedbacks. Some phenomena – such as Arctic sea ice loss, glacial retreat and sea level rise – are moving much faster than predicted by IPCC scenarios.

Noting the risks of “tipping points” for abrupt climate change, and the importance of action commencing “now” to implement the Convention as required by the Bali Action Plan, it said that these factors should be considered in discussions about a shared vision and global goal, as well as about mitigation commitments for Annex I Parties. It called for “fast start” strategies to tackle climate change.

Developing countries’ proposals for developed countries’ emission cuts

In relation to levels of emission reductions by developed countries, the Small Island Developing States called on developed countries to reduce emissions by more than 40% by 2020 from 1990 levels, and by more than 95% by 2050 from 1990 levels, thereby exceeding the ranges set out in the IPCC report (e.g. as included in Box 13.7).

Least Developed Countries, in their joint statement during the final day of the Poznan meeting, also called on developed countries to reduce their emissions by more than 40% by 2020 from 1990 levels, and by more than 80% by 2050 from 1990 levels.  They reaffirmed “that Annex-I countries must cut emissions first and most”.

[Madagascar, an LDC, notably called for less ambitious reductions. In line with some developed countries, including France on behalf of the EC, it called for a global reduction of 50% by 2050, and reduction by developed countries of 25 to 40% by 2020 and 75 to 85% by 2050. It stated that “mathematically, those objectives also put responsibilities on developing countries”. Like France, it suggested that developing countries “may have to reduce collectively its emissions by 15% up to 30% compared to its business as usual baseline by 2020”. According to Madagascar this would require non-Annex I countries to undertake an absolute emission reduction of “about 25% of 2000 levels” by 2050].

Without referring to specific ranges, Bolivia called on Annex I countries to take on emission reductions significantly deeper than those set out in the IPCC report on the basis of: (a) emerging scientific information; (b) equity and historical responsibility; (c) carbon embedded in infrastructure and other assets; (d) national levels of capital, technology and capabilities; and (e) the need for guarantees that financing and technology will be transferred to developing countries in an adequate, predictable and transparent manner.

The quantification of these commitments is an issue to be addressed within negotiations under the Kyoto Protocol, as part of a second and subsequent and commitment periods, and has no role in the AWG-LCA, said Bolivia. These commitments must be met internally in developed countries and not through flexible market mechanisms that allow for the purchase of certified emission reduction certificates to continue polluting in their own country, it added.

Two developing countries proposed that Annex I Parties be ready to undertake even deeper cuts in emissions – by more than 100%.  One of the countries described this as having “negative emissions.”

Micronesia called “for a much higher level of ambition by Annex I Parties to the Convention than reflected in any of the ranges for emissions so far proposed in the negotiations, including through the enhancement by Annex I countries of sinks on their territories.

“We call on Annex I Parties to be ready to go well beyond reducing 100% of their 1990 levels of emissions over the longer term” in order to provide sufficient atmospheric resources or carbon space for the full realization by developing countries of the Right to Development, and to provide an adequate and predictable basis for the provision of financing and technology, as well as for compensation for restricted development opportunities and for adaptation impacts”, it said.

Pakistan similarly called on developed countries to exceed the ranges proposed by them through a second and subsequent commitment periods under the Kyoto Protocol. “These emission reductions by developed countries must be undertaken domestically, with commitments to undertake deeper emissions reductions required if developed countries intend to undertake any proportion of their emissions reductions abroad (and clarity on the proportion of emissions reductions to be undertaken domestically and abroad)”, it said.

Reflecting the fact that developed countries may seek to undertake some emissions reductions outside their territories, Pakistan stated that “based on their historical responsibility (e.g. since 1750) developed countries must undertake commitments for ‘negative emissions’ (i.e. cuts well over 100% of their 1990 levels)”, it said.

Developing countries’ proposals for approaches to “shared vision”

A number of developing countries proposed specific approaches to defining a shared vision and associated elements of the Bali Action Plan. These include calls for an integrated approach to shared vision, for efforts to evaluate current and historical responsibility, and for specific goals on technology and financing.

Philippines on behalf of the G77 and China said that the shared vision “is composed of the four building blocks of the Bali Action Plan”. It must promote the right to development and integrate the legitimate priority of sustainable development and poverty alleviation.

“Non-Annex I Parties envision a long term goal which successfully integrates the means of implementation (finance, technology, and capacity building) needed to support mitigation and adaptation actions, delivered through a coherent approach and based on best available scientific information”, it said.

China proposed the concept of “per capita accumulative emissions” as a way of evaluating historical and current responsibility. This approach takes into consideration the historical use by different countries of the global “carbon space” during their process of development. It reflects that the carbon space has been excessively occupied by developed countries, and consequently these countries should greatly cut their emission to make space for developing countries. Convergence of per capita accumulative emissions through time reflects the principle of equity, it says.

Algeria suggested that an “equity-oriented approach” to shared vision could be sketched as follows:

  • Defining, along with the global emissions profile, an extrapolation of current developing countries emissions, ensuring the same economic growth and social benefits as a business as usual path, but taking advantage of win-win emissions reductions opportunities. This amount of environmental space would be apportioned to developing countries, and the balance to developed countries, in case financial and technological transfers remain insignificant.
  • Defining an ambitious package of financial and technological transfers to help developing countries reduce their emissions without incurring any welfare losses. A corresponding lower emissions path for developing countries would thereby be defined. This would free environmental space that would enable developed countries to follow a less stringent emissions reductions path than above.
  • Past excess emissions of developed countries would be considered an additional basis for the provision by developed countries of financial, technological and capacity-building support for adaptation.

This would define an equity-oriented long-term approach to cooperation that is consistent with the provisions of the Convention and Bali Action Plan in which developing and developed countries would confront together the climate change challenge in decades ahead, it said.

Pakistan proposed a global goal for emission reductions focusing on mid-term and long-term targets for scaling up financial resources and technology development and transfer. “A technology transfer-based long-term global goal for emission reductions could be quantified in terms of the mitigation potential, volume and/or value of technologies to be transferred and deployed broken down by technology categories, areas and/or regions”, it said.

These written proposals, offered by developing countries during the Poznan climate talks as additional contributions to the Chair’s “Assembly Document” of ideas and proposals, will likely be discussed as part of negotiations of a shared vision and associated elements of the Bali Action Plan during 2009, including at the Fifth Session of the AWG-LCA in Bonn on 29 March to 8 April 2009, and in the run up to the fifteenth Conference of Parties Meeting held in Copenhagen in December 2009.