TWN Info Service on Climate Change (Apr12/01)
16 April 2012
Third World Network

India hosts "Equity and Climate Change" workshop
Published in SUNS #7350 dated 16 April 2012

New Delhi, 13 Apr (Meena Raman) -- A workshop on "Equity and Climate Change" was held by India in New Delhi on 12 April.

Present at that meeting were representatives from the other BASIC countries (Brazil, China and South Africa) Swaziland, Gambia, Qatar, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Mauritius.

The meeting was opened by India's Minister of Environment and Forests, Ms. Jayanthi Natarajan, who explained the rationale for India hosting such a meeting. She said the workshop was an effort to build consensus on issues that are critical to the climate negotiations in future.

Natarajan said that equity is one of the central issues in the climate change negotiations and one of the key principles of the Convention and that its importance has gone up further after the negotiations at Durban (at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference - UNFCCC) last year.

According to the Minister, while there is no dearth of references to "equity" and the related principle of "CBDR" (common but differentiated responsibility) in the Convention and the decisions of the Conference of Parties (COP), the time has come for a definition of the inter-relationship between the notions of equity and CBDR, and the nature of the obligations they entail.

She recalled that at the UNFCCC meeting in Cancun, the principles of equity and CBDR were mentioned in several decisions and the term "equitable access to sustainable development" which was introduced captures the notion of equity in some way but not fully. The term figures in the context of the global peaking of emissions and not of actions or responsibilities of the Parties.

The Minister stressed the need for a greater degree of clarity and definition in the approach.

Referring to the effort by India to put "equity" on the agenda of the Durban COP with the support of several countries, she said it was agreed that a workshop on this subject be held in the next meeting in Bonn (in May). However, a workshop should not be an end in itself, Natarajan added.

She said the workshop in Bonn should feed into the negotiations and help devise a strategy that can protect the interests of the developing countries in general and sustainable growth in particular.

The importance of addressing this unresolved issue of "equity" is even more evident when we look at the challenge of negotiations that will begin under the Durban Platform, she said further.

The Minister recalled that under the Durban Platform, a process has been launched that will result in a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention.

The Minister said that under the Durban Platform, there has been put in place appropriate arrangements for the post-2020 period and also raise ambition to meet the global goal of climate stabilization.

She said that as the outcomes have to be reached under the Convention, the principles and provisions of the Convention have to apply. However, the manner in which this will be done needs to be clearly articulated.

Since Parties will be discussing the structure of the Durban Platform at the Bonn meeting, it is time that we are able to define the principle of equity that should act as the anchor of the future arrangements, she added.

Natarajan was of the view that this exercise required a high degree of common analytical approach and that there could be more than one approach to realising equity in practice.

Given the variety of the needs and the particular circumstances of various developing countries, some effort would be required to ensure that no developing country is particularly disadvantaged in any potential scheme of realising equity, she added.

She said there was need to decide on an effective, scientifically consistent and socially and economically relevant definition of equity that would serve the interests of developing countries even while enabling the meeting of international obligations under the Convention. She expressed hope that the workshop will help reach fruitful conclusions on this issue and lead towards a coordinated or common approach, if possible, to the emerging issues.

One of the speakers at the workshop was Dr. Prodipto Ghosh, former Secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Forests. He said that "equity" refers to "fairness" or "ethical conduct" and public policy must be premised on these notions. He said further that equity applies in four areas viz. obligations in relation to greenhouse gas mitigation; securing the interest and involvement of future generations; adaptation to or compensation for impacts of climate change; and transfer of finance and technology to others.

In proposing an equity norm, Ghosh said that all human beings have equal entitlements to global environmental resources. He noted that the precise mode of computation of per capita emissions remains to be defined.

Another equity norm was that in remedying or compensating the residual damage (when the ultimate objective of the Convention is met), or enabling the poor to remain within their assigned entitlements to the global environmental resources, members of society other than the poor should make contributions in increasing proportion to their respective capabilities. The obligation of a country to remedy the damage depends only upon its respective capability. Thus, a poor country, with low capability, but high climate damage would be entitled to a transfer of resources from others, he said.

A further norm, he said, is that in respect of harm beyond residual damage (when the ultimate objective of the Convention is not met), those who have exceeded their respective shares of the global environmental resource must compensate such excess harm in proportion to the extent to which they have exceeded their entitlements.

In another event organised by Indian organisations, TERI (the Energy and Resources Institute) and the Climate Change Forum in New Delhi on 11 April, India's Minister of Environment and Forests elaborated on the Durban Platform.

Natarajan said that the significance of the Durban Platform decision lies in the fact that the arrangements are established under the Convention. Being under the Convention implies that the arrangements are not only applicable to all parties as they must, they should also be anchored in the principles of the Convention. Since we have to apply the principles of equity and CBDR in evolving these arrangements, the responsibilities/obligations in a post-2020 arrangement will clearly need to be built on the principle of equity and CBDR, she said further.

The Minister emphasised that irrespective of the legal form of the final arrangements, the developing country targets under such arrangements cannot be binding, until the principle of differentiation based on equity is defined and the conditions implicit in such definition of equity are met. The principle of equity will need to be elaborated through negotiations.

She said further that at Durban, it was agreed that till 2020, the developing country targets under these arrangements will be determined on the basis of voluntary choice and with a guarantee that there will be no punitive consequences of shortfall in these domestic targets even if they are inscribed in an international document. There will be mutually agreed arrangements for verification (international consultation and analysis) of the domestic goals but the objective of such arrangements will be only to increase transparency and build confidence in mutual actions.

She went on to elaborate further that post-2020 arrangements must therefore include not only binding emission reduction commitments for developed countries but also assurance that there will be no unilateral measures taken by any country in the name of climate change. Besides, the post-2020 arrangements must include commitments of developed countries in quantified and specific terms to provide financing and technology support to developing countries, she added.

Further, the arrangements should provide for a facilitative regime that ensures access to intellectual property rights (IPRs) and transfer of climate-friendly technologies. The arrangements may take the shape of a protocol or legal instrument, provided that the above conditions are met, said the Minister.

Without an international consensus on equity, unilateral trade measures and technology-related IPRs, substantial movement under the Durban Platform will not be possible. These should be a part of an ambitious agenda if we are serious about international cooperation on climate change, stressed Natarajan.

She said that the issue of an appropriate legal form for the future arrangements by 2020 was a matter of intense debate at Durban. Some Parties led, in particular, by the EU pressed for a form of agreement that should be legally binding on all Parties.

The Minister said that India has always believed that legal form should follow the substance. A legally binding agreement, by itself, is no guarantee for increased ambition or its implementation. She said that some Kyoto Protocol Parties like Canada have recently made unilateral announcements to renounce their legal obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. This is a clear pointer to the fact that a legal form is useful only as long as the Party is willing to abide by it.

The Minister expressed that India cannot agree to a legally binding agreement for emissions reduction at this stage of its development. India's emissions are bound to grow, as it has to ensure social and economic development and fulfil the imperative of poverty eradication.

On what would be the shape of an outcome with legal force, she said the contours of this notion will become clear in the course of negotiations. Such an outcome may include some aspirational COP decisions, some binding COP decisions, and setting up of new institutions and bodies. It may even include new protocols or other legal instruments as necessary to implement the decisions covering various issues with various degrees of binding-ness as per domestic or international provisions of law under the Convention. +