DividerGlobal Warming and Equity

South says equity the touch-stone of climate proposals

Chakravarthi Raghavan

At the opening meeting of the second session of the INC (Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for a Framework Convention on Climate Change), Indian delegate Chandrasekhar Dasgupta told the INC in introducing an Indian draft legal text, that an equitable solution was possible only on the basis of significant reductions in per capita emissions of Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) in Industrialised countries, and rising per capita emissions in the Third World, both converging in the longterm on a common per capita ceiling.

The touchstone of all proposals on a convention over climate change, India said, should be the principle of equity and any agreement should have firm commitments, as an integral part of the convention and protocols on additionality of financial resources and transfer of technology to the countries of the South.

Besides India, China, Vanuatu (on behalf of a number of Isiand developing countries) and Senegal were among those who also made these points.

The Indian non-paper has brought in the concept of stabilising and establishing ceilings on carbon dioxide (C02) emissions by countries on a per capita basis. There is also a similar concept in a French non-paper and the French delegate in his intervention endorsed the Indian idea in this regard.

Any equitabie arrangement, India told the INC, would have to invoive the agreement of countries towards longterm objectives not exceeding agreed per capita GHG emissions.

Since the overconsumption of energy and emissions of industriallsed countries were responsible for the incremental globa warning, it was for these countries to assume the necessary obligations to stabilise and reduce their energy consumption and emissions through promotion of'sustainable life-styles'.

India made clear that it was for the industrialised countries with high per capita energy consumption and emission of GHGs, particularly carbon dioxide emissions, to commit themseives to stabilise and reduce their per capita energy.

The negotiations, Dasgupta underlined, were of the highest importance not only from an environment but also economic perspective. The issues were directly connected with levels and patterns of energy consumption and thus levels and patterns of industrialisation, and linked with questions relating to agriculture, animal husbandry and transportation, 'In short, almost every major sector of global economy'.

The outcome of the negotiations could profoundly affect the pattern of intemational economic relations.

In judging any proposals in the negotiations, equity should be the touchstone and 'those responsible for environmental degradation should also be responsive for taking corrective measures'.

The problem of global warming was caused not by GHG emissions as such ~but by excessive levels of per capita emissions of these gases'. If per capita emissions of all countries had been on the same levels as of Third World countries, 'the world would not today have faced the threat of global warming'.

'It follows, therefore, that developed countries with high per capita emission levels of GHGs are responsible for incremental global warming....and they have a corresponding obligation to take corrective action. Moreover, these are also the countries which have the greatest capacity to bear the burden...They possess the financial resources and the technology needed for corrective actions and this further reinforced their obligations.

Redressal required

This did not mean that Third World countries should be 'silent spectators'. While they had no 'legal responsibility', at least for the near future, to take corrective measures, they might, in accord-

ance with their national development plans, priorities and objectives, 'consider feasible measures, provided the full incremental costs involved are met by provision of new and additional financial resources from developed countries'.

They would also require 'assured access to technology on preferential terms-. Also, financial and technical cooperation necessary to cope with the adverse impact of climate change should also be extended to Third World countries.

The development process, the Indian delegate stressed, would inevitably lead to increased GHG emissions in the Third World. In particuiar, the process of Industriallsation woud require 'a redressal of the yawning gap in current levels of per capita consumption of energy between developed and developing countries'.

'There can clearly be no justification, in either environmental or economic terms, for retarding grovth in the developing countries,' Dasgupta said.

'An equitabie solution can only be found on the basis of significant reductions in levels of per capita emissions in developed countries, so that over a period of years these converge with rising per capita emissions in developing countries.

'All states should accept an obligation not to exceed an agreed common per capita emission ceiling. This should be the common responsibility of all states.

The responsibiiity is common but differentiated, inter alia, in respect of time. Developing countries will have to accept obligations as soon as their per capita emissions reach the agreed common ceiling.'

Dasgupta said that there was sufficient evidence to establish that the industrial countries could effect necessary reductions in per capita emission 1evels without sacrificing high living standards.

The answer to this lay partly in technology and 'partly in promoting sustainable lifestyles in opulent countries'.

The example of Japan showed that for countries with necessary capital resources. environmentally sound technologies were compatible with high per capita productivity. Further research and development would provide new opportunities in this direction.

But this approach had to be supplemented by 'avoidance of wasteful consumption patterns, i.e. promotion of sustainable lifestyles'. This should be done by shifting consumption away from items with high environmental or social costs which are not reflected in the prices actually paid by the consumer. In this way it was perfectly possible to preserve high living standards while minimising threats to the environment.

'Wasteful consumption patterns in opulent societies are imposing an unbearable burden on our environment. This must be rectified if mankind is to live in harmony with our natural environment. On a global level, the adoption of sustainable lifestyles is essential for achieving sustainable development'.

In this view, India said, a framework convention should include as elements: a preambular section; an article on definitions; commitments on research, emissions, finance and technology transfer; a mechanism for financial and technology flows; other institutional arrangements including a Conference of Parties and a Secretariat; and procedures for adoption, amendment, signature, ratification etc.

The commitments on financing and technology, Dasgupta said, 'should not be delinked or treated separately from other commitments'. Commitments on further research were of primary importance in view of large gaps and uncertainties in scientific understanding of climate change phenomena.

It was also 'essential' that the mechanism for financial and technology flows 'should be democratically administered by the parties to the Convention, rather than through institutions where donors have disproportionate influence.'

At the current session of the INC, India said it should be possible to complete a first reading of draft articles to help them Identify areas where there was consensus and where furtherwork would be needed, including areas of major differences.

China's Sun Lin, while introducing a Chinese non-paper, expressed satisfaction with the Indian document which, he added, 'to a large extent reflected a common view shared by many developing countries' and which would make a constructive contribution to the negotiating process.

Equitable distribution

In order to be able to conclude the negotiations and sign a convention in 1992 the convention should provide some elements close to a consensus and reach an agreement on generai principles and obligations of all states. It must also enable, in the light of updated scientific knowledge and technological capabilities, to take appropriate steps to address climate change.

Such a document should also take into account the special circumstances and needs of the developing countries and contain an appropriate obligation acceptable to most of them. Serious differences should be left for negotiations at a larger stage.

New Zealand's C D Beeby referred to the difficulties faced in implementation of the Vienna treaty and the protocols on ozone and said the climate convention should provide for monitoring and assessment of compliance with obligations and for processes for amendments that would be speedy. There should also be appropriate provisions to deal with dispute settlement including compulsory third party arbitration.

Francois-Roger Cazaia of France underscored the view of the special responsibilities of the industrialised countries to take corrective measures, the need for participation of maximum number of countries for any effective actions to counter the GHG effects and for equitable distribution of burden among countries and regions.

The Industrial countries he said had to undertake the greatest possible harmonisation in order to avoid distortion of competition. It was also essential to take into account the particular needs of Third World countries for transfer of technology and financial flows.

While all countries should have commitments, the nature would depend on the categories and situations of countries according to the criteria. In this regard France had 'objective sympathy' for the Indian document for ceilngs based on per capita emissions of GHG and particularly C02. Other criteria like per capita GNP etc. could also be taken into account.

In the French view each country should develop and outline its national strategies and targets and set up a dialogue on these including through a scientific or monitoring commttee. All this also underscored the need for a strong secretariat which could not function on the basis of existing resources (the usual UN formula to avoid increased budgets) but would need additional resources.

Norway's Kare Bryn said there were many inter-linked elements: global targets and national commitments, implementation through national actions and through cooperation across national boundaries. provisions for adequate and genuine additional financial resources and arrangements for technology transfers to the developing countries and those with abnormal burdens.

Vanuatu's Robert F Van Lierop, speaking for a group of 34 small Island countries, also gave broad support to the Indian paper and then went on to outline the special problems of these small island countries in meeting the adverse effects of climate change and their need for international help.

Those who have the financlal and technological resources, must develop the necessarily political will to take measures to arrest the global warming phenomenon and for coping with the adverse effects of the change he said.

Source: Chakravarthi Raghavan, 'South says equity the touch-stone of climate proposals', Third World Resurgence, No. 13, September 1991, pp.5-6.