Redefining vulnerability and dodging responsibility: the more things change, the more they stay the same

Posted on 8 December 2015

IBON International Updates #11

Climate Justice 

(Paris, France, December 7,2015) –The 21 st Conference of Parties (COP 21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), meeting in Paris with the objective of coming to an agreement on global efforts that will respond to the increasing impacts of climate change, entered its second week of negotiations yesterday.

Sessions ended last Saturday evening with the conclusion of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform on Enhanced Action (ADP), the body responsible for coming out with a proposal for a new ‘protocol, agreement or legal instrument’ to follow the Kyoto Protocol, which outlines legally binding obligations by developed countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as to provide finance and technology to help developing countries cope with climate change.

A draft Paris agreement is now on the table for Ministers to debate and to iron out by December 11 th. The said draft agreement is 48 pages, but with 900 text in brackets, showing deep divergences in views among the Parties.

There are a number of key issues with both process and substance that several quarters, including civil society, raise at this Climate Summit.

First, is the seeming systematic attempt by developed countries to undermine the principle of protecting the climate system on the basis of common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities (CBDR-RC) that lie at the core of the international climate regime.

Since the start of these talks, rich countries have been one in saying that the world has changed a lot since the time when the UNFCCC was founded and when Kyoto Protocol was agreed on in 1997.  As stated in the Kyoto Protocol, countries are classified into: Annex 1 – those who, because of their historical and current over pollution, have legal obligations to curb their emissions; Annex 2 – those that are required to provide finance and technology; and the developing countries who share common responsibility but without binding obligations. 

According to these developed country negotiators, this ‘differentiation’ is no longer valid and therefore commitments towards lowering emissions (mitigation) and financing climate action (adaptation) would have to be undertaken by both developed and developing countries on an equal basis.

There is an attempt by the United States and their allies to create and gain popular support for countries that are ‘most vulnerable’, and that financing climate action to be undertaken by ‘countries in a position/willing to do so.’ In effect, this ‘new’ definition does away with the acknowledgement of who are most responsible for climate change and who are  legally obligated to provide resources. These are very vaguely defined, and are therefore subject to different interpretations.

Second, is the issue around the temperature limit goal. The United States, Germany and France joined the growing list of countries committing to having a 1.5 degrees temperature rise as a global goal. This may seem aspirational and bold, considering that developing countries have made their position on the need for a global temperature goal that would save people and planet. This goal is achievable,

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