The Bonn Negotiations: New Global Climate Policy

As all countries take actions to reduce emissions the unresolved question is to what extent fairness will be the basis for international cooperation

International cooperation for a global approach to climate change continues to tweak a failing system arrived at in 1992 rather than seeking a new framework and developing a vision for 2032. The unresolved issue is not agreement on a definition of equity, or even whether negotiations should start now for a new Protocol, but whether political decisions on equitably sharing the global commons (a new paradigm) are a precondition for agreement on a global rule-based system, or, incremental steps to develop a rule based system on the basis of the climate treaty (the old paradigm) will lead to equitable outcomes. 

According to a recent report, the most important aspect of the Durban Platform was to terminate the current negotiating process (the AWG-LCA), which had been launched under the Bali Action Plan, by the end of 2012. The Bali Action Plan mandate had notably maintained the “firewall” between developed and developing countries with regard to mitigation. It also contained a “linking clause” that had made mitigation by developing countries contingent on the level of technological and financial support that they received from developed countries. The 2009 Copenhagen Accord and the 2010 Cancun Agreements were both negotiated under this mandate. Even though they diluted the Bali “firewall”, they nevertheless reaffirmed the core UNFCCC provisions that nations would need to combat climate change on the basis of “equity” and in accordance with the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities”, respecting the various provisions of the Convention. The Durban Platform instead calls for the “widest possible cooperation by all countries.”

The report goes onto argue that the term in the Durban Platform,  “applicable to all”, in particular in the absence of the usual markers for differentiation — equity and common but differentiated responsibilities —makes it clear that Parties are heading into a new era. Arguing for differentiation remains an option, and some developing countries most certainly will. The mandate calls for the widest possible cooperation by all countries and their participation in an effective and appropriate international response, that the outcome of the negotiations will be applicable to all Parties, with “a view to ensuring the highest possible mitigation efforts by all Parties.” For issues of equity, it will be up to governments to determine how differentiation will be captured, if at all. Indeed, any new climate change agreement will need—if it is to have any chance of entry into force—to address the principle of common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities.

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