(Earthjustice attorney Erika Rosenthal is attending the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Durban, South Africa. This is the second in a series of blogs she will be filing from the conference.)
Fairness isn’t a philosophical or academic question here in Durban. Deep divisions on the question of equity – between the developed and developing world; between the US and China; between the most vulnerable countries and the major emitting countries north and south (a.k.a. the US, China, India and Brazil) – have stalled the climate negotiations for years.
Almost 20 years ago in 1992 UNFCCC addressed the question of equity and the developed world’s historical responsibility for climate change (the US became rich burning fossil fuels and using up more than our fair share of the atmospheric capacity) by agreeing to the principle of common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR). Those countries who have polluted the most should take the first steps to clean up and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But the science tells us that major emitting developing countries like China and India must act to reduce emissions too, if we’re to have even a 50 percent of staying below 2 degrees C warming. So can this be sorted out?
China,with a population of 1.3 billion people, has overtaken the U.S. as the largest annual – but not historical or cumulative – GHG-emitting nation. Per capita, though, China’s emission level is one-fifth of the U.S. In India the comparison is even starker – although the country is ranked the No. 5 emitter globally, an average India, emits around 1/15th as much Co2 as an average American.
So, what’s fair? The EU, the Island States and Least Developed Countries came together this morning to set out a roadmap to a fair outcome. Read their statement below, and wish this great coalition a fair and ambitious outcome in the final hours of the Durban climate talks.
Common statement by EU, LDC and AOSIS
The least developed countries, the Alliance of Small Island States and the European Union are united in their desire for an ambitious outcome in Durban.
We believe that the world has had a lot of time to think. What we need is not more thinking. What we need is more action.
The gap between our ambitions and the current pledges is simply too wide. And we need not to remind anyone of the scale of climatic threats facing the most vulnerable countries in the world as a result of climate change. The facts are clear and we are still too far from where we need to be to secure the most vulnerable countries’ right to sustainable development.
The chance to reach our objective is getting smaller as time passes and we need to start this process today. For many countries, this is a matter of survival and this process should be able to deliver an answer to meet their worries.
We need to deliver in Durban. We are ready to operationalize the Green Fund and the other Cancun institutions; to deliver what we have already agreed in Cancun. But higher ambitions on mitigation action are crucial. What we need is to effectively stop climate change. And that can only happen if all parties to the UNFCCC process will be committed to concrete efforts.
Hence, we need firm and clear decisions mapping out next steps that deliver the ambition we need. This includes agreeing on an amendment of the Kyoto Protocol for the second commitment period together with a robust mandate and roadmap for a legally binding instrument. Under this instrument, all parties to the UNFCCC need to commit, respecting the principle of common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities.
The price of buying time is rising. Durban must deliver. The EU, LDCs and AOSIS are ready to undertake concrete obligations to manage the climate change challenge. We urge others to join.