UN Climate Summit 2014: LIVE BLOG

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Blog Posts: equity

  • A Time for Leadership on Climate Justice

    I spent the recent U.N. climate negotiations in Doha trying to reconcile two injustices. The first is captured by Nicholas Stern’s “brutal arithmetic.” This is the simple, unavoidable fact that bold greenhouse gas emissions reductions will be needed from all countries to hold global temperature increase to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, thus preventing climate change’s most dangerous impacts. Developing nations, many of which are battling crippling poverty and inequality at home, are being told that the traditional, high-carbon pathway to prosperity is off-limits, and that they, too, will need to embrace aggressive mitigation actions. This is a glaring injustice – the product of two decades of missed opportunities in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), inadequate domestic action in industrialized countries, and substantial geopolitical changes in major emerging economies.

    But the second injustice is even greater – one that is manifest and which must be avoided. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has illustrated, breaching the 2°C threshold would seriously degrade vital ecosystems and the communities who depend on them. This, itself, is an issue of justice, as climate change undermines the realization of human rights, including the right to food, health, an adequate standard of living, and even the right to life. Those same developing countries who are home to the poorest and most vulnerable members of our global community—and who are now compelled to act on reducing emissions—will be hit first and hardest by climate change’s impacts.

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  • Reflections on COP 18 in Doha: Negotiators Made Only Incremental Progress

    This piece was written with analysis from Athena Ballesteros, Edward Cameron, Yamide Dagnet, Florence Daviet, Aarjan Dixit, Heather McGray, and Clifford Polycarp.

    Expectations were low for this year’s UNFCCC climate negotiations in Doha, Qatar (COP 18), which concluded last week. It was scheduled to be a “finalize-the-rules” type of COP, rather than one focused on large, political deals that went into the early hours of the morning. Key issues on the table included finalizing the rules for the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period; concluding a series of decisions on transparency, finance, adaptation, and forests (REDD+); and agreeing on a work plan to negotiate a new legally binding international climate agreement by 2015. The emissions gap was also front-and-center, as the new UNEP Gap Report showed that countries are further away than even a year ago from the goal of keeping global average temperature rise below two degrees C.

    In the end, countries were successful in making progress, but only incrementally. The lack of political will was breathtaking, particularly in light of recent extreme weather events.

    Here’s a look at what happened across nine key issues that were on the table:

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  • What Is Equity in the Context of Climate Negotiations?

    This post was co-authored with Wendi Bevins, an intern with WRI’s Climate and Energy Program.

    If you asked five different people what they think “equity” means, you’d probably get five different answers. Their personal experiences and opinions would be overlaid on their cultural perspectives. A philosopher might bring up Aristotle’s teachings on justice; an economist would likely talk about maximizing utility and efficiency. A Buddhist and a Muslim might frame their answers from different perspectives that are difficult to compare, just as the viewpoints would likely vary between people raised under different forms of government.

    So it’s no surprise that when climate negotiators from nearly 200 countries come together at the end of each year, they can’t agree on what exactly ‘equity’ means as applied to addressing climate change. To further complicate matters, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ties equity to “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDR-RC).”

    There are many legitimate views of what equity means in the context of the UNFCCC, reflecting sharp contrasts on how to share both the burdens and opportunities of the global transition to low-carbon development. Some countries emphasize “responsibilities,” usually explained as the historical responsibilities developed countries have because of the greenhouse gases they emitted in the process of growing economically. Other countries focus on “capabilities,” the capacity countries have now to deal with climate change, such as their financial and technological resources to reduce domestic emissions or support adaptation research and activities. Several options for “differentiation” have been suggested over the years, including historical responsibility, levels of economic development, and vulnerabilities and needs. The current approach to equity has become a tug-of-war between countries that are reluctant to make greater climate change action commitments without assurances that others will also act.

    History of Equity in the UNFCCC: Capability vs. Culpability

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  • Threats to Village Land in Tanzania: Implications for REDD+ Benefit- Sharing Arrangements

    This piece originally appeared in Lessons About Land Tenure, Forest Governance and REDD+: Case Studies from Africa, Asia and Latin America.[^1] The full text of the article is available here.

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  • Stopping the Resource Wars in Africa

    Two upcoming Senate bills could have a big impact on the Democratic Republic of Congo, by exposing how its 10-year conflict is being funded.

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  • Poor in Senegal Denied Benefits of Forest Resources

    In many developing countries, forestry policies systematically exclude the poor from the wealth of the forests around them. Senegal provides an interesting example of how even good policies can fail to deliver the benefits they are intended to provide.

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  • Video - Foresters Collude with Merchants: Coercing the Mayor to Cut the Forest

    These films show how Senegal's Forestry service, forest merchants, and other government agents are blocking local governments from playing their legal role in forest management and use.

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  • Immigration Linked to Degraded Ecosystem

    Border security is not typically recognized as being tied to environmental changes, but in this recent article by The New York Times, the links are clear. It details how declining fish catches in northwest Africa are fueling immigration to Europe.

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