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WRI and Mary Robinson Foundation Formally Launch the Climate Justice Dialogue

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

On September 25, the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice (MRFCJ) signed a Memorandum of Understanding, formally launching the "Climate Justice Dialogue." This initiative aims to mobilize political will and creative thinking to shape an equitable and ambitious international climate agreement in 2015—one that ensures environmental integrity and protects the communities most vulnerable to climate change.

The State of International Climate Negotiations

It’s now a full 20 years since adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is designed to stabilize “greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” Despite important steps forward in Cancun and Durban, governments acknowledge that their combined efforts in reducing greenhouse gas emissions are insufficient to limit a global average temperature increase to 2°C. The ambition we seek will remain beyond our reach unless we succeed in rethinking and operationalizing the principle of equity and common but differentiated responsibility 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 transition to low carbon development. Reconciling these contrasting visions is crucial to safeguarding people, planet, and economies from climate change’s impacts. Breaching the 2°C temperature target risks undermining vital ecosystems, the goods and services they provide, and the vulnerable communities who depend on them for food, water, jobs, homes, health, security, and human rights.

That’s Where the Climate Justice Dialogue Comes In

As WRI President Andrew Steer has said, “equity cannot be about sharing failure.” It must become a means to share both the opportunities and challenges of the transition to low-carbon, climate-resilient development.

Fortunately, a new window of opportunity has emerged that provides a platform to increase ambition and enhance equity. In December 2011, more than 190 countries gathered in Durban, South Africa and agreed to launch a new round of negotiations, culminating with the adoption of a new international climate agreement in 2015. The Climate Justice Dialogue is designed to seize this window of opportunity. We aim to ensure that the new agreement is constructed in a manner that’s informed by science, considers the specific needs of the populations most vulnerable to climate change, and catalyzes sustainable development.

This is a narrative that that places people at its center, that’s informed by human rights, that strives for equity, and that protects the most vulnerable. -Mary Robinson

As Mary Robinson, President of MRFCJ and former President of Ireland, recently noted, she’s excited about “the potential of the project to facilitate an inclusive global dialogue and to shape a new climate justice narrative supported by a solid evidence base that can drive the urgency and ambition needed to reach an equitable climate agreement in 2015.” According to President Robinson, this is “a narrative that places people at its center, that’s informed by human rights, that strives for equity, and that protects the most vulnerable.”

What’s Next?

The signing of the Memorandum was an important first step to formally kick off the Climate Justice Dialogue, but now the real work begins. Over the coming months, we will work with partners to organize national and regional workshops across the globe to explore options for increasing ambition and operationalizing equity. We will convene country negotiators at the UNFCCC meetings for informal discussions to exchange ideas and build a sense of mutual trust. We will commission papers from key thought leaders on how equity and ambition relate to mitigation, adaptation, finance, and technology. And we will begin to introduce our own analysis to stimulate debate.

The new agreement in 2015 can be a key catalyst for low-carbon, climate-resilient development. WRI and MRFCJ look forward to working with partners across the globe to ensure that the Climate Justice Dialogue develops the creative ideas, political will, and broad support to make this agreement ambitious, equitable, and effective.

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