Greenhouse Development Rights

GDRs at the G24

Posted in GDRs per se by Jörg Haas on April 3, 2008

Sivan Kartha has presented the GDRs Framework at XXVI G24 Technical Group Meeting at the IMF Headquarters in Washington. You find his presentation here.

The G24 is The Intergovernmental Group of Twenty-Four on International Monetary Affairs and Development (G-24). It was established in 1971. Its main objective is to concert the position of developing countries on monetary and development finance issues.

It consists of the following countries from each of the three regions: (1) Africa (2) Latin America and the Caribbean, and (3) Asia

Member countries are as follows:

* Region I (Africa): Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

* Region II (Latin America and the Caribbean): Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela.

* Region III (Asia and developing countries of Europe): India, Iran, Lebanon, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Syrian Arab Republic.

The GDRs presentation was received with great interest. Some follow-up activities were envisaged. We will report later on these pages.


GDRs in Bangkok

Posted in Climate negotiations by Jörg Haas on April 3, 2008

Reports form the climate negotiations in Bangkok say: Excerpts and figures from the Greenhouse Development Rights Framework have been widely used by the Indian Delegation in the plenary of the Ad-Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA). We will inform you when we know more.

The Ethics of Climate Change

Posted in Climate justice issues by Jörg Haas on March 25, 2008

When searching for the term “Ethics of climate change” in Google, I stumbled across an interesting article, written by Andrew Hewett, Executive Director of Oxfam Australia. He quotes extensively from our publication “The right to development in a climate constrained world“. Recommended reading!

Could GDRs be a threat for the South?

In our internal discussion among some supporters and authors of the Greenhouse Development Rights Framework (GDRs), we witness that some close friends and potential political allies are still reluctant to fully support it. All these “almost friends” seem to to have the same or very similar concerns, particularly about “sequencing.” Which means more or less that they insist that the North must first fully live up to its Kyoto commitments, before one could start to talk about Southern action on climate change.

The background here is of course the failure of the North to meet past commitments. And the “trust issue” more generally.

* In this context, it seems that our “almost” friends worry that GDRs could function as a trap for the South, the nexus of engagement in which Southern countries take on commitments that, even though they are linked to “measurable, reportable, and verifiable” financing and technological assistance, are nevertheless extremely dangerous for the South to explicitly support.

* More generally (forget GDRs), they worry about any proposal or procedure that seems to create, or threatens to create, a quid pro quo relationship between Southern commitments and Northern commitments that should already have been met.

The danger here is not merely that such concerns will lead potential friends to keep their distance from GDRs, but that similar feelings (which are very widespread) will actually lead to a generalized failure in the negotiations. A continued impasse. In this context, what is our position?

1) It is that developing country commitments are necessary to the necessary emergency mobilization, for many reasons but particularly for the political reason that, without it, we will not be able to win the strong new commitments that are necessary in the North.

2) And it is that these necessary developing country commitments should be explicitly linked to the North’s performance with regard to the strong new commitments that are necessary.

3) And it is, importantly, that these developing commitments are neither large nor dangerous for the South to accept.

But the question arose whether we have considered the possibility that we are wrong? That, in fact, advocacy of the GDRs package could be dangerous for the South?

I would like to share here some of the argument why I think that this is not the case.

1) One of the strengths of the GDRs concept is, that it taking a transparent, principled position which is thinking things through to the end without fearing the outcome. This gives it a particular appeal and clarity in all the haze of tactics, manoeuvering etc. that is surrounding the post-2012 debate.

2) GDRs is nicely “balanced” because it contains some inconvenient truths both for the North and the South. Frankly, I consider those for the North much more inconvenient than those for the South, but that might be my particular Northern perspective. It is certainly our first and foremost duty, to communicate the inconvenient truth for the North plainly and clearly wherever we can: That its obligation to adress the climate crisis according to its share of responsibility and capacity is bigger than the share of mitigation that the North can reasonably be expected to do at home. That the North needs to do both: pursue an agressive emergency mitigation programme at home, and support the necessary mitigation and adaptation actions in the South with very substantial efforts.

3) I respect our “almost” supporters very much for their longterm experience in North-South negotiations which resulted in a heavy dose of distrust. Still, I don’t think that this is helpful, and I am not even sure if this is warranted. There is simply no time for tactics of delay. And we are not any more in the early 90s where Northern countries could get a trade deal against the South. There is absolutely no way to get a climate agreement without the big developing countries, and they know what this is all about. Their negotiation power is considerable and they are not naive. So I don’t worry too much about China, India or Brazil, that their interests might be “sold out”. What I worry about are the AOSIS, the LDCs, the African countries in general. They have very little negotiating capacity, and little bargaining power. By all historical experience they are very likely to be the loosers of the Copenhagen agreement. But they have to loose most by a weak deal, a 4 C degree deal with insufficient adaptation funding. A deal that gives every country still a bit more space to pollute, at the expense of the climate and the poorest. This is the kind of agreement the Bush Administration wants and even a successor US administration may want because it lets them off the hook the cheapest.

4) We need to redefine realism. That realism means that in order to get an ambitious agreement we need to share the effort of tackling climate change in a fair way. And this implies for us in the North that our foremost agenda has to be to convince our governments to live up fully to our big share of responsbility and capacity. But we may fail, and therefore, from a Southern perspective, there might exist at some stage a trade off between two objectives:
a) to struggle for an overall trajectory which is very ambitious even if the burden sharing is not really fair, even if this means that the South has to go an extra mile and assume certain efforts which are not warranted in a perspective of its share of responsibility and capacity
b) to struggle for a fair burden sharing, and to insist on it even if this means that this may result in a weaker trajectory, missing the 2 C target, because the North is not willing to send enough “checks to China” and the necessary reductions in China do no happen because nobody pays for them.
We can have a debate which of the two things is more dangerous to the poor and their right to development: That their countries might accept an unjustified share of the burden, or that we might miss the 2 C target sliding into dangerous climate change. In my judgement the latter is more dangerous, but this is certainly debatable.

5) I would like to substantiate this with a view to intra-national inequities: The way an unfair burden sharing “trickles down” to the poor is via the national policies. It might restrict the growth perspective of some countries. It might put an extra burden on their budgets. Whether this all burdens the really poor depends of the ability of the poor to defend their basic interests, it depends of their power. While the poor are poor because they lack power, they are not completely powerless: Social unrest is the final weapon of the poorest, and there is a limit to what the ruling classes can pass on to the poorest.
Which means: Whether the poor benefit from a fair (GDRs-type) burden sharing or suffer from an unfair burden sharing depends very much upon the relationship of power in the national class struggles. It might well be that the aspiring middle classes might be the ones to suffer most from an unfair burden sharing, not the really poor, because there is a limit what you can get out of the poorest, otherwise they will resort to unrest.

6) In light of this, the answer to the question whether “advocacy of the GDRs package is dangerous for the South” might look like this:
– When taking “the South” as synonymous to “the poor”, I would clearly deny this. GDRs is our best chance to keep global warming below 2C and there is a key interest of the poor in this. Even if we get somewhat “less than GDRs” because the GDRs package served just as a sinister manoeuver to lure the South into commitments, I would still argue that in effect, the resulting losses of growth in the South will affect the poor only in a limited number of countries which have an active, development oriented government.
– When “the South” means southern countries, I would still argue that the GDRs package or something similar is probably the best deal that Southern countries might get. And I don’t see that delaying tactics will really be helpful in getting “something like GDRs”.

The Greening of the South

Posted in Climate justice issues,Climate negotiations by tathanasiou on March 6, 2008

Here’s something interesting — a well-informed and honest article from a significant British magazine (Prospect) that takes a hard look at the core political challenges of global climate stabilization and then draws some actual conclusions. And it’s written by Simon Retallack, who knows his way around both the climate policy debate and the climate movement.

Retallack, now head of Climate Change at the UK’s Institute for Public Policy Research, did not come blithely to the Greenhouse Development Rights perspective, which he here recommends. He’s way too much of a realist for that. But Retallack, as it happens, is an honest realist, one who rejects most of the goods currently being sold under that label as being long, long past their use-by dates.

Per-capita emissions come into his argument. How could they not when they’re five times as high in the US as in China, which is supposedly eating America’s lunch. But the real issue, now absolutely clear, is not equalizing emissions but rather phasing them out. And quickly. The real issue is redefining prosperity, or at least development, in a climate-constrained world.

By the way, Retallack’s take on emissions trading is particularly interesting, especially given that he has deep roots in the British climate movement. He’s not an academic policy wonk, but neither is he an automatic enemy of emissions trading. And his focus here is on criticizing the alternatives to trading. It’s not a definitive move, but it’s an overdue one, and he deserves credit for making it.

So place Retallack within the swelling ranks of those who welcome the critique of “false solutions,” but insist as well that it’s time to take the next step and actually propose institutional and financial mechanisms capable of supporting rapid global mitigation and adaptation. The ranks of those who recognize that, come what may, the climate end-game is going to be played out soon, within the institutions of this our very capitalist world.

Which reminds us of Susan George, a long-time global justice leader and theorist who’s also been staring into the climate abyss, and drawing her own difficult conclusions. It’s well worth your time to listen to those conclusions, which you can do here.

Differentiating Responsbility

Posted in GDRs methodology by Jörg Haas on February 26, 2008
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The core of the Greenhouse Development Rights Framework is an indicator: The Responsibility and Capacity Indicator (RCI). It quantifies the responsibility for climate change and the capacity to act. As for responsibility, the indicator takes into account the cumulative emissions since 1990 of the population living above a development threshold of 9000$/capita income (PPP adjusted).

Benito Müller and others have published already last October a paper on “Differentiating (Historic) Responsibilities for Climate Change”. Looks like a quite interesting methodological contribution.

ResponsibilityThe Report recognises two distinct kinds of responsibility, namely strict (or unlimited) responsibility, and limited responsibility, which are based on, but different from, the causal contribution to climate change. The latter equals cumulative historic emissions of the greenhouse gases CO2, CH4 and N2O (incl. those from land use change and forestry).

In order to determine a country’s share in the strict responsibility for the climate change problem, it is allocated a part of the harmless global emissions on a per capita basis. This ‘basic allowance’ is then subtracted from the country’s historic emissions, with the remainder (if any) determining its share in strict responsibility for the problem.

The limited responsibility calculations were restricted to post-1990 emissions. The justified need to grow, in turn, was implemented through the introduction of individual subsistence allocations’ of 2tCO2eq. per poor inhabitant (the average per capita energy emissions of the developing world), which were allocated to every inhabitant surviving on less than $1 a day.

The latter concept of limited responsibility is quite similar to the one applied in calculating the RCI, with a difference only in calculating the subsistence emissions. It could well serve as an alternative approach to calculating the responsibility part in the RCI. Still, we have never claimed that the way the RCI is calculated is the only one that makes sense. We just claim it is defensibly fair.

Looking at the different shares that countries have in causal contribution, strict and limited responsibility, it is quite interesting to observe the differences (click at the thumbnail above to see the full graph). Interesting enough, India has a small but relevant share of the causal contribition, but no share of strict or limited responsibility. China, on the contrary, has an equally relevant share of 11-12% of the causal contribution and the limited responsibility. In this case, the limited responsibility is quite high, probably due to the fact that the share of the population surviving on less than $1 a day is much smaller than in India.

Well worth reading, this Summary Report.

GDRs and the way forward from Bali

GDRs is a very nice and somehow ‘balanced’ concept, because there is an inconvenient truth in it for both sides of the North-South divide:

For the North: The inconvenient truth is that even the more ambitious of the actually discussed reduction commitments for the North (-25-40% until 2020) are insufficient if they are meant as a measure of the total effort of the North, partly to be fulfilled through emissions trading abroad. We need these ambitious domestic reductions plus strong support for mitigation in the South.

For the South: The inconvenient truth is, that there need to be obligations for some parts of the South as well in the upcoming commitment period (yes, they are small, because they correspond to the Southern countries share of responsibility and capacity). In addition, strong reductions in the South financed by the North are necessary.

The GDRs framework made it clear:

If we want to keep global temperature rise below 2C, emission reductions both in developed and developing countries need to happen. But if we want the associated effort to be shared equitably, a large part of the emission reductions in the South need to be financed by the North.

An echo of these inconvenient truths is contained in the outcomes of the Bali Action Plan. There it was agreed to start negotiations on:

Enhanced national/international action on mitigation of climate change, including, inter alia, consideration of:

(i) Measurable, reportable and verifiable nationally appropriate mitigation commitments or actions, including quantified emission limitation and reduction objectives, by all developed country Parties, while ensuring the comparability of efforts among them, taking into account differences in their national circumstances;

ii) Nationally appropriate mitigation actions by developing country Parties in the context of sustainable development, supported and enabled by technology, financing and capacity-building, in a measurable, reportable and verifiable manner;

The dramatic very last hours of the Bali negotiations made it clear, that there is clearly a link between the level of the “mitigation actions” to be undertaken by developing countries, and the level of support they are going to get for this. This corresponds quite nicely to the logic of the GDRs concept.

After Bali, we saw efforts from the Bush administration to backpedal on these decisions. Unsurprisingly.

But also an important voice from developing countries seems to strive backwards to the times before Bali, rather than forward from Bali toward Copenhagen. In a column for the Malaysian “Star”, Martin Khor from Third World Network reported from the discussions on climate change in the UN General Assembly. He quotes himself:

The Kyoto Protocol must be supported, and the first task is to correct the misconception that it expires in 2012 and must be replaced.

What is expiring is the first commitment period (for emission cuts) of the developed countries, and this is to be followed by a second commitment period for which negotiations are already taking place.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol should be defended, as they contain good principles such as that developed countries must take the lead, and developing countries will act to the extent that the developed countries meet their finance and technology commitments.

The post-Bali process should firstly focus on implementation of existing commitments, as the performance is poor.

The developed countries have to meet their emission targets and their technology and finance obligations (which have not been fulfilled), if developing countries are to have confidence that they will be assisted.

While I agree with many of Martin’s views, I disagree with the assertion that we can content ourselves with focusing on the implementation of existing commitments under Kyoto and the negotiation of further commitments under a second commitment period. This would amount to backpedal from the Bali Action Plan. But we need to move forward from Bali, and work towards clear and binding linkages between measurable, reportable and verifiable mitigation actions by developing countries and equally measurable, reportable and verifiable support by developed countries for that purpose. We need to use our creativity to find ways how this can happen.

There is no time to loose. Let us focus our energy on demanding much more agressive binding reduction commitments by developed countries, and adequate levels of funding both for adaptation and mitigation in the South. Delaying tactics are not on the order of the day.


Posted in GDRs per se by tathanasiou on February 13, 2008

This blog, which is just stumbling into life, is intended for public discussion of the Greenhouse Development Rights Framework — aka GDRs.

The Greenhouse Development Rights framework is designed to support an emergency climate stabilization program while, at the same time, preserving the right of all people to reach a dignified level of sustainable human development free of the privations of poverty. More specifically, the GDRs framework quantifies national responsibility and capacity with the goal of providing a coherent, principle-based way to think about national obligations to pay for both mitigation and adaptation.

The official GDRs homepage is hosted by EcoEquity here — check it out. For those speaking German, there is also some information on the pages of the Heinrich Böll Stiftung.

Most of the people who blog here will be “Friends of Greenhouse Development Rights.” But perhaps not all?

Cheers, toma