Climate justice must drive climate action

News: Big emitters must reconsider their stated net-zero date and specify a credible action plan.

Important elements of a disaster response

There are four elements in the response to any disaster that are important —

The credibility of the warning

A shared sense of emergency

A social and political norm of joint responsibility

A higher authority capable of enforcing restraint and liability on those most responsible for the risk

The biggest natural disaster of our times is – climate change.

How have UNFCCC & IPCC fared in terms of the four elements of response wrt climate change?

Credibility of warning: Each of the five assessments by IPCC and early indications of the sixth assessment have strengthened the scientific consensus on the facts and the projections. The IPCC reports have certainly raised awareness not just in scientific circles, but also among the public, particularly young people. Doubts about their reliability are now limited to fringe groups.

Shared sense of emergency: As most drastic consequences of the climate change will be witnessed in the future, so decision-making at global scale is still limited to short-term considerations. This absence of a sense of emergency can be seen in the casual and indifferent declarations of net-zero emissions decades ahead.

Must Read: Glasgow Climate Pact – Explained, pointwise

Joint responsibility: This is reflected in the principle of common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR). But here also the problem is that the principles of climate justice that should govern the differentiation of responsibility have never been framed.  Differentiation by capacity (as per a nation’s capacity) is now more widely accepted even in rich countries. However, unless the issue of differentiation by culpability (as per a nation’s responsibility/liability) is adequately resolved, countries will hold back on their commitments.

Higher authority: This is entirely missing in the global climate response process. Presently, we rely on the voluntary acceptance of liability by those responsible for the greater part of the accumulation of greenhouse gases.

What are the implications?

The climate process is now driven largely by narrow national interests. The past is ignored altogether in the process.

Emergence of a three-part power structure in the climate negotiations:

– The first part includes the two big emitters, China and the US, whose participation is a pre-condition for an effective agreement. This G-2 dimension is now clearly evident in the separate agreement that these two countries presented before and during the 2015 Paris COP meeting and the 2021 Glasgow COP meeting.

– The second part consists of 18-20 countries, each one of which accounts for 1% or more of the global carbon emissions

– The third part consists of about 180 countries that are at the receiving end of what the big players decide.

What is the way forward?

As per Nitin Desai (Business Standard),

– Climate dharma: A consensus on the principles of climate justice that would define each country’s and each individual’s duty is needed.

– Carbon-saving technologies may also help

– Most big emitters should bring forward their net-zero target dates and specify a credible action plan from now onwards at the 2022 COP meeting.

– An independent national mechanism in every country for ensuring credibility and accountability

Source: This post is based on the article “Climate justice must drive climate action” published in Business Standard on 22nd Nov 2021.

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