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Nordic Council Studies Role of Equity in Climate Change Regime

Nordic Council Logo8 April 2014: The Nordic Council of Ministers has published a report on how equity can be operationalized in a spectrum of mitigation commitments under the climate change regime.

The report, titled 'Equity and Spectrum of Mitigation Commitments in the 2015 Agreement,' considers how to ensure that the principles of equity are adequately and effectively incorporated into the new global climate change agreement currently being negotiated by parties and expected to be agreed in 2015. It focuses specifically on a “spectrum of commitments,” which refers to a situation where different countries take on different types of commitment with different levels of ambition, as the possible form of parties' commitments under the new agreement.

It highlights that the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDR&RC) is broadly accepted as a framework for ensuring distributive fairness, but notes that there is no convergence on what this principle means or how it should be applied. It then suggests that to incorporate equity into the 2015 agreement, parties should adopt a “mutual recognition” approach, in which they would accept a set of norms and a range of interpretations of these norms, as consistent with the CBDR&RC principle, and therefore legitimate.

Specifically with regard to the spectrum of commitments format, it proposes a “template of indicators” approach, under which parties, having themselves decided what mitigation commitments they want to undertake, would then report on the commitments and outline how these commitments are fair, based on responsibilities and capabilities. Parties would however be free to select which indicators or criteria of responsibilities and capabilities to use, from an agreed list, representing a form of “bounded flexibility.”

The report emphasizes that this proposal gives parties the freedom not to report all indicators, but that the refusal or failure to include an indicator would be explicit and could signal that the party has something to hide, which would therefore create an incentive to report all indicators. The report also outlines examples of indicators or criteria that parties have suggested, such as: for responsibilities, fossil fuel consumption and historic emission per capita; and for capabilities, gross domestic product (GDP) per capita and the Human Development Index. [Publication: Equity and Spectrum of Mitigation Commitments in the 2015 Agreement]