COP4 BUENOS AIRES
A RECKONING FOR GLOBAL EQUITY THAT COUNTS US ALL IN
Correcting global inequity is at the
heart of the crisis of global climate change. Like it or not, the time for sorting this
out is now, at the Fourth Conference of the Parties (COP4) of the United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Buenos Aires in November 1998.
The impact of expanding human greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on the climate system is
causing global temperature to rise, putting everyone at risk. The patterns of global
consumption behind this impact are deeply divergent.
Globally it is a minority of people that has caused these impacts. Emissions of GHGs have
been accumulating in the atmosphere since the beginning of industrialisation and 80% of
these accumulated emissions have come from less than 20% of the global population - those
living in the industrial north. Since money supply and GHG emissions are closely
correlated, those making the money have been making the mess. As things stand, the high
impact one third of global population have 94% of global purchasing power, the other two
thirds at very low impact have the remaining 6%, and things are getting worse.
The fatalistic maxim says the rich get richer while the poor get poorer. Maybe, but this
now misses the point. While there may historically be no justice between them, rich and
poor alike are now threatened with the worsening impacts of global climate changes.
Conditions will become unbearable for all unless now we deliberately correct this ever
more unsustainable and inequitable mess together.
The United Nations Framework Convention on
Climate Change was created in 1992 for this purpose. Its objective is to stabilise rising
GHG concentration at a level that is not dangerous to ecosystems and humanity. Such is the
behaviour of the climate system that this objective requires a contraction of GHG
emissions from human sources of 60 to 80% less than at present. The Kyoto Protocol created
in December 1997, was the first attempt to introduce legally binding commitments to begin
The industrial countries are supposed to be "taking the lead" with these
commitments but they are inadequate, inequitable and the wrangling continues. The US has
refused to ratify the Protocol saying that unless all countries are involved the effort
will be futile because it is one-sided. To be effective they say we must have
"globality" or "meaningful participation by developing countries", as
well as "flexibility" or the "international tradability of the
commitments", so that they are achieved "efficiently" or at lowest cost.
Effectiveness and efficiency are indeed two of the three pre-conditions of success. But
the third is global equity, the founding principle of the Climate Change Convention. With
this we can share and then trade a GHG contraction budget internationally, enabling the
whole operation to meet the objective of the Convention at least damage cost and abatement
To do this, GLOBE the international network of parliamentarians proposes
"Contraction, Convergence Allocation and Trade", the model developed by the
Global Commons Institute (GCI). Based on the best available science and the Convention's
precautionary principle, the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC could agree a safe
global atmospheric GHG concentration target. The international shares of the resultant
contraction budget could then be negotiated using the equity principle of convergence to
equal per capita shares globally by an agreed date, with pro rata reduction thereafter.
Once these global principles have been agreed and applied, the resultant equitable
international GHG shares could be tradable. The sale of surplus shares from developing to
developed countries could generate revenue for the former to "leap-frog" fossil
fuel dependency to clean technology, with an interim "price-buffer" for the
latter against prematurely retired assets, while the whole exercise accelerates the
avoidance of future global damage to everybody's benefit. In short the effectiveness of
combining equity and efficiency is the "Third Way"because for the first time
third parties also win.
Some people have responded saying "Contraction and Convergence" is
intellectually perfect but politically impossible. But is what is currently deemed
politically possible under the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol also ecologically
sustainable? The answer is no. The USA will inevitably continue to oppose sub-global
arrangements and the developing countries will obviously continue to oppose the disunity
of global inequity and the absurd quarrel will go on.
COP4 in Buenos Aires is now an opportunity to put things right. "Contraction,
Convergence Allocation and Trade" is a widely known rationale for negotiating this
global package in order to avoid the dangerous climate changes. The Africa Group of
Nations adopted this position before Kyoto. The Chinese and Indian governments declared
for this position at the end of Kyoto. Before, during and since Kyoto GLOBE International
has campaigned for it with a growing number of parliamentarians and growing success in
over one hundred countries worldwide in conjunction with organisations like the
Environmental Justice Network Forum (EJNF). The European Parliament has just voted for it
with a majority of 10:1. And now the majority of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) group has
in effect adopted this rationale for global equity and survival as well. The Heads of
State at the September Summit of the 113 countries of the Non-Aligned Movement in Durban,
South Africa, signalled for the first time as a majority block of countries their positive
engagement with regard to globality, equity and efficiency. The final NAM resolutions
state terms for an equitable global partnership for emissions trading.
This means the US can have the effectiveness of globality and the efficiency of
emissions trading but only in exchange for equitable allocations of emissions entitlements
for all countries agreed by all countries. Global equity is the key to this fair
exchange and the opportunity to mandate it exists at COP4 in Buenos Aires.