The key is another EU alliance with the developing world

Europe's World

Asia & Emerging Economies

Picture of Saleemul Huq
Saleemul Huq

All eyes will be focused on Paris in December when leaders from almost 200 countries that are parties to the United Nations framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC) next meet. Their challenge is to agree a new phase of the climate change treaty that is ambitious enough to keep global temperatures below to 2ºC by the end of this century instead of the nearly 4ºC we are currently heading to.

The deal to be negotiated in Paris needs all countries to substantially reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases, a goal attempted unsuccessfully a few years ago in Copenhagen.

Among the sticking points in these global negotiations is the famous phrase Common but Differentiated Responsibilities, or CBDR, which means that while all countries should do what they can, some, mostly rich ones, should bear a greater responsibility and should do more than the others. Developing countries are a single negotiating bloc called the “Group of 77 and China” (although there are now well over 130 countries in this group), which has a number of sub-groups like the Least Developed Countries (LDC) group, the Alliance of Small Island States, (AOSIS) and others.

When the UNFCCC process began over 20 years ago, this division between rich and poor countries made sense. But then things have changed dramatically. China is now the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, having overtaken the U.S., while countries like India, Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia are becoming bigger greenhouse gas emitters than many rich western countries.

The time has therefore come to de-emphasise the “Differentiated” and re-emphasise the “Common” in CBDR. This may require new alliances that will break the traditional rich versus poor dichotomy. Just such an alliance happened already at the UNFCCC meeting in Durban a few years ago when to break the deadlock between the rich countries and the G77 plus China the European Union allied itself with the LDC group. This led to agreement on the Durban Platform which set in train the negotiations now due to be finalised in Paris.

The good news as we head for Paris is that the basic negotiating text has been agreed, and all countries are putting forward their own emission reduction pledges. These are positive signs, but the trick will be to create alliances and coalitions of the willing. The hope must be that once again the LDCs and EU could form just such an alliance.

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