Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Dr Benito Müller, Oxford Institute for Energy Studies (OIES)

  There is a strong consensus within the policy analysis community and beyond that developing countries will play a key role in determining the success of the multilateral climate change regime under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC). It is equally widely understood that, as a consequence, success will not be forthcoming if the key concerns of developing countries—in particular those pertaining to inequities—are not adequately taken into account in the future development of the regime.

  The Problem: There is a surprisingly rigid North-South divide in the perception of what constitutes the paramount climate change equity problem. In the Northern hemisphere, where the relevant discussion is primarily led by non-government stakeholders (academic, NGO), it is regarded to be the issue of allocating emission mitigation targets;[29] in the South, the concern—backed by many governments—is above all about the discrepancy between the responsibility for, and the sharing of climate impact burdens.[30]

  The Causes: One of the root causes of this Divide is a fundamental difference in the perception of climate change itself. In the industrialised North there is a widely held "ecological view" of the problem. Climate change is perceived as a problem of polluting the environment, of degrading the eco-system. As such, it's essence is seen to be that of a wrongful act against "Nature." Accordingly, environmental effectiveness—the capacity to "make good" the human-inflicted harm on Nature—becomes a key criterion in assessments of climate change measures. The chief victim from this perspective is Nature, mankind's role is primarily that of culprit. And while climate impacts on human welfare are regarded as potentially life-style-threatening, they are taken to be self-inflicted and hence largely "deserved." Environmental integrity ("to do justice to Nature"), is the overriding moral objective. Issues of distributive justice are only of concern insofar as they could become obstacles in the pursuit of this paramount objective.[31]

  The reality in the South is quite different: climate change has primarily come to be seen as a human welfare problem—not least because of the assessment work carried out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The harm is against humans, it is largely other-inflicted, and it is not life-style-, but life-threatening. In short, the chief victim of climate change is not "Nature", but people and the paramount inequity is one between human victims and human culprits. Climate change is a development problem, no doubt! But for the developing world it is not a problem of sustainable development—in the technical sense of "living within one's environmental means"—it is a problem of unsustainable development, in the non-technical sense of failing to survive.

  The Lessons: While lessons are bound to differ between the stakeholders involved—governments, non-governmental and intergovernmental organisations (NGOs, IGOs), academic institutions—the one overarching lesson must be to take heed of the programmatic demand made by India at the COP7 high-level segment (particularly if one believes the scope of the current regime to be too narrow):

    "The efforts so far have been focussed on mitigation. In the coming decades, adaptation needs to be given much greater attention. The next decade, Mr. President, therefore should see concrete implementation of existing mitigation commitments and active consideration and action on adaptation to the adverse impacts of climate change."

  At the policy decision-making level—the level of national governments—the inevitable impacts and their differentiated causal responsibilities must be fully acknowledged and taken into account in the multilateral negotiations under the Framework Convention (FCCC). In other words, while the mitigation regime established under the Kyoto Protocol will inevitably require some negotiation about architectural extensions (eg second commitment period targets), the issue of sharing climate impact burdens must be given centre stage, in particular because of the fact that while mitigation burdens are still a matter of decision, many of the impact burdens are not.

  To enable this change of negotiating focus, the immediate lesson at the level of policy analysis must be to put much greater effort into thinking of innovative ways in which these impact burdens could be distributed. The fact is that—apart from the controversial monetizations of economic cost-benefit analysis (themselves fraught with intrinsic equity problems)—we seem to have little if any idea how such burdens—say, that of the 25 million refugees expected by Bangladesh alone—could actually be "shared", let alone be shared in an equitable manner.

  To sum up, for many developing countries climate change is not an environmental problem, and it is not a question of whether economic development can be sustained without harming Nature, it is a simple issue of survival. As such, it must be positioned firmly at the centre of any overseas development agenda.

Dr Benito Müller

Oxford Institute for Energy Studies (OIES)

January 2002

29   For a potential compromise between Per Capita and Grandfathering (Status quo) allocations see, for example, Ulrich Bartsch and Benito Müller, Fossil Fuels in a Changing Climate, Oxford: OUP 2000. Back

30   A study currently undertaken at the OIES about the perception of these key climate change equity concerns has revealed a significant North-South Divide. A review of COP7 media reports and ministerial statements provided significant positive evidence that (i) the most pressing inequity issue for developing country stakeholders is having to bear climate impact burdens disproportionate with causal responsibilities, and (ii) their view that this issue has hitherto largely been ignored. A subsequent look at recent academic climate equity literature lent support to this view. Indeed it indicated that while "equity" is often being put on the agenda by developing country experts, the scope of the agenda itself-namely emission mitigation- was firmly set by the industrialised world. Back

31   An equitable allocation of emission targets is primarily considered to be a problem because it is seen to be a sine qua non for an expansion of the mitigation regime to developing countries. Allocations which would result in surplus permits are rejected because they are perceived to be conflicting with the paramount objective of environmental integrity. Back

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