The road to UNFCCC COP 18 and beyond - Energy and Climate Change Contents

6  A Legally Binding Agreement?

58. Sir David King noted that the alternative to a legally binding agreement is already in place. He said a legally binding agreement is not an absolute necessity—the alternative is voluntary commitments, nation by nation, that will eventually evolve into a single agreement.[79] A treaty based agreement similar to the Kyoto Protocol "is unlikely to be replicated."[80]

59. The UNFCCC COP 17 delivered "a breakthrough on the international community's response to climate change. The outcomes included a decision by Parties to adopt a universal legal agreement on climate change as soon as possible, and no later than 2015".[81] This 2015 target for an agreement to be reached means that the legal drafting of the document needs to be in place at least six months before the 2015 COP. Therefore the terms of any agreement need to be well developed by COP 20 at the end of 2014.[82]

Fairness and equity

60. The Kyoto Protocol defined Annex I countries as developed nations and nations with economies in transition but not including countries such as China, India or Mexico that can be considered "developing". Annex I countries "committed themselves specifically to the aim of returning individually or jointly to their 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2000."[83] By default, all other countries are referred to as Non-Annex I countries. The Annex 1/non-Annex I terminology is now out of date. Instead there needs to a process that takes account the rate at which many of these economies are developing. [84]

61. The Annex I/non-Annex I distinction (which is fundamental to the Kyoto Protocol) will not be maintained in any new agreement.[85] Prof. Michael Jacobs stated that "no developed country would sign an agreement now in which China did not take on very significant commitments of comparable legal standing."[86]

62. Climate equity needs to be understood from the perspective of both developing and developed countries, and it needs to be acknowledged that countries will always act in what they perceive to be their best interests.[87] DECC recognised this and said "it is not just about what you want, it is what is important to your counterpart."[88]

63. Sir David identified to us the potential benefits of using The Human Development Index (HDI) in negotiations. It could be used to determine which countries are treated as "developed nations" and required to decrease their emissions immediately and which countries are given excess carbon permits per capita until their average earnings come in line with other developed countries. It is an "objective number that can be used in negotiations so that the negotiations aren't just subjective and based on who is the strongest negotiator". In order to discourage countries from exploiting their growing population in order to take advantage of this system the agreement could contain various population maximums per country.[89]

64. DECC said that the HDI is a good proxy measure of how developed a country is, but that other issues needed to be taken into consideration, such as "a country's national circumstances, its energy mix and also the marginal cost of reducing emissions."[90]

65. We recommend that DECC support the use of the Human Development Index or a similar "objective number" to determine equitably which countries are treated as developed nations.

79   Q 99 Back

80   Q 143 Back

81   UNFCCC, "Durban Climate Change Conference - November/December 2011", UNFCCC online, June 2012, Back

82   Q 102 Back

83   Glossary, IPCC, June 2012, Back

84   Q 113 Back

85   Q 138 Back

86   Q 146 Back

87   Q 30-33 Back

88   Q 188 Back

89   Q 107 Back

90   Q 218 Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2012
Prepared 25 July 2012