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“Shared vision” occupies central debate in Bangkok talks



The Bangkok climate change talks under the UN Convention on Climate Change today finished an informal session on “shared vision”, one of the most controversial issues in the follow up to last December’s Bali climate conference.
 
In the two-day debate, the developed countries attempted to place first priority on this issue, which to them meant an agreement on a long-term global goal for emission reduction.
 
The European Union and Japan have been explicit in setting the target at a 50% reduction in global Greenhouse Gases reduction by 2050.  However the EU’s base year is 1990 while Japan said it wanted the emissions to halve by 2050 “from the current level.”
 
For many developing countries that spoke, the “shared vision” was broader than on a global emission target.  It included how the climate regime would enable developing countries to be on the sustainable development path, slowing their emissions while retaining the capacity for development and poverty reduction through financial and technology support from developed countries.
 
The discussion took place in the ad hoc working group on long-term cooperative action (AWG-LCA), which is tasked with conducting a “comprehensive process” to complete by end-2009 new emission-reduction targets for developed countries as well as other decisions on mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology and a “shared vision”.  The Chair is Luiz Machado of Brazil and the Vice Chair is Michael Zammit Cutajar of Malta. 
 
The paragraph on shared vision in the Bali Action Plan is for the post-Bali process to address “a shared vision for long-term cooperative action, including a long-term global goal for emission reduction, to achieve the ultimate objective of the Convention.”  This is to be done in accordance with the Convention’s provisions especially the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CDR) and respective capabilities, and taking into account social and economic conditions and other relevant factors.
 
Bernarditas Muller of the Philippines, speaking for the G77 and China, said the group wanted to answer two questions posed to the participants on the process – how and when. On “How?”, she said the group wanted an open, transparent, democratic, inclusive process with effective participation of all.
 
In-sessional or inter-sessional workshops and activities should be agreed to by parties, who should decide on presenters and experts of workshops, there should be open-ended participation and the meetings should be in easily accessible venues.
 
As to the question “When?”, Philippines said to discuss shared vision we first have to find out what we share and what is the vision.  The shared vision was actually established a long time ago by the Convention. It includes but is not limited to a long-term global goal. It includes other mutually-supportive elements of the Bali Road Map. 
 
The Convention’s Article 2 has a clear objective but it also includes the parameters within which to achieve the ultimate objective.  These include to allow the ecosystems to adapt naturally, to ensure food production is not threatened and economic development continues in a sustainable manner.  Any kind of shared vision must have sustainable development in mind.
 
It must also be in accordance with provisions and principles, such as Article 4 which has the CDR and equity principles, which are important for developing countries.  This implies that the developed countries have to take the lead to combat climate change.  The text also says “taking into account economic and social conditions”, and we have to look at that in our discussion on shared vision.
 
Muller said that for members of the G77 and China, adaptation is our overriding priority. A balanced treatment between adaptation and mitigation has to be achieved in the Convention.  We need adaptation action now and not in 2012.  The Bali road map says, “implementation now, up to and beyond 2012.”
 
The Chair, Luiz Machado, agreed that the AWG is dealing with action starting from now, and people referring to 2012 should not mean they will act only after 2012, as this would be a pity.
 
Brazil said that, for it, the shared vision is a common understanding on the long-term cooperative action that Parties need to undertake and on the results they must achieve to ensure the full, effective and sustained implementation of the Convention, with a view to achieving its ultimate objective.
 
The shared vision must cover the full scope of long-term cooperative action, including adaptation, mitigation, financing, technology development and transfer.
 
Equally important cooperative elements that must be addressed are sustainable development and fair and equitable burden sharing. Advancing sustainable development contributes to achieving the ultimate objective of the Convention, as it strengthens national capacities to address climate change and increases the resilience of societies to the adverse impacts of climate change.
 
On the other hand, fair and equitable burden sharing establishes the essential condition for a joint effort directed towards the ultimate objective of the Convention.   
Added Brazil:  “The shared vision cannot be reduced to any one of these individual elements, which are all interconnected. A shared vision which picks and chooses among the different elements will generate distortions. This would happen, for example, if the shared vision were to consider adaptation without considering enabling technology and financial support or mitigation without fair and equitable burden sharing.
 
“Considering the long term global goal, Brazil believes that it could offer an important orientation for national and international mitigation actions. Consideration of a global goal should abide by the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, recognizing that the commitments of Annex I countries and the actions of non-Annex I countries are distinct in nature.
 
“Consideration of a long term global goal should also necessarily include definitions regarding burden sharing. Burden sharing should be based on the historical responsibilities of countries for causing mean global surface temperature increase. From the industrial revolution to the present, different countries have established different emissions paths, thus contributing to global warming according to their natural resources and development patterns.
 
“The resulting greenhouse gas concentration level and the current temperature increase establish an historical responsibility, which is a fair and precise foundation that can be translated objectively and scientifically into specific national commitments or actions.”
 
In 1997, Brazil presented a proposal to define burden sharing on the basis of the historical contributions of countries to global warming. It said the time is right for the proposal to be fully considered, in the AWG LCA.
 
Brazil also stressed that a long-term global goal should take into account solid scientific information and be adjusted as our knowledge of climate change advances.  The limits of science must be considered to avoid jumping to uncertain conclusions. It gave some examples:
 
- Current knowledge does not define the temperature increase limit which would securely avoid dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.
 
-  A long term global goal for temperature increase cannot be automatically linked to a specific greenhouse gas concentration stabilization level, as different concentration trajectories can produce the same temperature increase. This relation between temperature and concentration stabilization levels is also affected by the uncertainties related to climate sensitivity.
 
-  A given greenhouse gas concentration stabilization level cannot be automatically linked to a specific greenhouse gas emissions path, as different emissions paths can generate the same effect on the concentration level.
 
Added Brazil:  “The lack of scientific certainty can lead to subjective proposals or arbitrary choices that may create undue and unfair restrictions for sustainable development, particularly in countries which face the challenge of eradicating poverty, building infrastructure and providing for the basic needs of their societies.
 
“Fully considering what science offers us is a key aspect of the discussion on a long-term global goal. This issue deserves careful consideration and an extensive exchange of the views.
 
Brazil said an open debate on a shared vision is needed, with presentation of different proposals on a shared vision, including views on a long-term global goal and the associated scientific basis.
 
Slovenia, representing the EU, agreed with the G77 that a shared vision is not just on a long term goal, and it is linked to sustainable development and adaptation. But it should also contain a long term goal.  The EU is convinced that to meet the ultimate objective, the global temperature increase should not exceed 2 degrees, the emission reduction of Annex I countries should be 30% by 2020 and 60-80%  by 2050. The global goal requires emissions to peak in 10-15 years and be 50% below the 1990 level.
 
Barbados, for the small island states, was for an early discussion and common understanding on a shared vision. A decision on a long-term reduction global goal is a central element.  More studies should be done on the impact on small island states of a temperature increase above 2 degrees.  A greenhouse gas concentration level of 350 ppm is the safe limit.
 
Micronesia said a global goal is a central aspect, no matter how challenging. It also mentioned the targets of 2 degrees for temperature and well below 450 ppm for concentration, and a 50-85% global emission cut by 2050.
 
Japan said all must share the task of emission reductions.  It advocates global emissions peaking in 10-20 years and to be reduced by half by 2050 from current levels. Parties should recognise this as a non-legally binding shared vision, Innovative technology through international cooperation can be used to reduce emissions, and a low carbon society requires changing lifestyles. Japan again also stressed its proposal for a “legal review” to ensure each country’s participation.
 
India said any shared vision must conform to the Convention provisions of provisions of CDR and also social and economic conditions. It must recognise that Annex I countries are already obligated for commitments in subsequent periods.  “Comparability” criteria should be set for developed countries that are not part of the Kyoto protocol to take on similar action as those in the protocol.  This would ensure that developed country parties to the protocol cannot walk away.
 
On a long term goal, it cannot agree to any such goal without clarity on developed countries’ obligations on funding, technology and capacity building. It would be a moral hazard to agree on a long term emissions goal as well as being meaningless, if the sharing of emissions rights is not within the agreed goal. 
 
India said emission rights should ensure intra and inter-generational equity.   It saw the convergence of emission rights for all in the forseeable future. Mitigation action by developing countries must be enabled by technology and finance that are measurable, verifiable and reportable according to international norms.
 
Bangladesh called for early peaking and deep cuts in global emissions. Equity should be central while discussing different building blocks. Equal importance on adaptation is needed for the most vulnerable countries, and there should be an adaptation protocol.
 
South Africa, speaking on behalf of the Africa Group, also emphasised the need for a transparent and inclusive process. A shared vision should reflect finance and technology to realise full and effective implementation.  The key is the means of implementation in mitigation, adaptation, technology and finance.
 
The US said with respect to CDR that responsibilities and capabilities evolve as countries evolve in the global economy, and differentiation is required.  Global goals should not be structured in relation to burden sharing.  It is something to inspire and aspire to.  This will require national actions.  Also required are data on countries’ socioeconomic conditions and costs of stabilisation of emissions.
 
Ghana stressed the issue of equity. In light of the current imbalance between mitigation and adaptation, there should be an adaptation protocol.  Maldives, for the LDCs, said new scientific findings call for deeper emission reduction. A shared vision should uphold equity and reduce the development gap, with special emphasis on small island states, LDCs, and the issues of water, food and energy..
 
Pakistan said any shared vision must be linked with science. But we should also consider the obligations that flow from that vision.  How would this obligation be shared?  Empirical evidence is needed. An impact assessment is needed to find out what is the residual obligation that flows to developing countries from a global goal.
 
Therefore, an impact assessment, empirical evidence and data are important to establish this shared vision. The EU had outlined that the developed countries can cut their emissions by 60-80% by 2050.  If there is a global cut of 50%, there must also be a residual cut.  We want to know who has to do this residual cut, and based on what empirical data.  Pakistan requested the EU to provide the data.
 
Slovenia, for the EU, said that “hearing colleagues position themselves on the shared vision, we are worried whether the discussion would be long and burdensome and we are not sure if can finalise it in this century if we go on like this.”  To be sure, Article 2 is there, but it is not enough, said the EU, adding “we need a flight schedule.” 
 
Algeria said we need a precise definition of a shared vision.  Can we expect the developed countries to share our problems and difficulties to adapt to climate change and have real sustainable development to alleviate poverty which is also linked to consequences of climate change?
 
Saudi Arabia said that its interpretation of shared vision is that we have stabilisation but also adaptation and economic development, they are all interlinked. On the other component, the global goal, if it is a descriptive goal then there is no problem but once we get into numerical issues it gets complicated.
 
If it is aspirational and in a non-binding form, it can be tackled early as something to aspire to.  But if it is to be a binding goal then we have to be realistic. We must be guided by scientific data.  Although the IPCC provides ranges of scenarios, we must be further guided, and a step by step process of verification is needed.
 
The means of implementation requires finance and technology.  If you are in a Pacific island with a small Cesna plane you can’t fly to New York, said Saudi Arabia.  You have to do with what is available. You can aspire to reach the moon but you need to be realistic to know what you can achieve with what you have.


 

Source:Third World Network
Date:Apr 07,2008