Thursday, October 04, 2018

Todd Stern:  Remain Faithful to the Paris Agreement

The deal moved away from the firewall between developed and developing countries; going backward would undermine ambition.

Former secretary of state John Kerry, Chinese lead climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua and former US climate special envoy Todd Stern (Photograph Credit: State Department) Click to Enlarge.
Developing countries account for over 60% of emissions today, and that percentage will grow every year.  China alone accounts for some 29% of carbon dioxide emissions from energy.  Nor can we summon the kind of joint political will we need unless all countries are part of the same basic regime.

The risk of backsliding toward the firewall arises in a couple of different ways.  For example, some countries want to put in place different requirements for developed and developing countries in regard to the obligation that countries provide information needed to make their national targets understandable.  And some want to unwind the flexibility principle in the transparency section of Paris so that it applies not just to developing countries with capacity needs, but to all developing countries.

Parties will need to work together constructively to find solutions to problems like these if the upcoming climate conference in December is to succeed.  Establishing two separate sub-regimes for developed and developing countries, de jure or de facto, is no answer and would violate the letter and spirit of the Paris Agreement.

But care can be taken to design requirements in a manner that isn’t onerous, to make capacity-building assistance available, where needed, and to explicitly recognize the reality that, in the first few years of the new Paris regime, some parties will need a little time to adjust.  The substance of these guidelines matters.  They are intended to support the ambition and credibility of our efforts going forward.  It would serve no one if they were weakened or limited in their application.

To avoid the worry that rules set this year will be impossible to change, countries should also agree that the rulebook will be open for any needed modifications after a reasonable period of time, perhaps five to 10 years after it is finished.

Paris succeeded as a new kind of climate agreement.  The rulebook can help turn it into a strong, lasting regime, provided it stays faithful to the Paris Agreement itself.  Once we get that done, the door will open to accelerate our joint efforts and develop new kinds of collaboration.  But a successful rulebook comes first.  There is no time to lose.

Read more at Todd Stern:  Remain Faithful to the Paris Agreement

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