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Delhi Sustainable Development Summit 2002
Ensuring sustainable livelihoods:

challenges for governments, corporates, and civil society at Rio+10
8 - 11 February 2002, New Delhi

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DSDS 2002: Plenary session 8, 11 February 2002

Climate Change and Sustainable Energy
Michael Zammit Cutajar
Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat, Germany


This session would focus on issues of equity, the tardiness in implementing the Kyoto Protocol and outline a vision for the future beyond the first commitment period of 2008-12 when mitigation of greenhouse gases would need to be accelerated and more vigorous efforts made at understanding the impacts of climate change and implementing adaptation measures.

Outline of presentation

Climate change and equity

  • Central to the discussion on climate change and sustainable development are two dimensions of equity embedded in the Convention and its Protocol. Equity lies at the core of the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities", driving the fundamental distinction in the Convention and Protocol between developed countries, having the capacity to reduce emissions, and developing countries, whose efforts must be supported with finance and technology transfer.
  • The current commitment paradigm, exemplified by the Protocol, requires industrialized economies to limit or reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to 5.2% below 1990 levels by the years 2008-2012. As regards developing countries, it is recognized that economic and social development and poverty eradication are their overriding priorities and that their emissions will grow as their material welfare improves. (South emissions will reach those of the North around the year 2010.)
  • A second dimension of equity proceeds from the scientific evidence gathered over the years by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), whose third and latest assessment report (March 2001) reveals stronger proof of the human footprint on the global climate and projects ever more disturbing scenarios of temperature increases and resulting adverse effects.
  • Exposed by the IPCC is the dramatic vulnerability of the people, communities and countries least able to cope with external shocks that are not of their making. As humankind continues to alter the earth atmosphere, those with the least resources have the least capacity to cope with an increasingly changing climate.
  • Thus, climate change introduces a new and urgent factor of inequity into our world. The typical reliance of poor countries on agriculture, forestry and fisheries heightens their exposure to external environmental shocks.


The international response today

  • The outcome of COP 7 (Marrakesh, Morocco, 29 October–9 November 2001) defines the scope of the agreed international response on climate change for the present decade.
  • Recognition is given to the needs for sustainable development of developing countries, as well as to the economic impacts of emission limitations on oil-exporting countries. Vulnerability and adaptation are agreed areas of priority assistance. Efforts to mitigate emissions must also be supported. Transfer of technology and know-how and the building of capacity are the instruments of such assistance and support. The flow of financial resources for these purposes is to be predictable and adequate (no agreement on a concrete target, though); three new funds are to be established and operated by the Global Environment Facility (GEF); some OECD countries made pledges to contribute $410 million per year by 2005, to be revised by 2008.
  • As regards the emission reduction effort of developed countries, the outcome of Marrakesh, while politically significant, falls perhaps short of the original expectations in Kyoto. Determinant factors are the withdrawal of the USA from the Protocol, the plentiful availability of "hot air" (excess emissions of the Russian Federation and other economies in transition), the magnitude of permissible "sinks" (carbon storage in forests and soils), and the absence of a quantitative limit to access the offshore mechanisms (trading, "joint implementation", CDM).
  • Political commitment will be required by industrialized economies other than the USA to take determined action to desist from acquiring "hot air", cut emissions at home and promote investment in emission avoidance in developing countries through the CDM.


Agenda for the coming decades

  • Marrakesh closed a chapter in the evolution of the global response to climate change and its impacts. The following chapter will open with the consideration of the next round of negotiations on emission limitation commitments. This should include the re-integration of the USA in the multilateral effort, the deepening of the emission reduction commitments by industrialized countries, and the engagement of the "industrializing" developing countries in policies and measures to limit the growth of their emissions.
  • Creative thinking on these subjects is needed. Some ideas (food for thoughts) are provided below.
  • The CDM is not only a mechanism of flexibility but also an instrument for sustainable development. Yet, most analyses conclude that the emerging carbon market will bypass small projects in small economies and, in particular, LDCs. Specialized funds that promote a market for emission reductions with superior environmental and social attributes could help correct this bias.
  • Preparations for Johannesburg, including this Summit, provide useful opportunities to elicit a commitment by the USA to do their part in the multilateral effort against climate change. A US domestic or hemispheric (NAFTA) programme of emission reduction, in parallel with the Protocol and consistent with its aims, mechanisms and methods, would not only represent a welcome development but also help restore demand in the emerging carbon market.
  • Future discussions on a global regime could be based on "grandfathering", where an ultimate level at which to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere is agreed and equitable criteria are established for sharing out that "environmental space" over time. As a middle ground, an intermediate concentrations target could be set, e.g. for 2050.
  • If certain industries that are large energy consumers and leading sources of greenhouse gas emissions (e.g. automobile, steel) were to agree on international efficiency standards, this would have a positive impact on a world scale. These industries are dominated by a dozen or so international manufacturers located both in the North and South. Agreement on such global standards would contribute to bring developing countries on a lower emissions path while addressing North-South competitiveness issues.
  • Turning to vulnerability and adaptation, Marrakesh dealt with those issues as best as it could be done within the resources available to the intergovernmental effort and in the absence of a rigorous cost assessment.
  • The final destination is clear: adaptation must become a planning aim in all countries, a factor of sustainability and an objective of international cooperation. It must evolve from emergency response to anticipatory strategy.
  • Getting there will require a stronger and better funded international effort than the one made in Marrakesh, as well as the commitment of developing countries to raise climate change to a higher place in their national policy agendas. Above all, innovative mechanisms will be needed to engage technological and financial resources that are largely in the hands of the private sector.