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Highly charged questions on equity at the centre of the international climate negotiations in Warsaw

Published November 22, 2013

by iboran

Idil Boran
From Warsaw, Poland

As this year’s climate talks in Warsaw are in their final stretch, the debates have become deeply divided. Two questions are at the centre of these morally charged debates:

(a) the need for developing countries vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change to have access to funds that will allow them to meet the costs of a changing environment.

(b) the question of whether industrialized countries should pay compensation to developing countries affected by adverse effects of climate change.

The debates in Warsaw are at a point of being deadlocked. Although there are many factors causing the seemingly intractable tension, one of them is the way these two questions are being lumped together in a two-in-one package. What purportedly brings these two questions together, in the minds of many negotiating parties, is a conception of equity. To many, and most notably to the representatives of what is called G-77 (the group of developing countries including the least developed small countries), the mechanism that is to support the costs of climate disasters is viewed as a venue to ensure that the west compensate developing countries that are in a precarious position due to the effects of climate change.

Yet, as it was mentioned in one of the consultation meetings here in Warsaw, various criteria exist to provide guidance to achieve a reasonable system of cooperation. In other words, a historical accountability outlook is not the only outlook for conceptualizing equity.

Needless to say, an exclusive focus on historical accountability puts on the table an excessively narrow reading of what an equitable allocation of costs may require. It looks like more work needs to be done to facilitate agreement over an acceptable criterion of equity. Paradoxically, as debates becomes emotionally charged, the likelihood of finding a way out of the conundrum of adversity becomes less likely.

The rationale behind the Durban Platform was to move away from a fundamental differentiation and adversarial positioning between developed and developing countries. The meeting in Warsaw, thus far, seems to have had the opposite effect, unless something pleasantly surprising comes out of this evening's deliberations.

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