Equity and spectrum of mitigation commitments in the 2015 agreement

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To what extent and how can equity be operationalized in a spectrum of mitigation commitments? We approach this question through academic literature review and analysis of Parties’ submissions and statements. We argue that a potentially feasible and constructive way forward is a mutual recognition approach. This approach implies that parties should accept a set or norms, and a range of interpretations of these norms, as legitimate. Parties should also respect a principle of reciprocity, which means that any (interpretation of a) principle of fairness invoked by oneself can legitimately be invoked also by others. We apply this approach to the issue of equity indicators, and propose a non-coercive template of indicators approach, building on two critical components: transparency and open, critical review of Parties’ pledges and justifications thereof.




Equity is a multifaceted concept and one of the core principles of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, under which Parties aim at agreeing on a new global climate agreement in 2015. In order to succeed in this task, the UNFCCC needs to draft an agreement that is ambitious and effective, and at the same time inclusive and equitable in a way, in which all Parties can consider the agreement fair enough. Applying the principle of equity, and the closely related principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDR/RC), should build the appropriate balance between the substantive elements in the new agreement, such as mitigation, adaptation and means of implementation. A spectrum of mitigation commitments ranging from absolute economy-wide emission targets to, for example, targets set on the basis of greenhouse gas emissions in relation to economic output, has been proposed as one of the ways to find such a balance. NOAK initiated this study to review relevant academic studies on equity, identify areas of convergence and divergence, to identify and analyse global indicators for equity and to find ways to operationalize equity in such a spectrum of mitigation commitments.


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