As the lay of the post-Paris land starts to become clear, it’s also becoming clear that few people outside the climate negotiations really understand the details of the equity debate, as it is unfolding on the inside.
Thus it may be interesting to read this somewhat technical piece. I wrote it with my colleagues at the Climate Equity Reference Project, as a discussion paper designed to inform the debate on equity review that is now, partly because of our work, a clear aspect of the internal What’s Next? debate. Here’s the opening abstract:
“Paris was a breakthrough, but is not yet a success. It could yield success though, and (together with the climate movement, and the solar revolution) help to catalyze a true climate mobilization. But only if the still unfinished negotiations yield a solid global ambition ratcheting mechanism. Some people believe that we’ve already won such a mechanism.
This paper argues that we’re still missing at least two fundamental building blocks of a robust ambition ratchet: a public-finance breakthrough and a “real review” mechanism.
The second of these is the topic of this paper. It argues that 1) real review by definition includes the science-based, ex-ante equity assessment of individual pledges, 2) such assessments were in Paris beyond the will of the Parties, 3) they can nevertheless be done well, and can positively influence the formal negotiations, and 4) civil society should (on top of everything else it has to do) take the lead in demonstrating that this is so.
This paper is a call to civil society – and to the Parties – to support such an effort, and to do so quickly. The effort should culminate in or before the 2018 political moment, which must be a big one.”
I’ve just read an interesting paper by one Jonathan Pickering (University of Canberra). It’s called Top-down proposals for sharing the global climate policy effort fairly: lost in translation in a bottom-up world? and is well worth reading, not least because it is a corrective to the view, unfortunately popular on the “climate street,” that Paris is a fraud because, well, only a top-down principle-based regime could possibly be real.
Pickering, for his part, offers a nice capsule analysis of why a top-down regime was never in the cards, and not just because the wealthy countries of the North refused its disciplines. Also, and importantly. there’s the unfortunate fact that:
“While developing countries have supported the idea that developed countries should share their efforts according to a common formula, they have resisted the idea that developing countries themselves should be subject to the same formula.”
This position was justified, and probably still is, by the Convention’s statement that developed countries should “take the lead” in protecting the climate system, but it had consequences in any case, and we’re facing them today.
Here’s the TEDx San Francisco talk I gave on October 29th. I call it “Stories of the Future,” though the TEDx shows it as “Make it Bigger,” by which I meant our conception of the problem. I’m afraid it wasn’t one of my best performances, in part because I just finished the talk the night before, and hadn’t properly memorized it. Still, it’s not bad — in fact, it might be the best talk I know on climate crisis and the “second machine age.” And if you prefer old media — like reading a website — the script is below.
It’s often said that the 20th Century began, not in 1900, but in 1914, with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and the subsequent outbreak of World War I.
This raises a question about the 21st Century — has it begun yet? I think it has, though it’s hard to mark its exact beginning. To do so, you need a storyline. A story of the future.
If you want a dystopian story, it’s easy to date its beginning. Just use September 11, 2001.
But what if you want to tell a helpful story? One in which we actually deal with our greatest problems. A believable story in which the historians of the future look back to our time, today, as a time of new beginnings. What date, exactly, would mark these beginnings?
Let me suggest two possible dates, marking two very different storylines, which are fated to play out together.
There’s really nothing to add this article from the UK Independent. But it’s a good reminder that the most important of all equity issues is climate stabilization itself. To the extent that we fail, the poor will suffer.
The steady rise of Earth’s temperature as greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere and trap more and more heat is sending the planet spiraling closer to the point where warming’s catastrophic consequences may be all but assured.
You can see this metaphoric spiral become real in a new graphic drawn up by Ed Hawkins, a climate scientist at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom. The animated graphic features a rainbow-colored record of global temperatures spinning outward from the late 19th century to the present as the Earth heats up.
A collection of internationally-oriented US-based groups has released statements on the Paris Agreements. It’s an interesting collection, neither optimist nor pessimistic, and the statement itself is short and focused. We agree on the fundamentals.
Here’s EcoEquity’s blurb:
Tom Athanasiou, executive director of EcoEquity, said “The Paris Agreement is a breakthrough but not yet a success. Not by a long shot. It marks the end of a long international stalemate, but the emergency mobilization we need is still only a hope. What we know for sure is that the Paris regime is nationally driven. As the wealthiest nation on Earth, the US has the responsibility to lead. We certainly have the capacity, and the technology, to do so. The question now is if we can wrest back control of our democracy, and finally act.”
And here’s the statement itself:
NEW YORK — Secretary of State John Kerry plans to join world leaders in the celebratory signing of the Paris climate agreement in New York tomorrow. In lieu of celebration, U.S. civil society leaders are urging the Obama administration to take immediate, aggressive action in order to give the world a fighting chance to meet the agreement’s goals.
The Paris agreement acknowledges the urgent need to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels to avoid catastrophic climate change, but the greenhouse gas pollution-cutting pledges of signatory countries fall critically short of meeting this critical target.
The U.S. has played a major role in the agreement’s inadequacy. It has refused to do its fair share and take responsibility for the country’s historical contribution to today’s global climate emergency. Instead, the U.S. has unjustly shifted this burden to the developing countries in the Global South and has failed to provide its fair share of financial support to enable developing countries to take meaningful climate action.
To fight the climate crisis, the U.S. must keep fossil fuels in the ground, undertake a clean energy revolution, and provide the Global South with the financial and technological assistance demanded by science, equity, and justice.
Just dying to know my views on global climate justice and the Paris Agreements. Here’s an interview I recently did with Bing Gong (Jun 13, 2016) on KWMR Post Carbon Radio in Point Reyes Station. I hate listening to myself in any recorded form, but this is really not too bad.
Oxfam argued, back in January of 2015, that sometime in 2016 the top 1% of the world’s population would have more than everyone else. Here’s the study, if you want to follow the math. According to the folks over at therules.org (see their awesome video on global inequality) the global 1% only has 43% of everything. (The difference here is in the methodological noise and, in any case, good data is hard to get. As inequality scholar Branko Milanovic politely noted in The Haves and the Have-Nots, his excellent 2011 book on global inequality, the super rich don’t actually like to be studied.)
Oxfam is sticking to its own numbers. In a new (2016) study, An Economy For the 1%: How privilege and power in the economy drive extreme inequality and how this can be stopped, it argues that the 50% line has now been crossed. I’m going to trust them on this, because their data is from Credit Suisse, and who (what?) better than a Swiss bank to study “ultra high net worth individuals.” An Economy For the 1% is an interesting read. It goes on from the numbers to talk about the nuts and bolts of global stratification, tax havens in particular, and to connect the dots. And to continue its projections:
“If this deeply alarming inequality clock continues to tick as fast, by 2020 a mere 11 people could have the same wealth as half the world. That’s not even a dozen.”
Will Paris be a success or a failure? It will be both. The real question is whether it opens the way to a new future of justice and ambition.
This essay was first published in the Earth Island Journal.
As I write this, the United Nations climate conference is only weeks away. And now, of course, it will take place in an atmosphere of mourning, and crisis, and war. Beyond this change of tone, what difference will the November 13 attacks make on the outcome of the negotiations? It is impossible to say, though it’s not too much to hope for heightened clarity, and seriousness, and resolve. This is a time to attend to the future – on this, at least, we should be able to agree.
The essay below was finished before the attacks. I’ve changed only these opening words, which already said that the stakes were high. This has not changed. Nor has my overall claim, that while the negotiations are not going well, they’re not going badly either, and that in any case they must be judged in realist terms. View Full Text »