The “historical responsibility” issue blows wide open

Half way through the Copenhagen year, there came the Technical briefing by the Chair of the AWG-LCA on historical responsibility as a guide to future action to address climate change. Not a snappy title, but a big event, and the UN secretariat captured it on video, and if you’re any kind of climate equity scholar (or activist), it’s well worth watching, and not just because Martin Khor, now of the South Center, does such a fine job with the difficult job of explaining “negative emissions.” Other highlights include Henry Shue, and Bolivia’s Angelica Navarro, and China’s Teng Fei, and India’s Prodipto Ghosh, all giving their views on this suddenly visible, enduringly critical issue.

We’re not claiming that historical responsibility is the be-all and end-all equity principle, or that it can alone bear the weight of the fair-shares effort sharing system that we need. But it’s one side of the coin (the other is capacity) and this was, in a sense, its official coming out. Also note: For an excellent textual summary of the event, see the Third World Network’s Developing countries call for historical responsibility as basis for Copenhagen Outcome, by Matthew Stilwell & Lim Li Lin.

Also note: The real action took place a few days after the briefing, during a tense procession in which these same countries, among a total of 37, lent their names to formal call — expressed as a proposed amendment to the Kyoto Protocol — for the industrialized countries to reduce their combined emissions by over 40% by 2020.