Martin Khor on Climate Equity

If you’ve been following the international climate-equity debate, you probably already know that Martin Khor, former director of the Third World Network and now head of the South Centre, has been one of the driving figures, and you will probably be familiar with his views. But concision is its own reward, and the new issue of the South Centre bulletin contains a short piece in which Khor lays out his position in a very clear, and useful, manner.

The piece, Climate Deal Needs Equity In Carbon Space, is framed as a comment on a recent conference, organized by the Tata Institute for Social Sciences and held in late June in Mumbai India. This conference, which was focused on exploring the the “carbon budgeting” approach to global burden sharing was interesting indeed — see the brief comment here. But Martin’s comments are of broader interest. Note, in particular, that he reports that [Indian Environment Minister Jairam] “Ramesh indicated that India will take the lead in the UN climate negotiations in using the carbon budget to develop the paradigm of equitable access to atmospheric space and how this is to be put into operation.”

All this may seem pretty abstract to those in, say, the US, where the Administration’s attempt to pass climate legislation has failed, and rather pathetically, but it is not. This will be a long game, and if we’re going to win it, we have to bring climate change down from the sky and reveal its implications, in people’s daily lives. This, like it or not, will take you to the land of the “equity debate.”

Equity, Energy Access, and Global Carbon Space

If you take a look at Global Carbon Budgets and Equity in Climate Change, an extremely interesting and forthright set of papers and reflections compiled by India’s Tata Institute of Social Sciences, you’ll see that the “equity debate” is alive and well, at least in the developing world.

Equity, Energy Access, and Global Carbon Space, the paper by Surya Sethi, is particularly interesting. Sethi was for many years a member of India’s climate negotiating team, and while this is no long the case, his views still carry real weight. And what views they are! The fundamental questions of climate justice are neatly listed here. The injustice that would follow from any accord that allows the wealthy to continue to “occupy” more than their fair share of the atmospheric space is quickly explained. A tidy case is made for a regime of dual obligations, one in which the long-time over-polluters of the North are assigned “negative entitlements” that can only be discharged with “signicant actions within their borders and action beyond their borders, with finance and technology.” And, critically, a bit of bile is reserved to excoriate the reality of intra-national injustices within the South, injustices that allow southern elites to “hide behind their poor.” Continue reading “Equity, Energy Access, and Global Carbon Space”