Equity Takes Center Stage in Global Stock Take Discussions

In determining the modalities, procedures, and guidelines for the Global Stock Take under Article 14 of the Paris Agreement, equity is the name of the game. Parties joining the first informal consultation on the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement on November 7, 2017 have repeatedly mentioned the need for considering the impact of applying the principle of equity to the Global Stock Take. With the Transparency Framework’s emphasis on flexibility and the differentiation between the reporting requirements of the developed and developing parties, one would think that defining equity should be easy. This has not been the case.

Experts on the principle of equity were asked to weigh in on the matter at a side event held later the same day. These experts agree that equity in the Global Stock Take involves accounting for each Party’s “fair share” of the burden of curbing Green House Gas omissions so as to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius target temperature. However, they do not agree on what “fair share” means.

Dr. Allison Doig of the Christian/ACTCOVER Alliance expressed the view that, in light of the urgency in which all Parties must begin addressing climate change, “fair share” means that Parties must “do more.” Parties will do things differently, but they must “do more.” According to a report published by the Civil Society Review, developing countries carry their “fair share” of the burden when they dramatically deepen their domestic mitigation and when they support developing countries’ actions to do the same. This is so because developing country Parties have expressed their willingness to do more, but they lack the capacity to achieve their goals. According to Dr. Doig, developing country Parties can only succeed with the help of developed countries and to carry their fair share, developed countries must extend help.

Prof. Ottmar Edenhofer of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research did not completely agree. To him, equity can only be achieved when Parties can measure and compare similar efforts done with similar technology. Current Nationally Determined Contributions do not reflect this, as Parties determine the point from which they will calculate their emission targets. Different times will have different technologies. Therefore, efforts based on NDCs are incomparable and cannot be the basis for determining equity. For Prof. Edenhofer, the answer to the issue of determining equity is an internationally harmonized carbon pricing.

Carbon prices, unlike NDCs, are comparable and transparent. If Parties can agree to carbon prices, equity can be easily determined through the Equal Effort Principle. Under this Principle, those that have to spend more to mitigate their carbon emissions will be compensated by the Green Climate Fund for their efforts. Those that can spend less to do the same will have to donate to the GCF. Their donations will go towards those who cannot easily afford to install emissions reduction technology. This way, all Parties are required to put the same amount of effort in curbing their emissions and no one country disproportionately bears the burden.

At the moment, these views are merely theoretical. Parties are still in the early stages of developing the modalities for the Global Stock Take. However, Parties need to begin looking into mechanisms for determining equity and fair share like the ones summarized above if they are to incorporate equity into the Global Stock Take.