Working Group III: Mitigation

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1.3 Equity and Sustainable Development

Figure 1.3: Equity and climate change mitigation.

The above review of the literature on cost-effective GHG mitigation (including the chapters in this report) shows that elements of development, equity, and sustainability are addressed in some of the analyses. However, they generally take the form of boundary conditions, barriers, or constraints rather than the primary motivation of the analysis. There is also a large and growing volume of research that approaches mitigation directly from a concern with equity and development (Figure 1.3). While in principle, equity concerns pertain to at least three domains5 –international, intra-country, and inter-generational–much of this literature focuses on the international dimensions of equity, and takes as its primary challenge the goal of sustainable development and poverty eradication in developing countries, (Parikh, 1992; Parikh and Parikh, 1998; Murthy, 2000).

As mentioned earlier, although this literature starts with concerns about global equity, one of its central concerns is the promotion of the prospects of sustainable development, especially in developing countries. Accordingly, we have entitled this approach, “equity and sustainable development”.

An important motivation for this literature is climate change agreements in which equity–at all relevant levels (intergenerational, intragenerational, international, and intranational)–is a prominent and consistent theme. The first principle of the UNFCCC (1992, Article 3.1) states: “The Parties should protect the climate system for the benefit of present and future generations of humankind, on the basis of equity and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. Accordingly, the developed country Parties should take the lead in combating climate change and the adverse effects thereof.”

The UNFCCC goes on to require developed countries to assist developing countries in coping and adapting with the impacts of climate change (Articles 4.3, 4.4, 4.5, 4.8, 4.9, 4.10), recognizes that “economic and social development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of the developing countries” (Article 4.7), and, indeed, that “Parties have a right to and should promote sustainable development” (Article 3.4). The Kyoto Protocol retained this emphasis by referring to various paragraphs of Article 4 of the UNFCCC (1992), and refrained from imposing additional commitments on developing countries (UNFCC, 1997b Article 10, preamble). It reiterated the goal of sustainable development and established the CDM to assist developing countries in achieving sustainable development while contributing to the ultimate objectives of the UNFCCC (1997b, Article 12.2; see also Jacoby et al., 1998; Najam and Page, 1998; Jamieson, 2000; Agarwal et al., 2000).

Finally, the issue of equity has been discussed not only with regard to the distribution of resources and burdens within and between generations, but also in terms of the role that it plays in the generation of social capital. Along with reproducible, natural, and human and intellectual capital, social capital is necessary for sustainability (Rayner et al., 1999; for related arguments, see also Hahn and Richards, 1989; Toman and Burtraw, 1991; Rose and Stevens, 1993). Fairness is integral to the establishment and maintenance of social relations at every level, from the micro to the macro, from the local to the global.

What is fair may be the subject of disagreement, but the demand for fairness only arises because of the existence of community. It is very hard to imagine what fairness would mean if we did not live and work together in families, communities, firms, nations, and other social arrangements that persist over time (Rayner, 1995).

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