Do rapidly developing countries take up new responsibilities for climate change mitigation?

Abstract

A significant number of countries classified as “developing” during the negotiation of the UNFCCC in the early 1990s have experienced rapid economic growth and increase of greenhouse gas emissions since then. We assess whether governments of such countries are considering taking up responsibility for emissions mitigation in the context of the UNFCCC’s principle of common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR). While an expansion of mitigation responsibility to Non-Annex I countries has been strongly opposed by overarching groups such as the G 77, we find countries such as South Africa and Indonesia that have clearly supported binding commitments. Other countries like China and Singapore oppose binding commitments but increasingly engage in domestic mitigation action. Moreover, China has pledged a significant amount of climate finance. Even in the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which adamantly refuse mitigation commitments, some mitigation action seems to emerge. We thus foresee that countries will increasingly adopt differentiated positions regarding their responsibility for mitigation. This could provide new dynamics in international climate negotiations.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    In the UNFCCC process, this principle is now referred to more comprehensively as the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capability” (CBDRRC). However, we stick to the abridged version (CBDR), which is more commonly used.

  2. 2.

    Countries classified as HIC have a GNI per capita ≥ USD 12,746; for UMIC the relevant threshold is USD 4125 (World Bank 2014).

  3. 3.

    It should be noted, however, that some predictions of future emissions are necessary in order to establish the baseline scenario to assess countries’ emission reductions. So far, countries have an incentive to overestimate baseline emissions because this inflates their perceived mitigation effort. If such baselines were simultaneously used to calculate responsibilities, the incentive to compute biased baselines could be significantly reduced.

  4. 4.

    For further discussion of CBDR, also considering its use in other international treaties, see Honkonen (2009), and Pauw et al. (2014).

  5. 5.

    The World Bank has recently classified India as a lower-middle income country, but despite its strong recent growth period, it remains much closer to the upper threshold for low-income countries than to the lower threshold for UMIC. Table 1 shows that India’s per-capita income is less than half of the Chinese.

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Correspondence to Katharina Michaelowa.

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This article is part of a Special Issue on “Climate Justice in Interdisciplinary Research” edited by Christian Huggel, Markus Ohndorf, Dominic Roser, and Ivo Wallimann-Helmer.

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Michaelowa, A., Michaelowa, K. Do rapidly developing countries take up new responsibilities for climate change mitigation?. Climatic Change 133, 499–510 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-015-1528-6

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Keywords

  • Climate Change Mitigation
  • Mitigation Action
  • Gulf Cooperation Council
  • Gulf Cooperation Council Country
  • Fossil Fuel Subsidy