The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) is at the heart of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which obliges states parties to take into account their common but differentiated responsibilities while fulfilling their obligations. under the framework.
This meant that, while there is a universal responsibility to mitigate and adapt to climate change, the primary responsibility lies with developed states to take the lead in this regard, monetaryly, given their historical record of emissions, which attributes to them a primary responsibility to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The Kyoto Protocol, a relatively specific document, followed the UNFCCC, solidified and operated the CBDR, dividing states into two groups.
First, developed or industrialized states (or Annex I states) and, second, developing states (or non-Annex I states). Under Kyoto, the former have quantified GHG emission reduction targets, while any emission reductions in non-Annex I states were voluntary and linked to the GHG emission reduction target. first category through the three flexible Kyoto mechanisms. In this article, we argue that the CBDR principle has been non-existent in practice since its inception.
To this end, we will explain how the operationalization of the principle through the flexible mechanisms of Kyoto has defeated, in practice, the principle. Specifically, we focus on the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which has probably been the most successful mechanism under Kyoto. We argue that increasing CDM investments in renewable energy is nothing more than a means for developed states to maintain and even increase their own GHG emissions. The discussion takes place in the context of renewable energies because, firstly, the CDM is the most efficient tool to reduce GHG emissions and, secondly, as a consequence, it has attracted a significant part of the investments of the MDL.
Although they set mandatory emission reduction targets for Annex I states, the Kyoto Protocol allows them to partially achieve their targets by purchasing Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) through the CDM. CERs can be acquired by initiating a CDM project aimed at reducing or avoiding emissions in a developing country. The emissions thus saved are credited to the government or investment corporation, as the case may be. One CER is equivalent to 1 tonne of CO2 emissions. Indeed, this means that developed states can achieve their Kyoto obligations simply by reducing carbon emissions in states where making these reductions is more cost-effective, that is, developing states.
The 2018 UNFCCC report on CDM projects suggests that renewable energy has received a major boost through the CDM. Of all CDMs, nearly 72% are in the renewables sector, and global investment exceeded $ 200 billion in 2017. In addition, CDM projects have generated more than 100 billion gigawatts of electricity through the use of renewable energy every year since 2001. Similar suggestions have been made. fact in the 2012 report, that is, that one of the three outstanding benefits of CDM projects has been the promotion of renewable energies.
In fact, the UN study goes on to state that, in the absence of the CDM, there would have been no promotion of reliable and renewable energies. In addition, it suggests that most renewable energy projects have, in fact, been CDM projects in states not included in Annex I, given the increase in electricity demand in these states. Prima facie, CDM investment in renewable energy suggests that developed countries are moving towards meeting their Kyoto obligations.
However, a critical understanding of the CDM process denies this conclusion. It is argued that the CDM process acts as a platform for Annex I states to guarantee the “right to pollute”. By initiating these projects in developing states, developed states “export” reductions in CO2 emissions to developing states, maintaining or even increasing their own CO2 emissions, subject to the number of CERs they can obtain. Under the pretext of profitability (or even profitability) of reducing GHG emissions, Annex I states target renewable energy projects in states not included in Annex I, and in turn they acquire CERs to offset their own emission reduction targets. This effectively defeats the very essence of the CBDR that requires developed countries to take the lead in climate change mitigation and adaptation, promoting the quantified cuts they have to make in their own emissions.
So what is a possible solution? Arguably, the most effective means of mitigating GHG emissions is to switch to renewable energy sources, especially now that solar and wind energy are more cost-effective than coal. To put the CBDR into operation in its true spirit, Annex I states must reduce their own GHG emissions by making this change within their jurisdictions, in addition to their ongoing CDM projects in the states not included. in Annex I. In addition, this should be accompanied by a review of the categories in Annex I and non-Annex I, as the status of several states has been transformed since the decade of 1990.
(The writers are, respectively, Professor of Law and Public Policy and Associate Researcher at Jindal College of Global Law)