The Fair Share Challenge

 Rushka Sthapit

The principal aim of the Paris Agreement is to keep the global temperature rise to well below 2°C, while pursuing 1.5°C. Whether we are able to achieve this aim depends on two core principles: ambition and equity. We talk about ambition and equity for these reasons:

  1. High consuming societies, mostly from wealthy countries, disproportionately contributed to cause the global emissions that cause climate change;
  2. But the poor and the middle class population, mostly living in the developing countries, particularly least developed countries, will bear the brunt of the devastations of climate change.
  • And it is the wealthy countries that have the obligation and the capacity (in all aspects- institutional, financial, technological) to change the course from where we are headed.

Countries have made pledges through their NDCs to reduce emissions, and wealthier countries have made higher pledges than others, as they should. But their pledges do not nearly meet the fair share of their responsibility. In order to meet their fair share of the global effort, they have to go beyond domestic climate action to enable mitigation in other countries. On the other hand, poorer countries are pledging action in the same scale as their fair share- which are appropriately smaller. But the pledges representing their full share will not be large enough to support a global shift to 1.5. But countries like India, China have the potential to do more even after their fair share has been met. However finance and technology support will be needed. In any case, climate action is more than mitigation. Just as important as mitigation is adaptation, loss and damage and just transition, and these have to be shared fairly as well.

The IPCC’s special report on 1.5, published in October 2018 has recognized that warming of 2°C is potentially catastrophic. It however also recognizes that the 1.5°C can be achieved, although doing so will be difficult. The report has laid out four possible pathways to 1.5°C, out of which the LED pathway is the only one that includes decentralization of energy system and requires the wealthy population to do their fair share. It is also the only pathway that satisfies humanity’s energy needs without reliance on negative energy technologies such as the BECCS and SRM.

It is important also to pay attention to equity and fair shares within countries. There are pockets of wealthy population living in developing countries, who should realize their responsibility to make climate action effort. In other words an intra-country scenario, equitable national allocation of effort must be ensured, so as to encourage the wealthy to take up their responsibility and protect the poor from efforts that they cannot be reasonable expected to bear.

The report ‘After Paris- Inequality, Fair Shares and the Climate Emergency’ produced by the Civil Society Equity Review Group explores in detail the topic addressed in this article. Civil Society Equity Review Group is a coalition of social, environmental and development NGOs, trade unions, faith and other civil society groups. This report aims to assess the commitments that have been put on the table through the UN Climate Negotiations. Click the following to read the full report: After Paris: Inequality, Fair Shares and Climate Emergency