(Getting Over) Equity Stress Disorder

This latest round of talks has made it clear that after years in the trenches, many of our colleagues are suffering from a debilitating malady that we might call Equity Stress Disorder (ESD). The symptoms of ESD are many, but the most serious is the delusion that “equity” is the source of all our difficulties, and that, now, after the Paris breakthrough, we’ve put it behind us.

Alas, this is only denial. Equity remains fundamental to the Paris Agreement. The real question is what CBDRRC means — and how it can be operationalized in a post-binary world. Only by facing it head on can we hope to find the path to recovery and ambition.

None of us here at ECO have a psychotherapy degree, but we can perhaps help by calmly explaining the facts of the situation. Here goes:

  • The world is a complicated place, thus, we need a new approach to differentiation; a dynamic approach that’s based upon the Convention’s core equity principles. To be blunt, we need a dynamic and non-reductionist approach to CBDRRC. Pretending otherwise is fine, but it’s not going to get us to a high-ambition world.
  • There’s still some truth in the North/South “binary,” but it’s not a particularly helpful truth; not here inside the “UN bubble.” In fact, holding on to the binary just empowers the folks who want to avoid the overarching challenge of the MOI gap, a gap that we’re going to have to bridge if we really want to get onto a cooperative 1.5°C (or even 2°C) pathway.
  • The best approach to dynamic differentiation will vary across the elements of the Paris Agreement, but CBDRRC remains relevant across the board, though the details remain to be defined. For some purposes (e.g. transparency) it might be possible to live with an ambiguous notion of high and low capacity countries, but for others (e.g. the Global Stocktake) we’re going to have to be a bit more specific. Think in terms of a “development spectrum”; it can help.

The point is: we can get past Equity Stress Disorder, but we’re going to have to do it together. Which means that we’re going to have to work out what both “differentiated responsibilities” and “respective capabilities” mean in a post-binary world, and work out which one of them is most relevant where, when, and how.  This challenge isn’t going to go away. Pretending otherwise is just another kind of denial.

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