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The Devil in the Deal: Trade-Embedded Emissions and the Durban Platform

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Ethics, Policy & Environment

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Abstract/ Summary

Several commentators have expressed concern that the Durban Platform, the latest product of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), does not include more specific language about the need for equitable mitigation efforts. The concept of “common but differentiated responsibilities” has long been a cornerstone of the Convention, recognizing important differences between developed and developing economies, both with respect to historical responsibility for emissions and developing nations’ rights to economic growth and need for poverty alleviation. On the other hand, while most agree that ensuring equity is essential for a mutually agreeable solution, some commentators have argued that the differentiated approach laid out by the Kyoto Protocol and strongly iterated in most Convention documents until Durban, set up a false opposition between the developed and developing nations; resulting in an political impasse which has prevented the achievement of adequately ambitious and binding mitigation commitments. The Durban platform certainly has the potential to address this impasse. However, it is important to recognize that the hard work of negotiating legally binding emissions reductions has yet to be undertaken, and will likely be mired in familiar, contentious and lengthy political struggles that continue to center on the equitable distribution of mitigation responsibly. I argue that these struggles, which many blame on the equity track, are more accurately linked to a reliance on production-based emissions accounting systems and policies. Here I add my voice to a growing number of commentators who suggest that the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Advanced Action need not abandon an equity track. Rather there is considerable potential to reinvent it in a more politically agreeable form through the incorporation of consumption-based approaches to emissions accounting and mitigation.

Citation/Publisher Attribution

THIS IS A PRE-PUBLICATION VERSION OF: Isenhour, Cindy. 2012. The Devil in the Deal: Trade-Embedded Emissions and the Durban Platform. Ethics, Policy & Environment Special Issue on the Durban Platform 15(3):303-308. THE FINAL, PUBLISHED VERSION CAN BE FOUND AT THE FOLLWING URL:


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