By Philippe Wealer, Caritas Luxembourg
United States of America is among the largest emitters of greenhouses gases.
In 1992 the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) came to the fore. As most UN documents, this has so far not become a legally binding text for the member states of this supranational organization.
As a reaction, parties came up with the Kyoto Protocol which has put a price to greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions in 1997. This document in turn has not yet been ratified by the US. Ten years later the US government has issued the Climate Security Act, which essentially has been serving to reflect the Kyoto Protocol’s concepts within the country’s domestic ghg trading policies, whilst at the same time effectively ignoring the former.
In the meantime EU institutions and states have come up with their own mechanisms to allocate and trade greenhouse gas emission rights. Mitigation efforts that do not have to rely on the acquisition of rights to emit ghgs are unfortunately still embryonic.
Right now parties are sitting together in Bonn in order to prepare for a post-2012 agreement on how much ghg emissions should be allowed for which country, cut by the means of better technologies, avoided by the means of legal adjustments. Experts are further enquiring according to which principles a ghg mark could be organized, considering that not all emissions can or should be avoided and assuming that regulation is realistic.
The ultimate ask of Caritas with regard to political reorientation is the establishment of climate justice principles which take into account the needs of the world’s poorest population. Moreover parties need to decide whether the historical emissions made in the course of industrialization legitimize financial and technological assistance that would have to reach way beyond current trends in international cooperation.
That however does not yet give us a clue as to how exactly such a transfer could be instituted.
Not much time is left to realign positions that differ considerably among developed nations and and even more so between highly, moderately and poorly developed states.
For the first time the US delegation has been sent out with the political luggage of the Obama government, the initial signals of whom seemed rather constructive. Some parties are wondering now whether this can be enough, if left on its own, thus investigating what concrete impulses are to be expected from the US.
After the first day of negotiations, some directions seem to be becoming a bit clearer. Unfortunately those are not the most encouraging. Thus the US government still seems to consider the cutting of ghg emissions as a threat to its economy rather than a unique opportunity to be seized – in that particular sense and in general. What they seem to have discovered as their own position – not that it was anything new, how could it be? – seems to be the idea that emission rights can be generated most of all as a result of investment in projects in less developed countries.
According to the current logic of several international markets this means that less developed regions will continue paying the price it will take for developed nations to further progress, which is not in line with the idea of climate justice at all.