Global North and Global South: The Principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities – Part II

This post is a part of the JSDLP’s Reflections on the Global North blog series. / Ce billet s’insère dans la série thématique du blogue de la RDPDD Réflexions sur les pays industrialisés.

Madhav Mallya is a second year Doctor of Civil Law student at the Faculty of Law, McGill University, writing on international investment agreements and sustainable development.

In the first part of this blogpost series, I critiqued the stance of developing countries in promoting the principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) as being a solution to their economic development goals.  I argued that, based on certain historical factors, CBDR could prove detrimental to the socio economic development of such nations and instead there needs to be an even greater emphasis on the transfer and utilisation of green technology in conjunction with CBDR. This post aims to develop this idea further, highlighting the urgent need to effectively integrate green technology into CBDR practices.

Recent studies have observed that there are numerous limitations to financing adaptation to climate change in developing countries. These include stark differences between the realities of allocated budgets to fund such adaptation and pledges made on a global level, the fact that the sources of such financing are often made up of loans and not grants, the lack of resources in developing countries to implement the programmes that are foreseen for adaptation to climate change, and lastly a lack of clarity to label the share of aid aimed specifically at climate change. (Edwin Zacai, Marine Lugen, Brussels; forthcoming 2016 in Archiv Fur Reichts- und sozialphilosophie, Beiheft).

These trends are a reflection of contemporary global attitudes towards developing concrete structural mechanisms to battle climate change in developing countries. In a manner of speaking, it is but natural that developing nations would zealously encourage industrial growth in order to create jobs, improve overall standards of living and enhance their national economic stability. Yet, we cannot afford to neglect such trends, since they highlight the lack of integrated and sustainable mechanisms to balance out the ill effects of CBDR emissions with the import and development of green technology.

Therefore, the main and immediate challenge before the global community of nations is understanding that CBDR in isolation is not a sustainable method of socio-economic advancement in developing countries and that it should be viewed in conjunction with other methods of combating climate change, most notably, the import of green and sustainable technologies. This is easier said than done and would require the promulgation of a model system to effectively weave CBDR and green technology into a mutually functioning system. It is important to try and develop ideas towards the creation of such systems, notwithstanding the complex political and socio-economic dynamics involved. Perhaps the first step towards such a goal should be an honest and conscious recognition by the global north of domestic green initiatives in the global south, with an attempt to co-fund and partner such initiatives, aiming to promote green technology as a mainstay theme.

For example, France and India recently signed a MOU to expand cooperation in the field of solar energy and other renewable energies. A joint statement issued by the parties emphasized France’s support for India’s ambitious endeavours. (Cleantechnica, April 14th, 2015).  For Indian domestic policy makers, the path ahead lies in actively aligning this cooperation with India’s aims to drastically reduce its emissions in a few decades, thus creating a continuous trajectory towards sustainable economic and industrial growth.  It is important to realise that in the midst of the rhetoric and dialogue on green technology transfer in international relations, the eventual onus of implementing and developing green policy is actually on domestic governments.

To that effect, the 2014 decision of the Indian government to roll together the ministries of coal, power and renewables is commendable and welcome, with the aim of viewing energy policy through an integrated prism. (Indian Express, Vikram. S. Mehta, May 4th 2015).  Nevertheless, since India is one of the world’s highest coal based emitters, a major challenge will be reducing domestic industries reliance on thermal energy and increasing reliance on solar energy or other forms of renewable energy. In a new and encouraging development, on 22nd January 2016, it was announced by India’s energy minister that solar tariffs were now cheaper than coal powered generation. (Cleantechnica, January 22nd, 2016).

Through these blogpost series, and especially through the example above, my aim is to promote the understanding that the integration of CBDR and green technology transfer is a complex phenomenon which depends on financing, availability of infrastructure and lastly the willingness of primarily  national governments and secondly,  the international community to create honoured commitments.

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