Minimizing And Sharing The Burden

Fairness is central to any multilateral regime, that is, any agreement between multiple nation-states to address and resolve a common problem. Climate change mitigation is among the key global environmental concerns that will require a common agenda, approach, and set of actions by the community of nations. To that end, global climate negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC, 1992) are centered on establishing a multilateral framework to control greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from all nations and to help those who would be affected by climate change.

Although intertwined with issues (e.g., energy, transport, water, food, and forests) that are fundamental to the economic interests of all nations, the international effort to address climate change has hitherto met only with limited success. Negotiations have been confined to the limited goal of

Perspectives on Climate Change: Science, Economics, Politics, Ethics Advances in the Economics of Environmental Resources, Volume 5, 121-144 Copyright © 2005 by Elsevier Ltd. All rights of reproduction in any form reserved ISSN: 1569-3740/doi:10.1016/S1569-3740(05)05006-6

controlling emissions from industrialized countries that are historically and currently the largest emitters. Even proposals for limited actions, such as the Kyoto protocol (UNFCCC, 1997), have met with significant opposition from the largest emitters - the United States and the owners of fossil fuel resources.

Meanwhile, scientific information (IPCC, 2001a,b,c) is increasingly indicating the rising threats that climate change poses to human and natural systems. Scientific and economic assessments (IPCC, 2001d) show that the burden from efforts to address climate change would be significant. This burden includes costs of GHG emissions mitigation, adaptations, impacts, and risks (Chichilnisky & Heal, 1993). In this context, the key questions are first, how to minimize the total burden, and second, how nations would share the burden fairly. The first concerns efficiency and the second concerns justice.

Principles laid out in the UNFCCC refer to both questions. Economic efficiency is urged in Article 3.3: "policies and measures to deal with climate change should be cost-effective so as to ensure global benefits at the lowest possible cost.'' On burden sharing, Article 3.2 exhorts that "Parties, that would have to bear a disproportionate or abnormal burden under the Convention, should be given full consideration.''

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