In Defence of the Principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities
Forthcoming in Benoit Mayer and Alexander Zahar (eds) Debating Climate Law, Forthcoming
12 Pages Posted: 15 Aug 2020
Date Written: July 15, 2020
The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDR-RC) is the cornerstone principle of the international climate change regime, providing meaningful guidance for the development of climate change law in general. It was developed ‘from the application of equity in international law’1 to allow for differentiated treatment of States,2 reflecting the varying degree of economic, technical and financial capacity and different levels of responsibility for current and, possibly, historical emissions. The principle thus acknowledges the common goal of combating climate change while also addressing equity concerns. The UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol approach to the implementation of the principle, creating two main categories of States, has proven controversial. However, the new incarnation of CDBR-RC in the Paris Agreement is more nuanced and is enjoying widespread support across States, particularly when combined with the bottom-up approach of deciding the level of ambition. Despite the lack of pre-determined division of States into groups with associated obligations, the CBDR-RC principle remains central to the climate change regime at both international and national levels. This chapter argues in defense of the relevance of the CBDR-RC principle in the international and domestic pursuit of mitigation of and adaptation to global warming and environmental change.
Keywords: climate change law, common but differentiated responsibilities, climate justice
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