Equity and Global Climate Change Conference

April 17-18, 2001 - Washington, DC

Conference Press Release

The Pew Center conference on Equity and Global Climate Change will bring together experts from a variety of disciplines and nationalities to explore how best to ensure fair and reasonable actions by all countries in addressing climate change. Given critical differences among nations -- in their economies, their historic and projected emissions, and their vulnerability to climate change impacts -- achieving equitable international commitments is an extraordinary challenge. Speakers and panelists will examine the underlying economic, cultural, and ethical issues and how they influence this crucial debate. Through this conference, the Pew Center hopes to stimulate an ongoing international dialogue leading to the better understanding of equity concerns and solutions that all parties believe are fair.

PANEL DESCRIPTIONS

Approaches to Equity

Equity concerns are at the very core of the climate change debate: Who bears the greatest responsibility for climate change? Who is at greatest risk? Who is best able to act? Even if we agree that equity is a goal, how do we define "equitable"? Many approaches to conceptualizing and addressing equity in the context of climate change have been advanced, including: per capita emission rights; various forms of "grandfathering;" allocating reductions according to ability to pay; sharing costs according to historic emissions; and combinations of these and other critiera. This panel will explore some of these approaches and will ask whether, ultimately, equity is more feasibly addressed through a political bargain than through a given principle or formula.


Economic Considerations

At the root of many equity concerns are stark economic realities. Countries face widely divergent costs in addressing climate change - both the direct costs of mitigation, and the opportunity costs of diverting scarce capital from other social needs. The stakes of not acting also vary widely; and those facing the greatest costs from flooding, drought and other climate change impacts may be those with the fewest resources to spare. While some developed countries are concerned about competitiveness impacts if other nations do not act, developing countries are reluctant to assume obligations that may jeopardize their economic development. This panel will explore these differing perspectives, and will examine opportunities to address economic inequities through technology transfer, capacity building, clean energy investment, and other climate change strategies.


Ethical, Moral, and Cultural Considerations

Equity concerns are also shaped by differing ethical, religious, and cultural perspectives. Some cultures and traditions place a higher priority on meeting collective needs and those of future generations. Some argue that developed countries must be willing to sacrifice the comforts of an energy-intensive lifestyle. Some hold more strongly than others to the creed of market efficiency. While these differences can exert a powerful influence on national perspectives, they are typically overshadowed by pure economic concerns. This panel will explore how these differences color the climate change debate, and how a better understanding of other cultures and traditions can lead to stronger international cooperation against climate change.


Fair and Reasonable Action: First Steps

The Kyoto Protocol attempts to address equity concerns in at least two respects: it sets binding emissions targets only for developed countries, reflecting broad agreement that it is their obligation to act first; and among developed countries, it sets differentiated targets reflecting differences in national circumstance. How equitable are these decisions? Negotiations over rules to implement Kyoto raise another set of concerns: How is fair representation on the body overseeing the Clean Development Mechanism ensured? What must developed countries do to fulfill their commitments on finance and technology transfer? This panel will examine the underlying rationale for agreed-upon measures such as differentiated targets, and explore ways to resolve other equity issues that arise within the existing climate framework.


Fair and Reasonable Action: The Path Forward

Ultimately, it will be impossible to achieve safe, stable atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases by addressing only developed country emissions. There is growing pressure in the United States and elsewhere for developing countries to take stronger action against climate change. Developing countries want greater recognition for efforts already underway and are unwilling to commit to stronger action, insisting that industrial countries first demonstrate real progress toward achieving their emission targets and fulfilling their commitments on finance and technology transfer. This panel will explore differing perspectives on this central issue, and consider when and how a real dialogue on developing country commitments can or should begin.