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Climate Research

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CR 28:89-92 (2004)  -  doi:10.3354/cr028089

Equity, responsibility and climate change*

Maria Silvia Muylaert1,**, Claude Cohen2, Luiz Pinguelli Rosa1, André Santos Pereira3

1Energy Planning Program (PPE/COPPE), Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Centro de Tecnologia, Bloco C, Sala 211, Cidade Universitária, Ilha do Fundão, 21945 970 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
2PESC/SEN/CES/UFF - Economics Faculty, Department of Economics of the Applied Social Studies Center of the Federal Fluminense University, Rua Tiradentes 17 Ingá, Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
3CIRED, Jardin Tropical, 45 bis Avenue de la Belle Gabrielle, 94736 Nogent-sur-Marne, Cedex, France
*In honor of Anil Agarwal (1947-2002), founder of the Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi

ABSTRACT: The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its decision-making processes are influenced by powerful economic and political interests, but also by debates on equity and responsibility. This is equally reflected in the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), whose task it is to compile and assess existing knowledge for the UNFCCC negotiations. The IPCC is not charged with producing new knowledge, and its assessments, particularly the ‘Summary for policy makers’, are the product of political and ideological debates, and may include biased statements. The debate on equity and responsibility is characterized by a division, mainly based on socio-geographic differences, between the representatives from developed and those from developing countries. We argue that ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ (UNFCCC 1992, Article 3) require a consideration of temporal and sectoral factors, as well as geographic ones. Countries and economic sectors that have caused today’s climate change must be held accountable. More attention must be devoted to giving different responsibilities to the various economic sectors according to their importance for basic human needs. The differences in accountability between economic sectors were first analyzed in Agarwal & Narain (1991; Global warming in an unequal world. Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi); the need for historical accountability was proposed by the Brazilian Delegation in UNFCCC (1997).

KEY WORDS: Equity · Responsibility · Consumption patterns · Climate change

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