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The Role of Common but Differentiated Responsibility in the 2020 Climate Regime

Rowena Maguire


Evolving a New Understanding of Differential Commitments

The principle of common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR) will play a role in the 2020 Climate Regime. This Article starts by examining differential treatment within the international legal order, finding that it is ethically and practically difficult to implement an international climate instrument based on formal equality. There is evidence of state parties accepting differential responsibilities in a number of areas within the international legal order and the embedding of CBDR in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC),1 means that that differential commitments will lie at the heart of the 2020 climate regime. The UNFCCC applies the implementation method of differentiation, while the Kyoto Protocol2 applies both the obligation and implementation method of differentiation. It is suggested that the implementation model will be the differentiation model retained in the 2020 climate agreement. The Parties’ submissions under the Durban Platform are considered in order to gain an understanding of their positions on CBDR. While there are areas of contention including the role of principles in shaping obligations and the ongoing legal status of Annex I and Non-Annex I distinction, there is broad consensus among the parties in favour of differentiation by implementation with developed and major economies undertaking Quantified Emission Limitation and Reduction Objectives (economy wide targets) and developing countries that are not major economies undertaking sectoral targets.


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