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Common But Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR)

The principle of CBDR, as it was used so far and is currently applied, does distinguish only among developing and developed nations. This classification limits clearly its legitimacy to include all the states that are in between the developing and the developed world. I am referring here to those countries that yet, are considered as developing countries, however, they have taken considerable steps towards development and become today large GHG emitters. We need to recognize the critical responsibility of emerging economies like China, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, India and others.

Within the Kyoto Protocol, two categories of countries were identified: Annex I countries (developed countries and countries with emerging economies), and Non Annex I countries, mainly the rest of developing nations).  Annex I countries were committed to reduce their emissions for a first commitment period 2008- 2012, taking into consideration the importance of their historical emissions. The USA was the only developed country that refused to be part of Kyoto treaty. It conditioned its participation with the contribution of other developing countries, mainly China.  As a result, the current climate regime is negatively impacted by a wrong use of the CBDR principle (two major emitters are not committed).

Consequently, the application of this principle must be reviewed by the international community if we are to preserve it to guide the future climate change negotiations. There is an urgent need to proceed to a sort of amendment where the efforts are logged on a ‘carry over’ basis, so that it will be easier to keep track of the accomplishments versus the responsibilities of all emitters. May be, we need to set some indicators to affirm respective responsibilities with regards to GHG emissions (past, current and future), and determine Quantified Emission Limitation and Reduction Objectives accordingly.

The CBDR principle should be seen as a mechanism that is adaptable to the global reality, which is an evolving situation. Emerging countries, as well as developed countries must reconsider their understanding to the CBDR, and take their full responsibilities towards its effective and efficient implementation.


Climate change landscape is changing internationally, the CBDR use has to be flexible to this dynamic environment; it should leave the door open to reconsideration and potential adjustment. In fact, the participation of all countries, mainly all the new big emitters, is crucial. For that to happen, the international community must revise the CBDR’s applicability by highlighting that a country that is not today committed to reduce its emissions by a certain amount might be committed later depending on its real responsibility.




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Comment by Npong Balikawu Francis on November 27, 2011 at 11:56

wow? hope they read this wonderful piece and understand the dynamics. Good work dear

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