The reach and limits of the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities in the climate change regime

Authored by: Lavanya Rajamani

Handbook of Climate Change and India

Print publication date:  November  2011
Online publication date:  March  2012

Print ISBN: 9781849713580
eBook ISBN: 9780203153284
Adobe ISBN: 9781136521584


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The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDRRC) 2 has, from the inception of the climate dialogue, underpinned the efforts of the international community to address climate change. At the Second World Climate Conference, 1990, countries recognized that the ‘principle of equity and common but differentiated responsibility of countries should be the basis of any global response to climate change’ (Hague Declaration, 1989; Noordwijk Declaration, 1989; Second World Climate Conference, 1990, paragraph 5). This principle finds reflection in the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC, 1992) and is the basis of the burden sharing arrangements crafted under the FCCC and its Kyoto Protocol (UNFCCC, 1997b). The CBDRRC principle is also highlighted in numerous FCCC Conference of Parties (COP) decisions (Berlin Mandate, 1995; Bali Action Plan, 2007, Cancun Agreements, 2010), as well as the controversial Copenhagen Accord, 2009. Yet, the core content of the CBDRRC principle, the nature of the obligation it entails, as well the applications it lends itself to, are deeply contested, which in turn raises questions about its legal status and operational significance. This chapter explores the debates surrounding the constituent elements of the CBDRRC principle which shed light on the legal status and operational significance of the CBDRRC principle, as well as the ability (or lack thereof) of this principle to offer substantive guidance to Parties in the design of the post-2012 climate regime.

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