The Paris Agreement (2015) and the Rulebook (2018) introduce the terms ‘fair’ and ‘climate justice’ for burden-sharing and differentiation. The article analyses to what extent these terms amend the existing term ‘equity’ and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR).
The principle of CBDR is an open balancing concept with one clear requirement: Contracting parties contribute to climate protection to a different extent. The terms which appear to have normative weight (‘equity’ and ‘climate justice’), in international climate agreements, are limited to their procedural relevance. They aim at an equal participation in sub-institutions of the Paris Agreement or at making arguments for differentiation transparent. The term ‘fair’ focuses on the discourse on individual concepts of differentiation and on narrowing down common criteria in the long-run.
Considering the operationalization of differentiation beyond the terms, it becomes clear that criteria are hardly specified, not weighted against each other and that self-differentiation dominates pre-defined criteria, in particular within the central rules on mitigation and financial transfers. However, the Paris Agreement still specifies criteria with different relevance: Capabilities are followed by vulnerability and the responsibility for emissions.
After all, the prevailing procedural terms and rules of differentiation might give orientation, inspire subsequent decisions and the nationally determined contributions (NDCs). The more transparent the various specifications of differentiation are, the more the rules of differentiation can be narrowed. If the reference of criteria to individual states is possible, the Paris Agreement might be implemented effectively which allows for better compliance with the Agreement.