New Article on Adaptation and Trust Issues

Benito Müeller at Oxford’s Institute for Energy Studies has done some of the best work on adaptation funding in the past few years, and his latest three-page Comment is another potential excellent class reading,  No Trust Without Respect: Adaptation Quick Start Funding at the Cross Roads, Oxford Energy and Environment Comment, March 2010. The piece does a very good job of emphasizing the role of trust in regime success and the unfolding architecture for short and long-term funding of adaptation programs.

Among the key take-ways from the Comment:

  1. The lack of trust between developing and developed countries in international climate negotiations is a serious abiding issue, and the pledge of developed countries in the Copenhagen Accord to provide $30 billion in short-term funding for mitigation and adaptation programs is another critical juncture for either building or further eroding trust between the blocs;
  2. The primary problem in the process to develop the Copenhagen Accord was “not so much a matter of who took the decisions, but of how they were taken . . .” Many developing countries felt that they were disrespected in the negotiation process and the manner that the Accord was presented for adoption. Müeller concludes: “The point is, counties — like individuals –, except to be treated with respect. This includes respecting their views and respecting agreed norms of behaviour (viz. rules of procedure). If there is no respect from the one side, there is likely to be little or no trust from the other;”
  3. We are at a “trust cross roads” in terms of the quick start pledges made at Copenhagen, both inters of form expected by developing countries, i.e. whether the funds are new and additional, and where the funds are disbursed through a channel that developing countries feel gives them more control, e.g. the Adaptation Fund, or through existing international financial institutions that developing countries feel are controlled by developed countries, e.g. the Global Environmental Facility. A recent survey reveals that none of the prospective contributors who have expressed their intentions to date contemplate using the Adaptation Fund in this context;
    • Herein also lies one of the great divides between the perspectives of the respective blocs, with developed countries asking why developing countries aren’t content with receiving funding, while developing countries view such funds not as charity, but rather as a form of restitution for climate-associated damages, imbuing them thus with a right to reject certain strings attached to such funding;
  4. Ultimately, whether the short-term funding provision of Copenhagen will help to restore trust between the Parties will depend not only on whether the pledges are met, but also whether the operational preferences of developing countries are respected.

Some of the potential class discussion questions that come to mind include the following:

  1. Do you agree with the perspective of many developing States that adaptation and mitigation funding by developed countries is a form of restitution or reparations rather than aid?
    • If you agree with the developing States’ perspective on this matter, are developing States with low levels of emissions also entitled to reparations from large developing State emitters such as China, India, Indonesia or Brazil?
  2. Do you agree with the author that some developing countries rejected the Accord on the grounds of being disrespected in the negotiation process, or was this pretext masking other political motivations?
  3. Would there be trade-offs in the negotiating process for a successor to Kyoto in departing from the “Friends of the Chair” approach used at COP15?

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