Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Great Trust Gap

The Indonesian Minister for Environment said it bestat the event that his government sponsored yesterday: the Durban climate change talks are self-destructing due to a lack of trust among the Parties.

The multi-lateral approach to global governance requires a minimum level of trust among countries When countries are perceived as being untrustworthy on matters of security --eg North Korea, Iraq, Libya, the UN security council or NATO may intervene quite firmly. There is no UN environmental security council, countries that commit to environmental agreements in bad faith face few repercussions. Trust can easily break down. It has at COP17.

There is plenty of reasons for lack of trust among the Parties. Consider the case of Canada: we signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol with no clear plan or federal / provincial will to implement it. Canada's emissions keep rising. This damages the trust in Canada among both Annex 1 and non-Annex 1 countries. Or the Adaptation Fund. Back in 2006, parties agreed to set up an adaptation fund to help poor countries to adapt to the effects of climate change. Six years on, almost no money has been committed. And now the Green Climate Fund: last year Parties agreed to establish this fund to help developing countries with green development, wth quick start funding of $30 billion and up to $200 billion per year by the year 2020. Yet these same Parties are bogged down in the details of how the fund would operate and only modest amounts of funds committed. Developing countries have thus come to feel that they can’t trust developed countries to fulfill pledges for financial assistance for adaptation.

The details matter. Developing countries tend to distrust the existing multi-lateral funds, for example, the Global Environmental Facility and the World Bank Carbon Funds, but it is only those type of funds that developed countries are likely to entrust public funds to. National governments in developed countries are accountable to their taxpayers and want to know that the funds they provide will be used effectively. The funds tht are available tend to be focused on market-based approaches to mitigation, the priority of Annex 1 countries, rather than adaptation which is the priority of developing countries (eg CDM, REDD+).

Without trust in multi-lateral approaches, it appears that countries are tending toward the establishment of bilateral agreements. For example, the Government of Norway has established bilateral agreements with Brazil, Guyana and Tanzania that provide hundreds of millions of dollars to REDD+. The Governments of Switzerland and Philippines have agreed on a similar bilateral agreement that covers mitigation, adaptation and technology transfer.

We live in an increasingly globalized society, economy and environment. Trust in multi-lateral approaches is more important than ever.

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