Historical Responsibility : The Concept’s History in Climate Change Negotiations and its Problem-solving Potential

by Friman, Mathias

Abstract (Summary)
The thesis primarily tracks the history of historical responsibility in negotiations to and under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The concept aims at attributing individual country burdens in mitigating climate change based on the relative levels of past emissions. A hermeneutic approach and discursive theory has been applied to the empirical material consisting of documents form UNFCCC’s main bodies. Even though the concept was part of the discursive struggle over the content of the UNFCCC, it has been more central in the struggle to operationalise the Convention’s principles on equity. Historical responsibility has been most elaborated in a proposal by Brazil to the 1997 pre-Kyoto negotiations. This proposal combined a biophysical approach (preferred by the North) with that of a political economic approach (preferred by the South). However, the proposal was soon pushed of the central agenda and discussions on the topic turned technical and centred on scientific uncertainties. The biophysical framing excluded equity. At the same time as the proposal was marginalised within UNFCCC as a whole, it was central in discussions on comprehensive approaches to historical responsibility. Any that wanted to discuss comprehensive approaches were referred to this forum wherein talks on equity were excluded from the rules of discussion. This echoes a world system of a periphery, the global South, dependent upon core countries, the global North. The last mentioned have the capacity to set the agenda. The argument for marginalising the Brazilian proposal has been compared to the accepted Kyoto protocol with the result that the official arguments for marginalisation do not hold. The thesis also investigates historical responsibility’s problem solving potential as a concept that could create much needed dialogue across the North/South divide.
Bibliographical Information:


School:Linköpings universitet

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:climate change equity justice historical responsibility emissions brazilian proposal kyoto protocol


Date of Publication:08/15/2006

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