UN Equitable, but Others More Effective?

While skepticism about the role of the UN seems a widely-shared attitude going into COP16, some observers question how effective any other purported alternatives have been thus far.  Here’s David Turnbull, Dartmouth ’04 and head of the Climate Action Network (CAN), an association of 500+ NGOs from around the world.

Before we bury the U.N. process, let’s have a look at what these other forums have achieved. The G20 in 2009 said it would phase out fossil-fuel subsidies. Have they? Not according to all the reports I’ve seen. The Major Economies Forum helped to put forward a series of technology roadmaps, which are great in theory but in practice have meant little. The G8? It has been rapidly overshadowed by other forums, like the G20 (see above).

So, what forum truly carries with it the voices of everyone affected by this problem? What forum addresses the myriad interlinked issues needing to be addressed in order to solve the climate crisis? The answer is that there just isn’t anything better than the UNFCCC. And after a few months of griping earlier this year, many parties (including the U.S., mind you) have come back to recognizing this.

Turnbull’s organization released a report called “Cancun Building Blocks” establishing goals for making COP16 “a significant stepping stone to a full fair, ambitious and binding deal at COP17 in South Africa.”

I can’t yet answer David’s question about the effectiveness of UN alternatives, but I know where Professor Sundaram stands.

Going into these discussions, however, I want to distinguish between two principles 1) equity, and 2) effectiveness. On the equity point, the issue of “climate justice” is one we have only begun to understand, with the damage caused by climate change expected to impact less-developed countries in a way we cannot appreciate in our own wealthy, technologically-advanced United States. However, a process controlled by the countries (and companies) most responsible for emissions may ultimately be most effective ( = efficient?) in achieving dramatic cuts.

Could we benefit from separate but parallel processes for equity and effectiveness, with the UN remaining the governing authority on equity but abdicating some responsibility for an effective agreement to another entity?

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About karstenbarde
Tuck MBA, co-chair of 2011 Business & Society Conference, officer of Dartmouth Energy Collaborative, and blogger for COP16 delegation.

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