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From burden-sharing to opportunity-sharing: unlocking the climate negotiations


Yongsheng Zhang, He-Ling Shi

In conventional thinking on climate negotiations, traditional fossil fuel-based economic growth is coupled with carbon emissions, thus mitigation has been regarded as a burden on economic growth. The scarcity within the global emission budget and the interpretation of climate change as ‘global public goods’ have led climate change negotiations into a burden-sharing deadlock. However, some recent economics studies suggest that mitigation could actually promote local economic growth opportunities; consequently increasing the incentives for unilateral mitigation actions. This article highlights the implications for the strategies of unlocking the climate negotiations deadlock. Following an explanation of how climate change negotiations have led to a burden-sharing game and have become a deadlock, some new ways of thinking (based on the emerging literature) are used to suggest how mitigation could promote local economic growth.

Policy relevance

One policy implication is the need to change the current mindset in global climate change negotiations. The current framing of burden-sharing can be abandoned in favour of opportunity-sharing. This more positive approach will stimulate progress on climate action. Therefore, green growth should be situated at the heart of post-2020 climate change regime. A new two-track architecture is proposed for achieving the transformation as a combined top-down and bottom-up approach. A lower legally binding target based on equity principles of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) could form a more politically realistic and inclusive basis for participation. To complement this, a green growth club would promote a higher voluntary global ambition and accelerate mitigation.

Keywords: climate negotiations; green growth; low-carbon transition; mitigation; post-2020 climate regime

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