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The GDRs Framework: Drawing Attention to Inequality within Nations in the Global Climate Policy Debate

Development and Change 40:6, 1121-38

Author(s): Baer, P. ; Kartha, S. ; Kemp-Benedict, E. ; Athanasiou T.
Year: 2009

The urgency of the climate problem seems to require that stringent emissions reductions begin under the political economic institutions that currently exist. Any global climate treaty must, however, at least not make global inequality worse, and ideally should embody desirable principles of justice.

The Greenhouse Development Rights framework (GDRs), described briefly here, is a proposal for such a fair division of the burdens of emissions reductions and adaptation to climate change that won't be avoided, based on an assessment of capacity (ability to pay) and responsibility (contribution to the problem). The GDRs considers both inequality within countries and inequality between countries: national obligations are based on the exemption of poor individuals (under a 'development threshold') from global burdens. GDRs accepts the link between 'development' and the growth in consumption of the world's poor majority, an obvious requirement if it is to be taken seriously by Southern governments intent on 'development as usual'. It also does not directly challenge the institutions of capitalism or the sovereignty of nation states. Nonetheless, in its focus on poor and rich people it is consistent with a class-based rather than nation-based approach to economic justice.

We conclude by raising a variety of questions both about the limits of approaches like GDRs, and the need for policies that address climate change even during or after a transition beyond the current global capitalist regime.

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