Authored By:

Amit Sikhwal(Research Intern)

As the effects of climate change become increasingly evident and devastating, climate change mitigation is taking on particular urgency. But whereas the present environmental crisis originated primarily with the activities of wealthy industrialized nations, it may find its solution in emerging economies, which a recent report by Morgan Stanley describes as sites of clean energy innovation. Responding to growing energy demand and taking advantage of their relative freedom from legacy infrastructure, entrepreneurs and policymakers in these nations are aiming to meet real needs—and are creating technologies of interest all over the world(Climate Change Mitigation in Emerging Economies, November 28, 2017).


The methodology of this research is based on a holistic approach. The study, examination, and review were based on various literature, legal and internet sources. To assess the legislation, definitions, and concept concerning outer space, I referred to literature from different authors, and various another relevant research paper available on the web.

The framework of this paper has been divided into different headings and sub-headings as below.


Despite some progress, the draft elements of the future agreement on climate change may serve as the gravestone to the common but differentiated responsibility principle when it comes to climate(The funeral of CBDR in the climate change regime, 11 February, 2015).

There is no denying the fact that the so-called developed countries (this problematic term is used here as it is used in the relevant instruments, probably to handle the many groups of states involved in negotiations) historically did contribute more to global warming than the so-called developing countries. In order to reflect this fact and to strengthen the position of the developed countries in international negotiations, the principle of “common but differentiated responsibility” (CBDR) has been used. It is said to be a binding principle of the international law on climate change.


The principles of (CBDR) and sustainable development play an integral role in international environmental law. These principles had come under fire in recent years, particularly from the global North, which has grown impatient over the lack of contribution on climate change from the emerging economies. Much effort is been expended toward the establishment of greater contribution, and the shouldering of greater responsibility from these countries. This observation seeks to survey principles of CBDR and sustainable development, two main pillars on which international climate change law and policy have developed, and to identify the reasons for the available discontent of the global North over the obligations of emerging economies. It also seeks to establish a basis for a new interpretation of the principle of CBDR to assist the forward march of global climate change negotiations.

There is no denying the fact that the so-called developed countries (this problematic term is used here as it is used in the relevant instruments, probably to handle the many groups of states involved in negotiations) historically did contribute more to global warming than the so-called developing countries. In order to reflect this fact and to strengthen the position of the developed countries in international negotiations, the principle of “common but differentiated responsibility” (CBDR) has been used. It is said to be a binding principle of the international law on climate change.

Two interpretations of CBDR

In general, the principle could be read in two different ways: It could be a mere statement of the different historical contributions to the common problem of climate change without entailing any commitments. This would contradict the understanding as a binding principle of climate change law. The other explanation would be that the different historical contributions to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere entail also different obligations to tackle the common problem. This would affirm the categorization as a binding principle. With regard to the international regime on climate change, the relevant treaty law called for the latter interpretation. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) imposes different obligations on developed and developing countries. Only the former have to limit their greenhouse gas emissions. The latter enjoy flexibility regarding their information obligations. Furthermore, only developed country Parties are obliged to support developing country Parties financially and technologically. Additionally, the obligation of developing country Parties to implement the convention depends on this transfer of technology and financial means. Thus, the Convention imposes more strict mitigation obligations on developed countries. They also have to support developing countries so that the latter can implement the Convention, too. The Kyoto Protocol with its specified emission reduction targets only for Annex I-Parties to the Convention calls for an obligation-oriented understanding of the CBDR principle, as well. Hence the treaties on climate change executed the CBDR principle by imposing different obligations on different parties, thereby providing for an obligation-oriented understanding of the CBDR principle. This grip of the principle in climate change law might change because of the regime on emission limitation obligations in the draft agreement.

The draft elements of the future agreement are annexed to the Lima Call for Climate Action. Although there will be a difference in the eventual agreement, the draft shows already options, how the CBDR principle might develop. It is mentioned quite often (21 times) in the text and certainly influences the obligations of the different Parties: The general goals of achieving a low greenhouse gas emission economy and limit the global temperature increase to at least 2°C are formulated with references to CBDR. Similarly, the usual methods to execute CBDR are part of the draft: there are differentiated commitments regarding the mitigation of climate change. Developed countries shall support developing countries in adapting to a changing climate environment. Probably, developed countries will be obliged to support developing countries with technology-transfer and capacity-building. More or less explicitly the draft states that developing countries will be able to implement the agreement only with the financial support of developed countries. Developed and developing countries have different reporting obligations. All commonly used methods of implementing CBDR can be found in the draft accord.

However, the foundation of the CBDR principle as explained in climate change law today is responsibility. It entails the common obligation to mitigate climate change but differentiates in the extent of this obligation. There has to be a tangible commitment to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. It is questionable, whether this obligation-oriented interpretation will be implemented in the future agreement. There are positive signs: twice a global emission budget is mentioned, which shall be divided between all Parties according to different criteria (No. 5 Option 4 as part of the objective of the agreement and No. 13.2 b. as long-term aspects of mitigation. Regarding the latter there is no alternative option.). This would apply the idea of CBDR quite successfully, following demands that have been uttered since the beginning of international negotiations on climate change.

From shared responsibility to voluntary commitment

Yet the chances of this idea to finally come into being seem quite small. The whole draft is tainted with the idea of nationally determined commitments that will somehow add up to the desired emission pathway. This procedural change from internationally determined maximum amounts of greenhouse gas emissions (cap and trade procedure) to voluntary national mitigation contributions with reviews at the next COP/MOP (procedure of pledges and reviews) has been introduced into the negotiations at COP 15/MOP 5 in Copenhagen. In the draft agreement, the whole section on mitigation commitments rests on the idea of voluntary pledges. Every option on the global mitigation goal allocates the main influence on the contributions to the Parties. They shall either nationally determine their commitments (No. 16 Option 1), or communicate and implement successive mitigation commitments (Option 2) or prepare differentiated commitments (Option 3). Thus, each state defines its own contribution to the limiting of greenhouse gas emissions. That finding is underlined by the draft regulation No. 73 on the scope of commitments. Option 1 includes the possibility that the scope of the commitments will be determined by the agreement, but also the alternative, namely national determination of the commitments. Option 2 defines only the substantial scope of implementation and ambition, which shall cover mitigation as well as finance, technology and capacity-building support to developing countries for developed countries and mitigation and/or adaptation for developed countries. According to this option, the future accord would be implemented through national reduction pledges only. Thus, only one alternative of Option 1 foresees an internationally determined emission cap.

It seems as if the negotiators departed from the idea of a responsibility shared by all states and turned to a reading of the CBDR principle that allows every State need to determine itself its share of the common burden. The idea of piling up national pledges is in conflict with the recent understanding of the CBDR principle in climate change law. Recent nationally determined pledges, according to the International Panel on Climate Change, will not suffice to reach a 50% chance of meeting the 2°C goal, they merely will not foreclose meeting this goal. Thus, Nations once again try to circumvent the deep truth that in order to mitigate climate change, we all have to cut emissions and therefore need to restructure our economies. This leads to the conclusion that the common responsibility to tackle climate change is sacrificed in order to make as many states as possible ratify the future agreement. However, what is the worth of an international regime that has the task of mitigating climate change but is designed so that the goal cannot be reached?


This phenomenon is due in part to the different starting positions of the nations in question, as emerging markets countries tend to bring fresh perspectives to the issue. Rather than approach the problem from a defensive position, protecting the interests of long-entrenched industry entities, they look at how they can use their resources and the best and latest innovations to solve people’s problems without doing further damage to the environment. The examples are as plentiful as they are invigorating(Climate Change Mitigation in Emerging Economies, November 28, 2017).

Upgraded Power Production in Bangladesh

Morgan Stanley reports that Bangladesh has harnessed a range of technologies in its modernization campaign. The country has been mechanizing its agricultural activities and installing vertical farms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Plus, the country is upgrading its power production with high-efficiency technologies. As Bangladesh is particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts like flooding and drought, these initiatives have the potential to meet rising energy needs while protecting the environment, not to mention driving the economy and reducing poverty.

Vertical Farming in Brazil

In Brazil, innovation has included both vertical farming and clean transportation. City Farmer News has reported on the use of vertical farming in São Paulo to reduce emissions, absorb greenhouse gasses, and increase access to produce by urban residents. And the OECD has found that while Brazil’s biofuel production has faced challenges, it has a large enough base relative to other world economies that innovation and growth of this clean power is likely to continue.

Wind Power in China

In China, Bloomberg reports, impressive amounts of wind power have been used to generate electricity, reducing the country’s reliance on coal and improving its notoriously bad air quality. The country upped its wind power capacity by 23.3 gigawatts in 2016, bringing its total to twice that of the United States. The limiting factor is the size of China’s electric grid, which is expanding to meet the demand for clean energy. Even small changes here have huge implications, given China’s large population and economy.

Solar Energy in India

The Natural Resources Defence Council highlights India’s construction of the world’s largest solar energy plant. Large and small installations are helping bring electricity to areas that previously had none while serving the rapid growth of India’s cities. The need for renewable power will continue to meet India’s economic and population growth, and its strong engineering and technology sectors will continue to develop new ways to mitigate climate damage.

Much of the innovation developed in these economies can be exported to other nations facing a similar need for clean energy to assist in climate change mitigation, continuing the economic growth trajectory in these economies.

A key factor in all of these emerging nations is the relative lack of legacy systems. Climate change mitigation is easier to address when there is neither pre-existing infrastructure nor entrenched economic interests opposing new developments. This gives government and industry greater flexibility to approach the problem from new directions. It creates opportunities of interest for investors who want to support sustainable energy innovation and vulnerable populations, naturally, but it also creates avenues for growth within these countries’ local economies. The result is a rich trove of ideas for solving an industrial world problem with emerging markets solutions.


Support us

In order to keep our content open accessed and free, we need your support. Please donate any amount up to 500 INR if possible.



Amazing Information. Clear Stats.




Applications for our Internships

every month

Books Published so far

Members so far

© Internationalism™ - AbhiGlobal Legal Research & Media LLP, 2020.


[Registered under the Limited Liability Partnership Act, 2008 | LLP Identification No. AAQ-1629. Please refer to for more details.]