In a new post on the Future of Globalisation Blog, Yanzhu ZHANG and Chao ZHANG look at the 30th anniversary of the principle of “common but differentiated responsibility” (CBDR). The world has changed drastically in three decades, and not least from the Chinese perspective, the world is a different place. Yet, both authors, who are alumni of the Managing Global Governance Academy at DIE, argue that CBDR still has its value.

The establishment of CBDR was the result of compromise between developed and developing countries during the international climate negotiations in the early 1990s, right after the end of the Cold War. CBDR acknowledges historical responsibility: countries with a longer history of industrialisation have higher overall carbon emissions than many developing countries. The fundamental question regarding the application of CBDR has always been how to distinguish between different parties, particularly for the sake of the right of carbon emission and the right for sustainable development. For China specifically, the question of gradually assuming greater responsibility is relevant. Assessments of the countries abilities and responsibilities vary between observers. Today, China is the globe’s second largest economy and the biggest emitter of CO2.

Both authors argue that emerging economies have been observed as the new cluster in the CBDR debate, among which China is particularly under the spotlight. Zhang and Zhang concede that while upholding the solidarity of the global South to express the “differentiated responsibility”, emerging economies also need to address dynamic international expectation towards their increasing responsibility in global climate governance. Both authors find it noteworthy that CBDR has also been applied outside of the traditional multilateral process, namely “CBDR beyond the national state” in the transnational climate actions. They argue that the value of respecting CBDR could encourage more non-state actors in both developing and more developed countries to join sustainability efforts.

Please read the blog post here:

30 years with common but differentiated responsibility, why do we need it ever more today?

More: JRF-Institute DIE.