The Common but Differentiated Responsibilities Principle: Changes in Continuity after the Durban Conference of the Parties



The common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) principle has played a major part in the post-2012 climate change negotiations. However, the rise of emerging economies and the multiplication of State categories have called the initial compromise under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) into question and, until now, no balance between the conflicting claims of States has been found. Meanwhile, the principle is still not fixed in terms of its formulation, legal nature and practice. Although it enabled agreement on the UNFCCC in the 1990s, the principle has also contributed to climate negotiation deadlocks. As a result, it appears to be fading in the 2011 Durban decisions, giving place to general contextual norms. Moreover, the decision on the Durban Platform, through which the post-2020 negotiations will take place, does not refer to the principle at all. Still, it is clear that differential treatment will have a structuring role in the post-2020 negotiations. This article examines the Durban outcomes in the light of the CBDR principle, with a view to analyzing the prospects of differential treatment in international climate change law.