CBDR – Common But Differentiated Responsibilities

Background :-

The CBDR principle is a key principle of negotiation on a global forum for a global agenda and to achieve a global target for the developing countries. Recently it has been emphasized by Indian policy makers to include this principle in the “Paris Climate Summit”.

Evolution of CBDR principle:

The concept of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) was enshrined as Principle 7 of the Rio Declaration at the first Rio Earth Summit in 1992.

“In view of the different contributions to global environmental degradation, States have common but differentiated responsibilities. The developed countries acknowledge the responsibility that they bear in the international pursuit of sustainable development in view of the pressures their societies place on the global environment and of the technologies and financial resources they command.”

Similar language exists in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; parties should act to protect the climate system “on the basis of equality and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.”

The principle holds that although all countries are responsible for the development of global society, each has a different set of capabilities that they can contribute to this project. The Stockholm declaration, for instance states that policy makers must consider, “the applicability of standards which are valid for the most advanced countries but which may be inappropriate and of unwarranted social cost for the developing countries.”

CBDR aims to take these differences into account when goals and benchmarks are applied to global development agendas. The logic is that if the expectations levied on countries are more appropriate to their national capabilities (social, economic, environmental, etc.), individual country efforts will more effectively complement each other.

Applications of CBDR:-

Before laying out proposals that more effectively represent the CBDR principle in the context of the post-2015 agenda, it is important to explore the different ways the principle has been manifested in existing policies.

We have seen the clearest manifestation of CBDR under the environmental pillar of sustainable development. For example, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol made a distinction between proposed goals for developed and developing countries by requiring “developed countries to reduce their emissions while developing countries only needed to report their emissions.” Certainly, this implication would shift the burden and responsibility to developed countries. This manifestation of CBDR led to the agreement of developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gases (GHG) via a binding agreement. These countries now fall under Annex 1 of the Kyoto Protocol and are committed to reducing the GHG emissions in compliance with certain pre-agreed targets.

Poverty Eradication:-

This differentiation is manifested via Millenium Development Goals  . LDCs (Least Developed Countries) and other developing countries argue that they have much more work to do in the area of poverty eradication while developed countries can accept that they have less


CBDR can be identified in the area of development financing most clearly in the Monterrey Consensus. In this document, the first clear responsibility that falls on developed countries is “the objective of duty-free and quota free access” to developed country markets for LDC exports

Analysis of the Principle:-

  • With respect to the environment, the greatest impacts of climate change are felt by developing countries, whilst the greatest per capita GHG emissions are concentrated in developed countries. So, the principle holds that if developed countries have the highest rates of GHG emissions (which is representative of their contribution to climate change) and they have the greatest capacities to reduce their emissions, they should also take on the greatest brunt of the performance of climate change mitigation
  • Though,this is a very valid stand on part of the developing countries, yet it is the developing countries that face the wrath of climate change and does  not have enough capacity to fight it.
  • Hence , it is equally important for the developing countries , on their pursuit of development , they must try to go “GREEN” as far as possible. To realize this goal, financing and technology transfer from developed world is a must.
  • One might think this principle as – “You do your bit , I will do mine” , however this does not work that way . No country works in isolation and hence this principle should not be looked upon as give and take , instead , it is reduce and let reduce, achieve and let achieve  and do and help us do principle.



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