Ethics of the Dominican Republic intended nationally determined contribution (DR-INDC) for the COP21 Paris Agreement.
One of the main elements of the ParisAgreement is the establishment of Intended National Determined Contributions(INDC) from each country to promote strategies of mitigation and adaptation toachieve the main goal of limiting the increase of the global temperature to 2°Cand aiming for a 1.5°C increase. In these documents, presented to the UnitedNations, countries state their plans to adapt and mitigate their emissions ofCO2 to the atmosphere. But the totals of INDC’s are only projected to limit theincrease of temperature to 2.7°C (Climate Action Tracker), therefore otherstrategies are needed.
However, these IntendedContributions are a good first step to achieve the main goal and are a tool toanalyze each country’s performance and reduction of greenhouse strategies foryears to come. In fact, the INDC’s are going to be the main evaluationmechanisms (UNFCCC) for each country’s contribution in the assessment meetingsfor the agreement.
The Dominican Republicis an island located in the path of seasonal tropical storms and hurricanes,and therefore very vulnerable to climate change, is considered to be a SmallIsland Developing State (SIDS) by the United Nations (U.N.). Also considered asan upper middle income country by the World Bank, the Dominican Republic isfacing the realities of entering a very competitive global market and at thesame time providing opportunities for better standards of living to itscitizens.
The first part is beingachieved lately, with the country having high annual economic growth and themost robust economy in Latin American and the Caribbean in 2015, growing by7%. But this growth hasn’t beenreflected in the quality of life for the majority of the population. Many arestill struggling to get access to basic services like clean water, education,electricity and health. This inequality is reflected when in a country of 10million, the total GDP of the country of US$146.2 billion is compared to 35% ofthe population living under poverty (World Bank).
This situation is reflected in thecountry’s introductory INDC statement, which says that based on the NationalDevelopment Strategy, the country 2030 vision is to
“Promotesequity, equal opportunities, and social justice, and that manages and uses itsresources to develop in an innovative, sustainable and territorially balancedand integrated way”.
This is a clear signthat the country is trying to close the inequality gap by trying to mitigatethe effects of climate change that could be potentially terrible for thecountry.
ETHICAL DIMENSSIONS OFTHE ACTION PLAN
The Dominican Republichas total emissions per capita of 3.6 tCO2e, a value lower than the LatinAmerican average of 4.9 tCO2e. Despite this, the main action plan of thecountry is to reduce these emissions by 25% by 2030.
This commitment istricky, as it relies “upon favorable and predictable support, feasible climatefinance mechanisms, and corrections to the failures of existing marketmechanisms”. As a result, if the above conditions are not met, this commitmentis useless. These commitments are also not legally binding for the parties (countriesof the UN), due to the whole agreement being based on the concept oftransparency (IISD). This makes it difficult to determine the real impact ofthis commitment by 2030.
Philosopher Immanuel Kant talks aboutthe “autonomy” of making ethical decisions. This refers to the idea of the will of every rational being as a willthat legislates universal law. Following this logic, INDC commitments should bedone based solely on the fact that is good and not as a response to externalfactors, like the INDC of the Dominican Republic. One can argue then that thiscommitment is unethical, and its moral character is questionable.
Although Kant philosophy is rarelyapplied to the political arena because of its universality claims, this is thekind of moral analysis that should be done to international agreements wherethe safety of the planet and its people is being put on jeopardy based on“conditions”.
Kant explains that “inorder to be a legislator of universal laws, such contingent motives, motivesthat rational agents such ourselves may or may not have, must be set aside.Hence, we are required according to this formulation to conform our behavior toprinciples that express this autonomy of the rational will — its status as asource of the very universal laws that obligate it” (Kant). In the case of theDR-INDC the external contingent motives were not set aside, in fact they areclearly stated as conditions or aspirations or hopes.
The 25% reduction plan is set to beimplemented in the sectors related with energy, industries, agriculture,forests and land use as a part of the National Development Strategy (NDS) andthe National Policy on Climate Change. The INDC states that “Furthermore,multi-sectoral consultations have identified specific actions for climatechange adaptation and mitigation”. However these actions contrast heavily withthe real situation of the country. For example, the instalment of carbon plantsfor electricity generation have being denounced as environmentally unfriendlyby multiple national and international organizations (Nivar). The contrasting “statement” vs “reality” isanother reason why the INDC can be categorized as ethically questionable.
Some politicians willsay that ethics doesn’t always play a role in international negotiations. Whilethat may be true, the argument of this article is based on the principles ofautonomy vs heteronomy defined by Kant, where actions should be done with goodmoral character regardless of external situations or previous experiences.
The DR-INDC also states the sectorsthat are vulnerable to climate change, like water consumption, electricitygeneration, protected land areas, biodiversity, human settlements and tourism.These sectors are vital to the economic and social development of the countryand also for its survival. Thus the INDC should not reflect any conditions andshould instead aim to make changes and reductions to adapt to climate change asan autonomy ethical decision of the country to secure better standards ofliving for present and future generations.
Climate change is also a presentissue in the Dominican Republic; unprecedented droughts affected most of thecountry last year, and tropical storms and hurricanes are part of the yearlystruggles of the country; representing significant economic loss anddamage. These issues cannot be allowedto escalate any further, because the country is not adequately prepared to dealwith them. Therefore, one of the areas mentioned in the INDC which should beenhanced is capacity building and technological improvements. Strengtheninghuman resources to help the country adapt and mitigate the effects of climatechange will be crucial to the country’s future development. Political will hasto be strong in order to change this heteronomous INDC into an autonomy baseddecision that can have the power to transform millions of present and futurelives for better.
Climate Action Tracker.ClimateAction Tracker. 2015. 26 de 12 de 2015.
IISD. «IISD ReportingServices. Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB).» 2015. Summary of the ParisNegotiations. 2 de January de 2016.
Kant, Immanuel.«Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.» 2007. Kant’s Moral Philosophy. 28 deDecember de 2015.
Nivar, Amilcar. «República Dominicana legisla para energíalimpia, pero invierte en plantas a carbón.» Diario Libre 10 de May de 2014: Economia Personal.
U.N. International Yearof Small Island Developing States. 2014. 1 de 1 de 2016.
UNFCCC. «Adoption ofthe Paris Agreement .» United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.Paris: United Nations, 2015. 14-15.
World Bank. Data WorldBank Dominican Republic. 2015. 1 de January de 2016.
Dominican Republic. «Intended National Determined Contribution» DR-INDC.August 2015. Presented to the U.N. previous to the COP21.
Editor´s note:Dominican Today welcomes José Rafael Núñez Collado to its select team of Op-Edcontributors.