The principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) establishes the common governmental responsibility for anthropogenic climate change and the environmental destruction associated with it. The principle acknowledges that responsibility among countries is unequally distributed due to their differing contributions to the causes of climate change and their varying economic capacities. In doing so, CBDR takes into consideration the greater historical responsibility of industrialized countries in comparison to most countries of the Global South, which have made lower contributions.
The principle was established in 1992 at the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro where the countries declared: “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.”
Consequently, CBDR is enshrined as a basic principle in Article 3(1) of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It has been incorporated in declarations of intent and international treaties ever since, most recently in Article 2(2) of the Paris Agreement. The principle forms the basis for financing climate adaptation measures in areas that are severely affected by climate impacts but economically disadvantaged. CBDR is equally relevant for financing climate-related loss and damage. So far, however, there is disagreement within the international community as to whether the majority of the financing burden falls primarily on industrialized countries or also on countries such as China and the petrostates within the G77. The exact form of the financing burden will therefore play a decisive role in the design of the Loss and Damage Fund.