Fairness Differentiated targets and timetables

It is clear that any climate change agreement will be acceptable and sustainable only if all participating countries believe that it is fair and equitable. Most observers say that requiring all countries to achieve the same percentage reduction in emissions in the same timeframe would be grossly unfair. The principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities,” was established in the Framework Convention. This standard should be employed in designing emissions targets and timetables to ensure an evenhanded solution.

It is clear that any climate change agreement will be acceptable and sustainable only if it is perceived by all participating countries to be equitable or fair. The challenge has been that there is no broad agreement on the definition of equity or its dimensions. Some argue that it is unfair to require emissions reductions in some countries but not others. However, most observers say that requiring all countries to achieve the same percentage reduction in emissions in the same time frame would be grossly unfair. These observers add that those who have contributed to the buildup of greenhouse gases in the past 100 years should either have less entitlement going forward or should compensate the rest of the global community in some way.

“There is no single formula that captures all dimensions of equity, but calculations based on income, historic responsibility, and per capita emissions all point to rich countries taking responsibility for emissions reductions of 60-80% from 1990 levels by 2050.” (Stern Review) it is feared by some, however, that limiting greenhouse gas emissions in developed countries may simply shift economic development and emissions growth to developing countries.

The concept of “differentiation” continues to be an important one. For example, when the EU apportioned emission rights amongst its member states under its Kyoto obligation, the poorest countries, Greece and Portugal, were allowed increases of 25% and 27% respectively, much larger than others’. However, avoidance of “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” cannot be achieved by developed countries alone. Limiting atmospheric concentration to 500-550 ppm (i.e., temperature rises of 2.5-3○C) will require a 60% reduction in global emissions by 2050, but compared to 1990 levels. Even an 80% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in all OECD countries by 2050 would not achieve this goal without emission reductions by today’s developing countries. To date, the most ambitious declared targets have been by the EU: reducing GHG emissions by 20% by 2020 over 1990 levels. The EU would agree to a 30% target should other developed countries commit themselves to comparable emission reductions and more advanced 10 developing countries adequately contribute in accordance with their responsibilities and respective capabilities.

All countries have a legitimate right to economic development, but that need not conflict with strategies to reduce emissions. Developing countries could vigorously promote measures to increase energy efficiency or decrease the carbon intensity of production (GHG releases per unit of GDP) and adopt renewable energy wherever it is the least-cost alternative. Carbon intensity of non-OECD countries has already been declining in the past 20 years at an average annual rate of ~1.42% per year (as compared to a world average of 1.25% and an OECD average of 1.1 %), partly because services make up an increasing fraction of their economies. Despite carbon intensity declines, with economies growing at much faster rates, total emissions from developing countries will keep increasing. Increasing the rates of carbon intensity declines beyond recent historical rates would moderate this growth in emissions while enabling developing countries to continue to pursue their sustainable development objectives.

Questions for GLCA:

-Are principles enunciated in Article 3.1 necessary and sufficient? Should some of these principles be jettisoned? Are one or more new principles required?

-Should negotiations focus only on the next commitment period? Or should they first establish a long-term atmospheric concentration combined with targets for longer commitment periods than the 5-year period in Kyoto Protocol?

-How should the issue of population be treated? Low per-capita emissions (or low emissions intensity) multiplied by large populations (or by large economies) can equal significant emissions.

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