|What did the rich countries do to meet Kyoto commitments?
|How do we all share growth and atmosphere equitably?
|What is the leapfrog option for the South so that it can avoid emission?
Climate change is linked to emissions, in turn to economic growth. Limiting emissions is then about limiting growth. Thus, sharing growth between nations has been the main bugbear. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change expressed the principle of equity by enjoining countries to take action based on common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.
Consider the past
Climate change is about cumulative historical emissions—
a tonne of CO2 released in 1850 is equal to a tonne of CO2 released today. Rich countries account for about seven out of every 10 tonnes of CO2 that have been emitted since the start of the industrial era. Historical emissions amount to about 1,100 tonnes of CO2 per capita for the UK and the US, compared with 66 tonnes per capita for China and 23 tonnes per capita for India.
|Even at present:
Rich countries are still the major emitters of total CO2. Between 1980 and 2005, the total emissions of the US were almost double that of China and more than seven times that of India.
The current emissions from developed countries are still very high: with just 15 per cent of the world population, they account for 45 per cent of CO2 emissions
Cumulative emissions: 1980-2005
| Unequal world While China may be about to overtake the US as the world’s largest emitter of CO2, its per capita emissions are just one-fifth that of the US. Emissions from India are increasing. Even so, its per capita carbon footprint is less than one-tenth of that in high-income countries. The per capita increase for Canada since 1990 (five tonnes) is higher than per capita emissions of China in 2005 (4.1 tonnes) Per capita CO2 emissions, 2005
|Big emitter and small emitter
When we are talking about action to manage climate change, can we compare US and India?
The per capita increase in emissions, between 1990 and 2005, in the US is three-fourths of India’s total per capita emissions in 2005. The current per capita emissions of the US is almost 20 times higher than India’s
|Equity for all
The fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that to avoid serious ecological and economic damage, the global temperature should not exceed 2°C from the pre-industrial level—it has already increased 0.74°C. This in turn needs CO2 concentration not to exceed 350-400 parts per million (ppm). But this touched 379 ppm in 2005. If the world is to remain within the 2°C target, there is limited scope for future emissions.
The global budget is extremely tight. The question is how to share it. Over the years, different proposals have been presented. These have been based either on current and future emissions or historical emission burdens of different nations.
Current and future emissions
Historical emissions approach
Today, seriously constrained by the amount of emissions it can put out in the atmosphere, governments of the rich world would like to rewrite the principle of burden sharing agreed in Rio. But civil society groups are proposing alternatives, which need to be considered and examined.
Cap and share
Greenhouse Development Rights (GDR):
The just framework for climate
By Sunita Narain
Let’s cut to the chase. If we are serious about climate change then we have to be serious about changing (drastically) the way the world generates and uses its energy. But even as the rich world talks glibly about ‘decarbonisation’ of its economy it has done precious little to reinvent its energy system and to wean itself from its fossil fuel addiction. Between 1990 and 2005, emissions from fossil fuel have actually increased, in these countries. In this period, their emissions from energy industries have increased by 24 per cent and from transport by a massive 28 per cent. The only reductions, marginal at that, have been in the manufacturing and construction sectors, which many would say is only because production has moved to China and other countries.