Friday, July 10, 2009

Carbon emissions: what is a fair share?

The debate on who should take responsibility for climate change is heating up.  Industrialised nations want developing countries to accept reduction targets as well.  This brings renewed interest in the question how to compare emissions across nations.  The World Resources Institute for example proposed differentiated per capita greenhouse gas emissions targets to counter the obvious inequitable outcomes of absolute emission targets.  Moving beyond this proposal is another option published in PNAS to link responsibility of climate change to individuals instead of nations.  This means that all of the world's high emitters are treated the same regardless where they live. 

This is good news for Africa, which as a result of a large number of carbon poor people, can emit more, and thus, have some space to grow. High carbon intensity and inequality in countries like South Africa is not good news for rich people who will have to accept deeper then average cuts under such a framework.

3 comments:

Brian said...

This video considers the equity question...should industrialized nations pay more than industrializing nations which are bigger potential polluters?

Anonymous said...

You don't have a clue. Forests are purposely left out of national carbon emission calculations because many nations have no forests to speak of, while others have millions of square miles of it. If you start to include forests in Carbon computations, some heavy polluting countries come out in a position of being net consumers of carbon. For example, Canada has over 1 million square miles of forests, but has a total population of less than that of California. When the carbon emissions are calculated and forests are included, Canada is a net consumer of Co2, just like your carbon poor Africans. This will upset the carbon trding balance, so Canada has agreed to leave forests out of their carbon emissions equations. But for how long?

There are lots of heavy polluter countries which are actually net consumers of C02.

Martin de Wit said...

Brian, thanks, but missed your link to the video.

On the question of forestry. Afforestation and deforestation is certainly included in greenhouse gas inventories. The focus is on accounting for forest management on anthropogenic emissions and removals. This is a widely accepted methodology followed throughout all inventories compiled under the IPCC Guidelines for Greenhouse Gas Inventories and Good Practice Guidance.