Stern backs equity in per capita emissions

Climate chaos0

Climate change economist Nicholas Stern has urged that the world move to equal per capita emissions by 2050, a move that would require developed countries as a whole to cut their emissions by about 80%.

Stern makes the call in a paper co-written with director of the Institute of Sustainable Development and International Relations Laurence Tubiana for a progressive governance summit hosted by UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

“From the point of view of equity the numbers are stark,” Stern says.

“The currently rich countries are responsible for around 70% of the existing stock [of global greenhouse gases], and are continuing to contribute substantially more to stock increases than developing countries. The United States, Canada and Australia each emit over 20 tonnes of CO2e (i.e. from all GHGs) per capita, Europe and Japan over 10 tonnes, China more than 5 tonnes, India around 2 tonnes, and most of sub-Saharan Africa much less than 1 tonne.”

Stern says reforming the Clean Development Mechanism must be a key element of building an equitable, efficient and effective global climate deal.

The current Clean Development Mechanism is “slow, cumbersome and very ‘micro'”, he says.
“Trading on the scale required to reach the type of targets discussed requires a much simpler, ‘wholesale’ system.”

“Wholesale measures can include technological benchmarks such as employing carbon capture and storage (currently excluded from CDM), or sectoral benchmarks such as getting below a certain amount of CO2 per tonne of cement. Programmatic CDM would allow whole programs of investment – for example in urban transport – to qualify.”

Other “key elements” of an effective and fair global deal nominated by Stern are:

  • defining a global target for 2050, with intermediate targets to keep countries on track and provide certainty to the private sector;
  • building a genuinely global carbon market, by linking regional schemes;
  • establishing sectoral agreements to provide for partial commitments in emerging countries and address concerns over trade competition and ‘carbon leakage’ (“ideally … through common participation in carbon pricing schemes”);
  • funding the development, demonstration and transfer of low-carbon technology;
  • financing reduced emissions from deforestation (“for $10 billion to $15 billion per year, a program could be constructed that could stop up to half of deforestation – the cost of abatement can be roughly estimated at around $5 per tonne of CO2“); and
  • funding adaptation, particularly given climate change’s disproportionate impact on the poorest and most vulnerable.

“For progressive leaders engaged in reforming world politics along the lines of justice and social and economic inclusion, climate change offers powerful leverage,” Stern and Tubiana write.

“Climate change is par excellence an inspiring cause for internationalism: it involves not only states but requires the solidarity and perception of a common destiny by all the world’s citizens.”

The paper cites the 2007 Australian federal election as an example of a government being “thrown out of office” due to a perceived lack of action on climate change.

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