Control of atmospheric CO2 concentrations by 2050: A calculation on the emission rights of different countries

  • ZhongLi Ding
  • XiaoNan Duan
  • QuanSheng Ge
  • ZhiQiang Zhang

DOI: 10.1007/s11430-009-0155-3

Cite this article as:
Ding, Z., Duan, X., Ge, Q. et al. Sci. China Ser. D-Earth Sci. (2009) 52: 1447. doi:10.1007/s11430-009-0155-3


This paper is to provide quantitative data on some critical issues in anticipation of the forthcoming international negotiations in Denmark on the control of atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Instead of letting only a small number of countries dominate a few controversial dialogues about emissions reductions, a comprehensive global system must be established based on emissions allowances for different countries, to realize the long-term goal of controlling global atmospheric CO2 concentrations. That a system rooted in “cumulative emissions per capita,” the best conception of the “common but differentiated responsibilities” principle affirmed by the Kyoto Protocol according to fundamental standards of fairness and justice, was demonstrated. Based on calculations of various countries’ cumulative emissions per capita, estimates of their cumulative emissions from 1900 to 2005, and their annual emissions allowances into the future (2006–2050), a 470 ppmv atmospheric CO2 concentration target was set. According to the following four objective indicators-total emissions allowance from 1900 to 2050, actual emissions from 1900 to 2005, emissions levels in 2005, and the average growth rate of emissions from 1996 to 2005-all countries and regions whose population was more than 300000 in 2005 were divided into four main groups: countries with emissions deficits, countries and regions needing to reduce their gross emissions, countries and regions needing to reduce their emissions growth rates, and countries that can maintain the current emissions growth rates. Based on this proposal, most G8 countries by 2005 had already expended their 2050 emissions allowances. The accumulated financial value based on emissions has reached more than 5.5 trillion US dollars (20 dollars per ton of CO2). Even if these countries could achieve their ambitious emissions reduction targets in the future, their per capita emissions from 2006 to 2050 would still be much higher than those of developing countries; under such circumstance, these future emissions would create more than 6.3 trillion US dollars in emissions deficits. Because of their low cumulative emissions per capita, most developing countries fall within one of the latter two groups, which means that they have leeway for making emissions decisions in the future. Although China accounts for more than 30% of the total global emissions allowance from 2006 to 2050, its total emissions can be controlled within that allowance by no other way than reducing its future emissions growth rates. In the end, nine key issues related to international climate negotiations were briefly addressed.


international negotiations on climate change cumulative emissions per capita emission allowance 

Copyright information

© Science in China Press and Springer Berlin Heidelberg 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • ZhongLi Ding
    • 1
  • XiaoNan Duan
    • 2
  • QuanSheng Ge
    • 3
  • ZhiQiang Zhang
    • 4
  1. 1.Institute of Geology and GeophysicsChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.The General Office of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  4. 4.The Lanzhou Branch of the National Science Librarythe Scientific Information Center for Resources and EnvironmentLanzhouChina

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