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

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


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 


  1. 1.
    Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007. 996Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Environmental Outlook to 2030. Paris: OECD Publishing, 2008. 517Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Stern N. Key Elements of A Global Deal on Climate Change. London: The London School of Economics and Political Science, 2008. 56Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    The Basic Project. The Sao Paulo Proposal for An Agreement on Future Climate Policy. Basic Workshop: Future International Climate Policy, Sao Paulo, 2006. 6Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Blair T, Beinhocker E, Howard S, et al. Breaking the Climate Deadlock: A Global Deal for Our Low-Carbon Future. Netherlands: ECN Policy Studies, 2008. 66Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Human Development Report 2007/2008-Fighting Climate Change: Human Solidarity in A Divided World. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008. 399Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    European Union (EU) Council Community Strategy on Climate Change-Council Conclusions. CFSP Presidency Statement. Luxembourg Press: 188 Nr: 8518/96, 1996-06-25.
  8. 8.
    Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Summary for Policymakers-Emission Scenarios, Special Report of IPCC Working Group III. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. 20Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Robinson A B, Robinson N E, Soon W. Environmental effects of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide. J Am Phys Surg, 2007, 12(3): 79–90Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Singer S F, Avery D T. Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 Years. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2007. 260Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    United Nations Population Division. World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision Population Database. (Network database)
  12. 12.
    Tans P. Trends in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide. Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2006.
  13. 13.
    Trenberth K E. Seasonal variations in global sea level pressure and the total mass of the atmosphere. J Geophys Res, 1981, 86: 5238–5246CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Canadell J G, Le Quéré C, Raupach M R, et al. Contributions to accelerating atmospheric CO2 growth from economic activity, carbon intensity, and efficiency of natural sink. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 2007, 104: 18866–18870CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Houghton R A. Carbon Flux to The Atmosphere from Land-Use Changes 1850–2005. A Compendium of Data on Global Change. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge, Tenn., USA. Trends, 2008. Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Ren G Y, Xu Y, Luo Y. Historical and current CO2 emissions in countries all over the world. Meteorol Sci Technol, 2002, 30(3): 129–134Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Zhang Z Q, Qu J S, Zeng J J. Scientific Evaluation and Mitigation Policies on Greenhouse Gas Emissions (in Chinese). Beijing: Science Press, 2009. 180Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Implementation of the Berlin Mandate. Additional Proposals from Parties to UNFCCC AD HOC Group on the Berlin Mandate, Seventh Session. Bonn, 31 July–7 August, 1997. 1997-05-30.
  19. 19.
    Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC). Global, Regional, and National Fossil Fuel CO2 Emissions. (Network database)
  20. 20.
    Population Statistics. (Network database)
  21. 21.
    Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat. World Population Prospects: The 2006 Revision. Dataset on CD-ROM. United Nations, New York, 2007. 96Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    World Bank. Development Data Group. 2008 World Development Indicators Online. Washington DC: The World Bank. (Network database)
  23. 23.
    International Energy Agency (IEA) Energy Statistics. (Network database), 2009
  24. 24.
    Petit J R, Jouzel J, Raynaud D, et al. Climate and atmospheric history of the past 420000 years from the Vostok ice core, Antarctica. Nature, 1999, 399: 429–436CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Luthi D, Le Floch M, Bereiter B, et al. High-resolution carbon dioxide concentration record 650000–800000 years before present. Nature, 2008, 453: 379–382CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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

Personalised recommendations