Fairly sharing 1.5: national fair shares of a 1.5 °C-compliant global mitigation effort

Abstract

The problem of fairly distributing the global mitigation effort is particularly important for the 1.5 °C temperature limitation objective, due to its rapidly depleting global carbon budget. Here, we present methodology and results of the first study examining national mitigation pledges presented at the 2015 Paris climate summit, relative to equity benchmarks and 1.5 °C-compliant global mitigation. Uniquely, pertinent ethical choices were made via deliberative processes of civil society organizations, resulting in an agreed range of effort-sharing parameters. Based on this, we quantified each country’s range of fair shares of 1.5 °C-compliant mitigation, using the Climate Equity Reference Project’s allocation framework. Contrasting this with national 2025/2030 mitigation pledges reveals a large global mitigation gap, within which wealthier countries’ mitigation pledges fall far short, while poorer countries’ pledges, collectively, meet their fair share. We also present results for individual countries (e.g. China exceeding; India meeting; EU, USA, Japan, and Brazil falling short). We outline ethical considerations and choices arising when deliberating fair effort sharing and discuss the importance of separating this choice making from the scholarly work of quantitative “equity modelling” itself. Second, we elaborate our approach for quantifying countries’ fair shares of a global mitigation effort, the Climate Equity Reference Framework. Third, we present and discuss the results of this analysis with emphasis on the role of mitigation support. In concluding, we identify twofold obligations for all countries in a justice-centred implementation of 1.5 °C-compliant mitigation: (1) unsupported domestic reductions and (2) engagement in deep international mitigation cooperation, through provision of international financial and other support, or through undertaking additional supported mitigation activities. Consequently, an equitable pathway to 1.5 °C can only be imagined with such large-scale international cooperation and support; otherwise, 1.5 °C-compliant mitigation will remain out of reach, impose undue suffering on the world’s poorest, or both.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    At the nineteenth Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC, COP19, these unilaterally determined pledges were first called “intended nationally determined contributions”, or INDCs (UNFCCC 2013, 1/CP.19, para 2). In the context of the Paris Agreement (UNFCCC 2015a), the “intended” was dropped for countries that have ratified the Agreement, resulting in NDCs. Currently, the majority of UNFCCC Parties have ratified the Agreement, causing NDCs to dominate over INDCs. Thus, even though this article chiefly reports on a review exercise of the INDCs submitted prior to the Paris Agreement’s adoption, we will use the term “NDC” (or “pledge”) in this article regardless of its legal status as NDC or INDC, except when to specifically refer to the original submissions of the INDCs.

  2. 2.

    The analysis and exposition of GDRs was typically presented in terms of one particular choice of equity settings, which were made a priori by the authors and then explained and justified based on a particular set of ethical arguments and value judgements. CERF is a generalization in the sense that it is based on the same framework with the same structure as GDRs, but allows for a limitless range of user-specified choices of all the available equity variables. In other words, the difference essentially is one of its flexibility, its user interface, and its pedagogic purpose. It is used as an analytical and educational platform, designed to clarify the different moral choices to be made and to calculate their impact on national fair share results. A detailed exposition of these impacts has been done elsewhere (Athanasiou et al. 2014).

  3. 3.

    In the most general terms, “burden-sharing” approaches can be categorized into two broad classes: “resource-sharing” and “effort-sharing” approaches, where the former “are aimed at applying ethical principles to establish a basis for sharing the agreed global ‘carbon budget’”, while the latter “are aimed at sharing the costs of the global climate response” (IPCC 2014, p. 319).

  4. 4.

    Even though countries are the typical unit of analysis, its generalizability allows the CERF to be applied to different levels of analysis, such as sub-national entities (for example, Canadian provinces, Holz 2014) or socio-economic strata. For simplicity, when describing the general framework and methodologies we will refer to “countries” as this is the unit of analysis here.

  5. 5.

    This analysis uses a custom disaggregation of the “CAT 1.5 °C Median Pathway”. See Supplementary Text 1 for a pathway description and reference to the pathway data.

  6. 6.

    This quantification is done with the online “Climate Equity Reference Calculator” (Kemp-Benedict et al. 2017), available at https://calculator.climateequityreference.org.

  7. 7.

    In the practical implementation of the Climate Equity Reference Calculator (Kemp-Benedict et al. 2017), this is done by estimating income and emission distributions across a population and applying the progressivity parameters (e.g. development thresholds) to that distribution rather than to individual-level data, which is not typically available (see Kemp-Benedict et al. 2013 for technical details). Conceptually, however, responsibility and capacity are understood in individual terms and thus individual fair shares could be calculated. See, for example, the implied “tax tables” for individuals of certain income levels implied by the approach in earlier work using the GDRs framework (Kartha et al. 2008, p. 27).

  8. 8.

    The initial set of organizations that spearheaded the review is shown on the inside cover page of its report (CSO Review 2015); a full list in its appendix.

  9. 9.

    Clearly, the level where to best set a development threshold is a matter for debate. We have consistently (e.g. Baer et al. 2008) taken the position that it ought to be at least slightly higher than a global poverty line, which is about $16 per day (PPP adjusted). This figure represents the income levels where people begin to overcome the typical manifestations of poverty (low educational attainment, high relative food expenditures, malnutrition, high infant mortality), according to empirical analysis (Pritchett 2003, 2006). According to Pritchett, “if the poverty line were defined as the level of income at which people typically achieve acceptable levels of the Millennium Development Goal indicators (such as universal primary school completion), it would be set at about [$16] a day” (Pritchett 2006, p. 13) which “is justifiable, more consistent with international fairness, and is a better foundation for […] poverty reduction” (Pritchett 2003, p. 3).

  10. 10.

    It is important to recall, and the IPCC authors themselves recognized this, that this categorization is incomplete and by no means an authoritative, ethically robust catalogue of equity approaches. This is because it was based on an opportunistic ensemble of burden-sharing approaches previously quantified in the literature that were selected according to certain modelling criteria and “only covers a small proportion of the possible allocation approaches” (Höhne et al. 2014, p. 122). Note also that the IPCC, in that same chapter and elsewhere, explicitly acknowledges the ethical importance of other approaches, principles, and indices that are examined elsewhere in the literature, including “the relative moral relevance of consumption-based emissions as opposed to production-based emissions, survival emissions as opposed to luxury emissions, progressive as opposed to regressive allocation of mitigation costs, prioritarianism as opposed to egalitarianism, and—not least—the right to development and the critical ethical importance of the eradication of poverty” (Kartha et al. 2017).

  11. 11.

    All emissions or mitigation figures in this article include emissions and removals from land use, land use change, and forestry, as well as emissions of non-CO2 greenhouse gases.

  12. 12.

    Due to the large inequality among EU countries (especially when comparing “new” member states and the EU15), the same can be observed for the EU28, albeit much less pronounced. When investigating the EU15 separately, this effect disappears.

  13. 13.

    Some of the difference between these studies and ours can be explained by different treatment of emissions from international aviation and shipping (which only UNEP (2016) and UNFCCC (2016) include), emissions from land use, land use change and forestry (which Robiou du Pont et al. (2016) exclude), and the use of different metrics for calculating the global warming potential (GWP) of non-CO2 greenhouse gases (UNEP (2016) and UNFCCC (2016) use GWP values from the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report, Robiou du Pont et al. (2016), and this study utilize Second Assessment Report values). Other gap estimates (for example, UNEP 2015; UNFCCC 2015c) only assess mitigation shortfalls relative to 2 °C-compliant pathways and are therefore not suited for comparison here.

  14. 14.

    While not ideal, these labels have been chosen over the more common “developed” and “developing” in particular to indicate that these groups, and their membership, are both conceptually and in practical terms distinct from the use of developed/developing country in the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement and do not match the Annexes of the UNFCCC.

Abbreviations

CAT:

Climate Action Tracker

CBDR/RC:

Common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities

CERP:

Climate Equity Reference Project

CERF:

Climate Equity Reference Framework

COP:

Conference of the Parties (to the UNFCCC)

CSO:

Civil society organization(s)

EU:

European Union

EU15:

European Union, in its 15-member-state configuration from 1995 to 2004

EU28:

European Union, in its 28-member-state configuration since 2013

GDRs:

Greenhouse Development Rights

GDP:

Gross domestic product

GWP:

Global warming potential

INDC(s):

Intended nationally determined contribution(s)

IPCC:

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

NDC(s):

Nationally determined contribution(s)

NGO:

Non-governmental organization

OECD:

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

OPEC:

Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries

PPP:

Purchasing power parity

RCI:

Responsibility-capacity-indicator

UNFCCC:

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

USA:

United States of America

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Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful for the immensely fruitful discussions among the members of the Civil Society Equity Review coalition that are too many to name here. The Climate Equity Reference Project’s work on NDC review has been supported by grants from the Rockefeller Brothers’ Fund, Christian Aid, WWF International, and Oxfam International. The authors also gratefully acknowledge the comments received from an anonymous reviewer and the editors of this special issue. Any remaining errors of fact and opinion are, of course, ours alone.

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Correspondence to Christian Holz.

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Holz, C., Kartha, S. & Athanasiou, T. Fairly sharing 1.5: national fair shares of a 1.5 °C-compliant global mitigation effort. Int Environ Agreements 18, 117–134 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10784-017-9371-z

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Keywords

  • Effort-sharing
  • Fair shares
  • Climate justice
  • Equity
  • Mitigation
  • NDCs
  • UNFCCC