Greenhouse Development Wrongs

[ Image Credit : ©2009 Aubrey Meyer, Global Commons Institute. “Contraction & Convergence”, “C&C” are Trademarks of GCI, Full presentation here or here. See NOTE at end of post for accompanying text. ]

Christian Aid, Oxfam and a wide range of Non-Governmental Organisations have all taken the easy route and outsourced their Climate Change policy work, adopting a proposal for a Global Carbon Framework that will never, ever see the light of day.

I’m talking about Greenhouse Development Rights, a position reasoned by EcoEquity‘s Paul Baer and Tom Athanasiou, which has a less than zero chance of being signed up to by major industrialised governments.

And that’s what makes it wrong.

The diagram at the top of this post represents the major problem with the EcoEquity approach.

Under the cloak of claiming Climate “justice”, they propose negative emissions rights for major blocs of the world, including the United States of America and the European Union, somewhere between 2020 and 2030.

I don’t know about you, but for me that instantly signals “no way, José !” coming from the mouths of Major Emitters Forum negotiators, with big flashing red lights and a siren to accompany.

The Greenhouse Development Rights people admit this could come as something of a surprise :-

“Distributing the global mitigation requirement in this way yields some striking results. For one thing, it shows, with startling clarity, that a major commitment to North-South cooperation – including financial and technological transfers – is an inevitable part of any viable climate stabilization architecture. This is because the national mitigation obligations of the high-RCI [Responsibility Capacity Index] countries of the North vastly exceed the reductions they could conceivably make at home. In fact, by 2030, their mitigation obligations will typically come to exceed even their total domestic emissions! Which is to say that wealthier and higher emitting countries would be given “negative allocations,” as is necessary in order to open enough atmospheric space for the developing world.”

“…Applying the GDRs framework, national emission reduction obligations are defined as shares of the global mitigation requirement, which is allocated among countries in proportion to their RCI [Responsibility Capacity Index]. This is illustrated…Thus, for example, the EU’s mitigation obligation is (22.8% of the 3.7 GtC [Gigatonnes Carbon] global mitigation requirement in 2020) is about 850 GtC. If this reduction obligation were interpreted literally and achieved entirely through domestic mitigation, it would imply reductions of nearly 140% below 1990 levels – and an EU emission level of minus 500 MtC [Megatonnes Carbon] – by 2030. Obviously, for a mitigation obligation of this magnitude to make sense, the EU must not be expected to meet its entire obligation through domestic reductions. Whatever is not accomplished domestically, the EU would need to fulfill internationally, by way of reductions in other countries that are “supported and enabled by technology, financing and capacity-building, in a measurable, reportable and verifiable manner.”…”

Now most Europeans and Americans love their fellow man and woman, but I don’t think they’d be prepared to love them as much to take on the commitment to negative emissions entitlements. That’s going a bit too far down the green sacrificial road, and people won’t have it.

It’s what Oxfam called a “double duty” to the Global South in their pre-Copenhagen 2009 UNFCCC conference policy document, “Hang Together, Or Separately” :-
(Main report download works)
(Main report download doesn’t work)

“Developing countries must be assured of predictable flows of finance to embark on global mitigation actions. This would require financing the Global Mitigation and Finance Mechanism from the sale, auction or levy of allowances industrialised countries need to meet their mitigation obligations (Assigned Amount Units, or AAUs), or from other reliable sources. By stimulating investment in low carbon development in developing countries, rich countries both ensure that the biggest sources of future emissions are addressed, and help develop markets for their own low carbon technology solutions. Making such a mechanism possible will require industrialised countries to assume a so-called ‘double duty’.”

“First, Annex I countries must reduce their combined emissions by at least 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020. Oxfam’s analysis of fair shares of the overall Annex I target suggests that more than 95 per cent of this Annex I target falls to just six countries and groups, which should adopt emissions targets (in relation to 1990 levels) as follows: Australia (40 per cent), Canada (43 per cent), the EU (44 per cent), Japan (56 per cent), Russia (20 per cent), and the USA (45 per cent) by 2020. All of these countries must achieve a majority of these reductions within their domestic economies.”

“Secondly, industrialised countries must provide funding – $150bn per year at the very least – through the sale, auction, or levy of AAUs – to finance a Global Mitigation and Finance Mechanism that can incentivise large-scale emissions reductions in developing countries and finance adaptation.”

“And what of the fair share of developing countries in this venture? Oxfam’s view is that calls for developing countries to take on commitments in Copenhagen equal to the scale or nature of those required from rich countries are misguided and deeply unfair. This is due to a legacy of broken promises; a long history of excessive GHG pollution; and substantially greater levels of wealth. If rich countries deliver on their double duty, then developing countries can be reasonably expected to ‘hang together’ and co-operate. This should entail contributing what they are able to pay (in line with available economic capability) towards mitigation actions that limit overall emissions by 2020, consistent with minimising risks of catastrophic climate change.”

Various proposals were put forward for international financing for Climate Change action at the Copenhagen conference, as recommended by many parties, including Nicholas Stern, but nothing transpired.

The industrialised countries have been pleading economic crisis, by and large, to avoid making good on a number of development issues. The new “rationalism” doesn’t allow for matters of ethics, morals or concern for your impoverished global neighbour living below sea level.

Campaigning for Greenhouse Development Rights would be self-defeating as it would put back Climate negotiations by a decade, at least.

Although there is something to be said about the Responsibility Capacity Index drawn up by EcoEquity, it is too complex to be agreed at an international level.

By contrast, the number of parameters in Contraction and Convergence are five :-

1. The agreed level concentrations of Carbon Dioxide (and the corollary Greenhouse Gases) in the Atmosphere.

2. The total Carbon Budget that this implies – based on emerging Science of how emissions are affecting Carbon Sinks.

3. The date at which the world finishes its one-time Contraction event to meet the total Carbon Budget.

4. The date at which the world has Convergence on the only possible, practical obligation that can ever conceivably be agreed between the nations – equal per capita Carbon Emissions rights.

5. An agreement on how many people are to be considered resident in each country at the time of Convergence.

Note : point (5) in particular should be rather easy to reach international agreement on. The birth rates in high emissions countries (and China) are flatlining, so population there can be accurately determined and projected into the future. And it doesn’t matter if India or any African country is considered to have a couple million more or less than some projection from some reasonable model, because most Indians and Africans have very small emissions.

Contraction and Convergence is entirely in the spirit of the world’s first Earth conferences and the Principles of the 1992 Rio Declaration and the most logical framework suggested by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, with its “common but differentiated responsibilities”.

What we need is a global treaty that everyone can agree to, commitments that everybody can reasonably meet; that’s in everybody’s enlightened self-interest, and that guarantees long-term Climate stability.

That framework is Contraction and Convergence.

It’s clean, it’s simple and it’s divine :-

[ Image Credit : ©2009 Aubrey Meyer, Global Commons Institute. “Contraction & Convergence”, “C&C” are Trademarks of GCI, Full presentation here or here. ]


The text to accompany the diagram at the top of this post :-

90% Emissions Contraction by 2080 : Convergence beyond Per Capita Equal Globally To Negative Emissions Entitlements by 2030 For Developed Countries

‘Greenhouse Development Rights’ demands convergence to equal per capita and then divergence beyond to Negative Entitlements for Developed Countries with unrestrained emissions for Developing Countries.

Calculations and the politics become yet more arbitrary and steer the negotiations into conflict. This really is Climate Justice with a Vengeance.

This isn’t ‘Climate Justice without Vengeance’ which is what C&C realism aspires to be.

2 thoughts on “Greenhouse Development Wrongs”

  1. Well said Jo. This is absolutely brilliant and well worth the effort reading and absorbing it.

    Over the years I have followed it, “C&C” has moved from being ‘utopian’ and idealistic to being hard-nosed honest reality, that we can chose to accept, or slowly die refusing…

    It has done this without changing itself. The world has moved. The solution hasn’t. The answer remains C&C however strongly we wish to argue against the inevitable.

    As the Archbishop of Canterbury said in 2004: “C&C thinking appears utopian only if we refuse to contemplate the alternatives honestly.”

  2. July 2011 and seconding this verdict by Dave Hampton, well done on this piece Jo. It as you say, is ‘Greenhouse Development Wrongs’.

    As published, the “Greenhouse Development Rights” [GDR] proposal has indeed been put forward and some parties [e.g. OXFAM] have now expressed the view that the GDR concept is superior and therefore preferable to C&C.

    I disagree with this and here’s why.

    The GDR strategy document: –
    The Greenhouse Development Rights Framework
    The right to development in a climate constrained world
    Revised second edition
    Berlin, November 2008
    © the authors and the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung

    This document does indeed state the following: –
    . . . . under GDRs] “the national mitigation obligations of the high-RCI countries of the North vastly exceed the reductions they could conceivably make at home. In fact, by 2030, their mitigation obligations will typically come to exceed even their total domestic emissions! Which is to say that wealthier and higher-emitting countries would be given “negative allocations,” as is necessary in order to open enough atmospheric space for the developing world.” [!]

    The proposal then argues that this feature is the ‘virtue’ that distinguishes GDR from C&C:

    “Incidentally, this kind of negative allocation can never arise under Contraction and Convergence style trajectories, wherein high-emitting countries are only required to transition from their high grand-fathered allocations down toward the global per-capita average. Greenhouse Development Rights, it should be said, evolved from Contraction and Convergence, the most well-known of the per-capita rights approaches.”

    [Actually, the authors are wrong here: – The C&C model will calculate ‘negative emissions entitlements’ [but for everybody] after whatever date you ask it to].

    However, the *operative point* is that I see little point in taking this GDR proposal seriously at all.

    *Giving negative emission entitlements* to the USA requires GDR advocates to go to the US Senate and present and win this point.

    Common sense tells me that they have a *negative chance* of getting the US to accept *negative entitlements* for the US by 2029 or ever, “in order to open enough atmospheric space for the developing world.”

    Contrarians will love GDRs because it guarantees climate-deadlock so that mitigation will be stalled in favour of adaptation qua ‘development-rights’ for ever.

    I am incredulous – does OXFAM lack this common sense? Or is it – at this late stage – perhaps explained as a ‘marketing strategy’? This would be the unstated purpose which is to promote rhetorically vivid but ‘impossible’ solutions that guarantee that the global climate-deadlock continues, so the victims of poverty and unresolved climate change remain as a source of fund-raising.

    It is a device that reminds me of when Greenpeace dumped tonnes of coal on the US Senate steps in 1997 in response to what they called the ‘Bird-Brained Byrd-Hagel-Resolution’.

    As you pointed out, this GDR proposal and others were compared with C&C in the section ‘looking at the alternatives’ in this GCI post-mortem on COP-15 here: –

    The animation makes it possible to compare the alternatives *quantitatively and structurally* with C&C.

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