Countries should not use ‘burden-sharing’ to determine cuts in greenhouse gas emissions

Dec 12, 2014
Countries should not use ‘burden-sharing’ to determine cuts in greenhouse gas emissions

By Fidelis Zvomuya

A new report published today by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy at London School of Economics and Political Science says negotiations about a new international climate change agreement are focusing too much on trying to share the burden of cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

The report published on the penultimate day of the 20th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 20) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in the Peruvian capital of Lima, it finds that the seven identified different burden-sharing approaches to determining national pledges for reducing greenhouse gas emissions largely produce the same outcomes for individual countries, but concludes they are likely to be divisive and lead to a lack of ambition.

According to one of the authors of the report, Alina Averchenkova, the reportit was produced to inform the ‘intended nationally determined contributions’ which countries are expected to put forward by spring 2015, ahead of an international agreement at the United Nations climate change summit in Paris in December.

“In the report we recommend that countries recognise that measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions have multiple benefits, including the reduction of local air pollution and traffic congestion, and that national pledges should be based on realising opportunities instead of ‘burden-sharing’” Averchenkova.

Another author Nicholas Stern pointed out thatsaid these new approaches to ‘intended nationally determined contributions’ would be based on the principle of ‘equitable access to sustainable development’, rather than on the ‘right to emit’.

“While the outcomes of most of these approaches in terms of emissions would look a little different from those resulting from ‘burden-sharing’, the outcomes in terms of economic development would be meaningfully different, and would encourage greater ambition and more collaboration to improve the affordability of, and increase the opportunities from, decarbonisation,” Stern said.

He added that countries are now seeking to reach a new international agreement on climate change, to be signed in Paris in December 2015.

“A key element of the international negotiations since the Kyoto Protocol, has been equity, but discussions have focused on narrow and unsatisfactory approaches based on ‘burden-sharing’ and ‘atmospheric rights’. These approaches mainly revolve around the assignment of the ‘right to emit’ or, as it is alternatively framed, the ‘costs and burdens’ of climate change action,” added Stern.

The report reveals that severalvarious proposals have been put forward with varying that differ in terms of the principles and formulae for applied in determining how the costs and burdens should be shared between countries.
“These range from historical cumulative emissions to relative capabilities based on GDP levels. Much of this debate, however, has proven divisive and often resulted in the search for a minimum acceptable level of individual action,” Averchenkova said.

Most COP 20 delegates are hoping that part of the report could be used as part of the Lima Texts.

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