INDCs – Are developed country efforts an equitable share of global effort

By Sudhir Sharma

March 31st line came and went with only few key developed country Parties submitted their #EmissionsReductionGoals for 2030/2025. The missing in action were Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Canada, etc. The anticipation from developing country CSO’s was on how these submissions address equity and ambition. One has to just look at the section “fair and ambitious” in the #INDCs submitted by developed countries to realize that they have completely sidestepped the issue and chosen not to address it. It is not that the submissions don’t explain it, on the contrary (except US), all the submission justify why the contributions are fair and ambitious. Following are few excerpts from the submissions:

Switzerland – contribution is 50% below 1990 by 2030, though only 30% will be achieved through domestic action. The adequacy of the target is justified based on AR5 recommendation of 40 to 70% reduction below 2010 by 1990. Fair is defined in terms of historic emissions since 1990, capability measured as per capita GDP, and cost-effectiveness (cost of mitigation). Though these indicators are mentioned, there is no attempt to explain how these indicators were used to identify equitable share.

EU – contribution is at least 40% (but the word at least is just a word till EU defines a higher number) through domestic efforts alone. EU Justifies the ambition by stating its new target is a significant jump compared to the target for 2020. Further, states it is in line with IPCC recommendation of 80-95% reduction for Annex I countries by 2050 compared to 1990. This was a recommendation in AR3 or 4, so is quite an outdated one. There is no mention of historic emissions, capabilities, or other indicators.

Norway – defines adequacy in terms of IPCC AR5 recommendation of 40 to 70% reduction below 1990 by 2050. The submission doesn’t provide any explanation of how the contribution is an equitable share or indicators for assessing its equitable share.

USA – The submission only mentions it is fair and ambitious without proffering any indicators or other approach to explain. The submission also doesn’t define how the contribution addresses the adequacy issue. The only closest statement of explanation is that the new contribution is significant increase from previous contribution. Thus it is clear that developed countries that have been at forefront of demanding differentiation based on Annexes be done away with, have completely side-stepped the discussion on how to address the issues of very apparent differences in  responsibilities and capabilities of countries, except Switzerland. But Switzerland too, as shown above, fails to explain how these indicators were used to assess their equitable share. The Greenhouse development rights (GDRs) model based on indicators (responsibility, capability, development needs, and adaptation needs) provides a good framework and highlights how iniquitous these contributions are. But even a very basic analysis highlights how deeply iniquitous these contributions are. Switzerland and Norway have defined adequacy of their contributions based on the IPCC AR5 recommendation of 40 to 70% reduction by 2050 compared to 1990. I use this as a basis for assessing equity in contributions, though one must note this IPCC scenario requires deep net negative emissions by 2100. To undertake the analysis, I assume that emissions from 2010 to 2020 will follow the weak commitment trajectory outlined in the UNEP GAP report resulting in total emissions of 55 GtCO2e. I further assume that emissions will be reduced in a straight line between 2020 and 2050 to achieve 40 to 70% reduction below 2010. This implies in 2030 the total global GHG emissions have to be in the range of 41.5 to 46.4 GtCO2e. To assess the developed country emissions in 2030, I have taken the emission contribution outlined by EU, USA, and Russia. Further, in 2010 these three countries contributed 80% of total Annex I emissions, I assume that in 2030 this percentage will remain the same. Since these three countries make up a large share, only a very drastic reduction by other developed countries is expected to change this ratio, the likelihood of which is negligible. In case of Russia we assume all the reductions are non-landuse emissions. Russia gives a range and I take the lower range (25% below 1990) to correspond to lower bound of IPCC recommendation; and the upper range (30% below 1990) to correspond to upper bound of IPCC recommendation. Based on the above assumptions, the emissions of developed country in 2030 will range from 12.9 to 13.1 GtCO2e. Whereas, applying straight line reduction from 2020 to 2050 on anticipated GHG emissions of 15.4 GtCO2e in 2020, AI country emissions should be 11.9 to 13.9 gtCO2e. From this we can draw proposed developed country contributions are not ambitious and result in a weak 2 deg pathway.

Present level of contributions by developed countries imply that developing countries will have only a carbon budget of 28.6 to 33.2 GtCO2e. The estimated emissions of developing countries in 2020 are around 39.6 GtCO2e. This implies that developing countries will have to reduce their emissions between 16% to 28% below 2020 levels. Compare this with 15 -16% reductions by developed countries compared to 2020. Thus developing country would have to take a far greater reduction than the developed countries. This is clearly iniquitous.

Thus all developing countries are expected to immediately start reducing their emissions post 2020. The consequence of which will be a severe implications for addressing the development deficit in these countries as well as take adaptive measures. What about the historic responsibility? Let us compare how the limited carbon space is being used. If we compare the share of GHG emissions of developed countries in the total emissions in 2020 and 2030, the share in 2020 is about 28% and would be in the around 29%, thus the share actually goes up (see figure 1). As shown in figure 1 below, the share of developed countries pre-2020 has decreased, both, because of reduction efforts of developed countries, but also due to increase in developing countries emissions trying to meet the development deficit. Based on above analysis of developed country contribution in context of IPCC AR5 recommendation, the developing country will have a smaller share in 2030 compared to 2020, whereas, they need space for development. Further, as shown in figure, if you take China’s emissions (assume Chinese emissions stay constant at 2020 levels), the share available to remaining developing countries reduces sharply. This simply implies that developed countries continue to consume a higher share of per capita space and are not vacating any space that they should be doing. Thus the present contributions don’t factor in any historic emissions, even if one were to consider 1990 as the basis of considering historic emissions.

Figure 1: Changes in Fraction of global GHG emissions by groups

Judge for yourself if the developed country contributions are equitable!!

Let us look at how the developed countries by not fulfilling their required obligations in the past have made it so much more inequitable for developing countries. Had the developed countries achieved 40% reduction below 1990 by 2020, the space available for developing countries for period 2020-30 would have been much higher. Assuming that developed countries would have maintained from there on the same level of emission as 2020 till 2030, this would have provided developing countries extra carbon space of 21.35 GtCO2e, which is 50% of the total cumulative reductions developing countries would have to undertake given developed country contributions. Further, if the developed countries were to achieve a further 20% reduction from 2020 -2030, it would have provided another 18.55 GtCO2e space for developing countries. This would have provided much needed development space to developing countries while they work towards de-linking growth from GHG emissions.

Is this equitable?

Most of the developing countries are at an HDI of 0.5 or so (most developed countries are at 0.9), their energy consumption is way below that of developed countries, not to mention the level of income. Average GDP per capita in developing countries is about a tenth of that in developed countries. The developing countries have a huge development deficit and, in absence of adequate support to address their emissions, emissions in these countries are expected to grow. The level of efforts for developing countries will be way higher as compared to developed countries if want to stick to the requirement of 40 to 70% reduction by 2050 below 2010, despite their capabilities being much lower and development needs being much higher. To begin with developed countries need to revise their reduction targets upwards by significant amount or provide financial resources to support an equivalent level of reduction in developing countries. Further, leading upto 2020 developed countries should provide financial resources for mitigation equivalent to overuse of carbon space because of their low ambition 2020 targets. This will enable the world keep to the 2 deg goal while allowing developing country to address their development deficit. An important element of this is making available technologies to developing countries without the costs of IPRs to enable lower the costs of technologies.

About the Author

Sudhir Sharma is a Senior Climate Change Specialist at the UNEP Risø Centre with over 15 years’ experience in Climate and Sustainable Development in developing countries, Sharma comes from an engineering background and a PhD in Development Economics. His work has focused on mitigation issues in developing countries in the context of sustainable development. He has over 10 years’ experience in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) working both in developing projects and developing methodologies. His present work at URC is focused on NAMAs, both, in terms of supporting capacity development in developing countries as well as analytical work on creating a better understanding of NAMAs. He is presently coordinating the country work on assisting seven countries in developing NAMAs. He is an Advisor to CANSA.

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