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Comparing Climate Commitments: A Model-Based Analysis of the Copenhagen Accord


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  • Warwick J. McKibbin


  • Adele C. Morris
  • Peter J. Wilcoxen


The political accord struck by world leaders at the United Nations negotiations in Copenhagen in December 2009 allows participating countries to express their greenhouse gas commitments in a variety of ways. For example, developed countries promised different percent emissions reductions relative to different base years by 2020. China and India committed to reducing their emissions per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) relative to 2005 by 40 and 20 percent respectively. Such flexibility promotes consensus by allowing each country to use its preferred commitment formulation. However, the disparate approaches and widely varying baseline trends across different economies complicate comparing the likely emissions reductions and economic efforts required to achieve the commitments. This paper provides such a comparison by analyzing the Copenhagen targets using the GCubed model of the global economy. We begin by formulating a no-policy baseline projection for major world economies. We then model the Copenhagen Accord’s economy-wide commitments, with a focus on fossil-fuel-related CO2. We show how different formulations make the same targets appear quite different in stringency, and we estimate and compare the likely economic and environmental performance of major emitters’ Copenhagen targets. The analysis also explores the spillover effects of emission reductions efforts on countries that did not adopt economy-wide emissions targets at Copenhagen. We emphasize that this work is not a policy analysis or a prediction about how countries will actually achieve their commitments. Rather, it offers a way of standardizing and comparing heterogeneous proposals with an eye towards assessing their relative environmental and economic consequences.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University in its series CAMA Working Papers with number 2010-24.

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Length: 44 pages
Date of creation: Aug 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:een:camaaa:2010-24

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Cited by:
  1. Stern, David I. & Jotzo, Frank, 2010. "How Ambitious are China and India’s Emissions Intensity Targets?," Research Reports, Australian National University, Environmental Economics Research Hub 94947, Australian National University, Environmental Economics Research Hub.
  2. Vicki Duscha & Katja Schumacher & Joachim Schleich & Pierre Buisson, 2014. "Costs of meeting international climate targets without nuclear power," Climate Policy, Taylor & Francis Journals, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(3), pages 327-352, May.
  3. Lu, Yingying & Stegman, Alison & Cai, Yiyong, 2013. "Emissions intensity targeting: From China's 12th Five Year Plan to its Copenhagen commitment," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 1164-1177.
  4. Warwick J McKibbin & Adele C Morris & Peter J Wilcoxen, 2012. "Bridging the Gap: Integrating Price Mechanisms Into International Climate Negotiations," CAMA Working Papers 2012-55, Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.
  5. Asafu-Adjaye, John & Mahadevan, Renuka, 2013. "Implications of CO2 reduction policies for a high carbon emitting economy," Energy Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 32-41.
  6. Frank Jotzo, 2010. "Comparing the Copenhagen Emissions Targets," CCEP Working Papers 0110, Centre for Climate Economics & Policy, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.
  7. Yingying Lu & David Stern, 2014. "Substitutability and the Cost of Climate Mitigation Policy," EcoMod2014 6692, EcoMod.
  8. Yiyong Cai & Yingying Lu & David Newth & Alison Stegman, 2013. "Modelling Complex Emissions Intensity Targets with a Simple Simulation Algorithm," CAMA Working Papers 2013-33, Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.
  9. McKibbin, Warwick J. & Wilcoxen, Peter J., 2013. "A Global Approach to Energy and the Environment," Handbook of Computable General Equilibrium Modeling, Elsevier.


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