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Countries’ contributions to climate change: effect of accounting for all greenhouse gases, recent trends, basic needs and technological progress

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  • Michel Elzen

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  • Jos Olivier
  • Niklas Höhne
  • Greet Janssens-Maenhout

Abstract

In the context of recent discussions at the UN climate negotiations we compared several ways of calculating historical greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and assessed the effect of these different approaches on countries’ relative contributions to cumulative global emissions. Elements not covered before are: (i) including recent historical emissions (2000–2010), (ii) discounting historical emissions to account for technological progress; (iii) deducting emissions for ‘basic needs’; (iv) including projected emissions up to 2020, based on countries’ unconditional reduction proposals for 2020. Our analysis shows that countries’ contributions vary significantly based on the choices made in the calculation: e.g. the relative contribution of developed countries as a group can be as high as 80 % when excluding recent emissions, non-CO 2 GHGs, and land-use change and forestry CO 2 ; or about 48 % when including all these emissions and discounting historical emissions for technological progress. Excluding non-CO 2 GHGs and land-use change and forestry CO 2 significantly changes relative historical contributions for many countries, altering countries’ relative contributions by multiplicative factors ranging from 0.15 to 1.5 compared to reference values (i.e. reference contribution calculations cover the period 1850-2010 and all GHG emissions). Excluding 2000–2010 emissions decreases the contributions of most emerging economies (factor of up to 0.8). Discounting historical emissions for technological progress reduces the relative contributions of some developed countries (factor of 0.8) and increases those of some developing countries (factor of 1.2–1.5). Deducting emissions for ‘basic needs’ results in smaller contributions for countries with low per capita emissions (factor of 0.3–0.5). Finally, including projected emissions up to 2020 further increases the relative contributions of emerging economies by a factor of 1.2, or 1.5 when discounting pre-2020 emissions for technological progress. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Suggested Citation

  • Michel Elzen & Jos Olivier & Niklas Höhne & Greet Janssens-Maenhout, 2013. "Countries’ contributions to climate change: effect of accounting for all greenhouse gases, recent trends, basic needs and technological progress," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 121(2), pages 397-412, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:climat:v:121:y:2013:i:2:p:397-412
    DOI: 10.1007/s10584-013-0865-6
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    1. repec:eee:proeco:v:193:y:2017:i:c:p:449-464 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Jonathan Pickering & Frank Jotzo & Peter J. Wood, 2015. "Splitting the Difference: Can Limited Coordination Achieve a Fair Distribution of the Global Climate Financing Effort?," CCEP Working Papers 1504, Centre for Climate Economics & Policy, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.
    3. Margulis, Sergio, 2016. "Vulnerabilidad y adaptación de las ciudades de América Latina al cambio climático," Documentos de Proyectos 41041, Naciones Unidas Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL).
    4. Goher-Ur-Rehman Mir & Servaas Storm, "undated". "Carbon Emissions and Economic Growth: Production-based versus Consumption-based Evidence on Decoupling," Working Papers Series 41, Institute for New Economic Thinking.
    5. R. Dean Hardy & Bryan L. Nuse, 2016. "Global sea-level rise: weighing country responsibility and risk," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 137(3), pages 333-345, August.
    6. Gevrek, Z.Eylem & Uyduranoglu, Ayse, 2015. "Public preferences for carbon tax attributes," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 186-197.
    7. repec:spr:climat:v:144:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s10584-017-1978-0 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. A. F. Hof & M. G. J. Elzen & A. Mendoza Beltran, 2016. "The EU 40 % greenhouse gas emission reduction target by 2030 in perspective," International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 16(3), pages 375-392, June.
    9. Z. Eylem Gevrek & Ayse Uyduranoglu, 2015. "Public Preferences for Carbon Tax Attributes," Working Paper Series of the Department of Economics, University of Konstanz 2015-15, Department of Economics, University of Konstanz.
    10. Willenbockel, Dirk, 2014. "Reflections on the prospects for pro-poor low-carbon growth," MPRA Paper 69863, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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