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Equity in climate change: an analytical review

  • Mattoo, Aaditya
  • Subramanian, Arvind

How global emissions reduction targets can be achieved equitably is a key issue in climate change discussions. This paper presents an analytical framework to encompass contributions to the literature on equity in climate change, and highlights the consequences -- in terms of future emissions allocations -- of different approaches to equity. Progressive cuts relative to historic levels -- for example, 80 percent by industrial countries and 20 percent by developing countries -- in effect accord primacy to adjustment costs and favor large current emitters such as the United States, Canada, Australia, oil exporters, and China. In contrast, principles of equal per capita emissions, historic responsibility, and ability to pay favor some large and poor developing countries such as India, Indonesia, and the Philippines, but hurt industrial countries as well as many other developing countries. The principle of preserving future development opportunities has the appeal that it does not constrain developing countries in the future by a problem that they did not largely cause in the past, but it shifts the burden of meeting climate change goals entirely to industrial countries. Given the strong conflicts of interest in defining equity in emission allocations, it may be desirable to shift the emphasis of internationalcooperation toward generating a low-carbon technology revolution. Equity considerations would then play a role not in allocating a shrinking emissions pie but in informing the relative contributions of countries to generating such a pie-enlarging revolution.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 5383.

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Date of creation: 01 Jul 2010
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:5383
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  1. Barrett, Scott & Toman, Michael, 2010. "Contrasting future paths for an evolving global climate regime," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5164, The World Bank.
  2. Oecd, 2009. "Climate Change and Africa," OECD Journal: General Papers, OECD Publishing, vol. 2009(1), pages 5-35.
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  6. William R. Cline, 2007. "Global Warming and Agriculture: Impact Estimates by Country," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number 4037.
  7. Valentina Bosetti & Jeffrey Frankel, 2009. "Global Climate Policy Architecture and Political Feasibility: Specific Formulas and Emission Targets to Attain 460 ppm CO2 Concentrations," Working Papers 2009.92, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
  8. Asbjørn Torvanger & Odd Godal, 2004. "An Evaluation of Pre-Kyoto Differentiation Proposals for National Greenhouse Gas Abatement Targets," International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 4(1), pages 65-91, March.
  9. Vaillancourt, Kathleen & Waaub, Jean-Philippe, 2004. "Equity in international greenhouse gases abatement scenarios: A multicriteria approach," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 153(2), pages 489-505, March.
  10. Mattoo, Aaditya & Subramanian, Arvind, 2010. "Equity in climate change: an analytical review," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5383, The World Bank.
  11. S. Narayan, 2009. "India," Chapters, in: The Political Economy of Trade Reform in Emerging Markets, chapter 7 Edward Elgar.
  12. Nicholas Stern, 2008. "The Economics of Climate Change," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(2), pages 1-37, May.
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