The proposal aims at stimulating the '2 degrees' target achievement in a sustainable way and within an established timeframe
The '2 degrees target' has been identified as the minimum objective to tackle with climate change. There is a shared understanding that a >50% chance of reaching the target roughly corresponds to a range of emissions reduction between 40% and 70% by 2050, using 2010 as baseline emissions year (1).
The target is publicly and internationally recognized as the global objective for the international community to aim in the next decades, as confirmed by Article 2 of the most recent version of the draft International Agreement on Climate Change (2). A reduction of approximately 17,750 MtCO2e is therefore the minimum requirement to meet the target (3).
Alongside the definition of the global reductions required by the '2 degrees' target, a set of issues has arisen regarding the allocation of these responsibilities. The proposal aims to resolve these issues through the introduction of a dynamic formula (see (4) for details). The formula serves to determine a fair reductions' distribution between countries and is characterized by three main features:
1) Distribution of the reduction target across assigned timeframes: in order to guarantee the equitability and sustainability of the proposal it is necessary to divide the overall reductions linked to the '2 degrees' target into timeframes with intermediary objectives, while also adapting these objectives through time to reflect the latest information. The application of the formula at the beginning of each timeframe will lead a duties distribution that takes into account advances and setbacks of the different involved actors.
2) Identification of the countries 'responsible' for reductions: the comparison between individual countries and global average per-capita emissions is used as a metric to identify those 'responsible' for reductions, namely those countries registering a per-capita emissions rate above the global average. The proposal assumes that, as confirmed by the literature, country-level per-capita emissions fairly represent the 'historic' impact of the different involved actors, while also correlating with their respective capabilities (5, 6).
3) Definition of the different quantities of reductions assigned to each country: to calculate the exact quantities of emissions to be reduced by each 'responsible' country, the third feature moves from a per-capita to an adjusted actual emissions analysis. The formula thus distributes the established reductions target proportionally to the countries' actual emissions levels exceeding the threshold levels.
Thanks to its features the formula offers a solution to achieve the '2 degrees' target, guaranteeing certainty on its minimum size, timings and related sub-targets. The features guarantee for the formula to satisfy important qualitative criteria, such as the equity, transparency, accountability and justice of the reductions' distribution, as well as its social, economic and environmental sustainability (7, 8). The proposal does not look at the distribution of the reductions inside the countries responsible for them, yet offers insights for the development of studies focused on such aspects.
Which plan do you select for China?China: Chemosynthetic Management of the Water/Energy/Nutrient Nexus (WENN)
Which plan do you select for India?India’s Future for Climate Change: Human Involvement and Individual Leadership
Which plan do you select for the United States?Low Carbon USA the Easy Way
Which plan do you select for Europe?Unconventional Financing of Climate Change Mitigation + Adaptation
Which plan do you select for other developing countries?Towards a Holistic Path to combating Climate Change Impacts in Kingdom of Jordan
Which plan do you select for other developed countries?Reforestation Olympics
What additional cross-regional proposals are included in your plan, if any?
The flexible nature of the current proposal makes it mutually compatible with most of the plans introduced in Climate CoLab contests. A portfolio of well designed strategies to mitigate emissions must be put in place to enforce and enhance the current plan. Based on such considerations here follows a selection of those that, encompassing a wide array of topics, appear the most appropriate among the plans:
As specified in the following section different plans from the 'other developing countries' contest share several positive elements with the officially selected one, therefore they shall be included in the overall proposal:
Finally we wish to strongly support another proposal included in the 'Global Climate Action Plan' and concerning the adoption of 'Solar Dollars'
The plan is not only very stimulating and interesting under both a technical and a political perspective, while also being complementary to our proposal. Therefore we are confident we can work with the authors of the plan (and other participants) in the attempt to offer a comprehensive roadmap for the future of climate change mitigation.
How do the regional and cross-sectoral plans above fit together?
Due to its flexibility the plan is compatible with all the region-based proposals of the contest. The plans' selection was made exclusively by analysing those that appear to offer the highest quantitative and qualitative impact. A brief description of the each selection's rationale is provided:
China: the plan, introduced in all the regions and as a global proposal, is characterised by a high design quality and a positive degree of feasibility. Moreover its strategy adheres to the globally shared request for actions able to combine mitigation and sustainable development. The choice must be meant as a support to the plan beyond the regional criteria.
India: based on the formula's application India's per capita emissions shall lie far below the threshold levels in the first sub-timeframes, therefore registering no need for emissions reductions. With its awareness strategy the plan appears to be appropriate for India to contain its per capita levels below the threshold in a long-term perspective, while at the same time stimulating a 'sustainable development' consciousness in the country.
USA: a comprehensive idea touching most of the relevant points in USA climate change debate, therefore keeping a 'USA-oriented' approach makes this plan the most convincing of the list. The 'ClimateCoin' may well act as an element to develop a global carbon market.
Europe: the plan shares with the USA plan the attempt to encompass all the relevant aspects of the climate change debate in the respective regions. While the 'QE' differs from the more innovative 'ClimateCoin', the two plans may well work in synergy with the proposed formula.
Developing countries: holistic plans suit well to countries with a per capita emissions level likely to fall below the threshold. The Jordan plan, together with the Pakistan, Moldova and Ghana ones, represents a positive approach in this perspective. Chosen for its technical approach the plan may be considered as representative of all those plans based on such similar designs.
Developed countries: the plan reflects creativity and common sense, demonstrating the importance of 'thinking out of the box'. It is an appealing idea that may easily find support at a global scale.
None of the selected plans interfere with the others or the current proposal, thus guaranteeing an overall synergy. The synergy can easily be extended to the plans mentioned in the previous section, producing a comprehensive and potentially effective global strategy. This latter would still be characterised by a variety of 'autonomous and independent' strategies developed by the different countries and regions.
The global acceptance and feasibility of the current proposal, as well as of the other plans selected in this presentation is highly dependent on high profile policy decisions to be taken at international level. Based on the current evolution of the debate on COP21 it appears unlikely for such decisions to happen in the Paris context. The limited time and the 'low profile' adopted by many participating parties suggests for the most relevant plans to possibly be approved within a much longer timeframe, possibly between 2016 and 2020.
Explanation of the emissions scenario calculated in the Impact tab
The Impact tab has been set to match the predictions of the Stanford EMF27 model, with a policy regime of 450 ppm CO2, baseline energy efficiency and no CCS.
However, it is important to note that the proposed formula addresses a different component of the global climate change problem from most plans, and is therefore not so compatible with the models available in the Impact tab. These models calculate emissions scenarios as outputs following proposed emissions reduction actions, whereas the current proposal provides a mechanism for distributing reduction targets across regions and countries. Overall global emissions targets are therefore taken as an input, and regional or country-level emissions scenarios can be produced as an output under a variety of possible assumptions (see (9) for details), but such analysis requires a different approach from the tools provided in the Impact tab.
Moreover, the proposal does not prescribe or favor any particular policy approaches to achieve the necessary emissions reductions, and is therefore compatible with many different regional, national or even global plans. In summary, it applies a different perspective to the overall global challenge by focusing on providing suitable incentives to align national emissions trajectories with agreed long-term global targets in an equitable and transparent manner, and to maintain or adjust such trajectories dynamically through time.
What are the plan’s key benefits?
The correct application of the formula potentially guarantees the achievement of any reduction objective related to the '2 degrees' target, or any other global target possibly agreed in the climate negotiations.
The proposal offers efficiency in a short- and long-term perspective. In doing so the proposal stimulates an effective 'contraction and convergence' process in a regime applicable to all (10), while safeguarding the principles of equity, transparency, justice and effectiveness.
By guaranteeing transparency in global emissions reductions the proposal may function as a first step to establishing a sound and accountable demand-side for a potential carbon market. Offering certainty on the minimum size of this demand, its timings and its related sub-targets, the formula's outcomes may well represent the fundamental structure of a market.
Leaving aside any discussion about the supply-side, the proposal may nonetheless revamp the debate on the adoption of carbon markets to accelerate mitigation processes.
What are the plan’s costs?
A proper forecasting of the costs is impossible. The definition of a price for any reduced emission may provide a rough idea of what the most direct costs might be, yet this is currently unavailable and still it would be not enough for a proper understanding of the economic costs/benefits of the proposal.
Any reduction of GHG will require a related action, whose value shall be taken into account. The application of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) in China may well serve as example. More than 3,500 CDM projects have been hosted in the country. The projects leveraged a total of about 210 billions dollars of direct investments (11). Similar dynamics are likely to happen in a bigger scale under the application of the proposal.
The flexibility of the formula facilitates and requires the adoption of policy-orientated initiatives to define the structure of its system of application. Manipulation can work within these initiatives, leading to unanticipated side effects.
What are the key challenges to enacting this plan?
The plan partially clashes with the current policy trend in climate negotiations. The adoption of a voluntary, nation-based approach (the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or INDCs), is currently prevailing in the negotiations (see Article 3 in (2) and (12)).
The voluntary approach goes towards a direction that is opposite to the structure of the plan. However, given the recently submitted INDCs for most major emitters, this approach is highly unlikely to fulfill the aggregate goals and targets related to climate change mitigation (13), therefore leaving windows of opportunity for alternative proposals such as the present one (14).
Acceptance by involved parties (or countries) of an international institution in charge of monitoring and verifying the parties' compliance with their reductions' duties, as well as the establishment of a sound enforcement system are both pre-requisites to the use of the proposed formula.
The proposal is designed to function for the whole 2020-2050 period. Splitting the final target between sub-periods establishes different stages covering the entire timeframe. With the formula newly applied at the beginning of each stage it is required to establish the length of the sub-periods and the proportions of the final target to be achieved within each of them. Similar initiatives shall be negotiated before 2020.
An immediate global acceptance of the proposal is unlikely, with vested interests and fears hampering such an effort. More realistically, a group of good-willed countries may take initial steps before the others in the approval and development of the plan. It is not possible to establish the timeline for a global acceptance at the present.
The flexibility granted by the dynamic nature of the formula stimulates multiple policy-oriented initiatives within its application. Possibly taken by a wide variety of key actors at different levels and in different periods these initiatives cannot be fully forecasted.
(1) IPCC, 2014: Summary for Policymakers, In: Climate Change 2014, Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK and New York, USA.
(3) World Resource Institute database: http://cait.wri.org/
(4) Coulon, M., Stua, M., 2015. Working paper:http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2665100
(5) Costa, L., Rybski, D. & Kropp, J.P., 2011. PLoS One 6, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0029262
(6) Den Elzen, M.G., Hohne, N., Brouns, B.,Winkler, H. & Ott, H.E., 2007. Environmental Science & Policy 10 (2007) 185-203.
(7) Garibaldi, J.A., 2014. Climate Policy 14 (2014) 82-101.
(8) Kanie, H., Nishimoto, H., Hijioka, Y. & Kameyama, Y., 2010. International Environmental Agreements 10 (2010) 299-315.
(9) Stua, M., 2014. SPRU working paper: https://www.sussex.ac.uk/webteam/gateway/file.php?name=michele-stua-paper-final.pdf&site=25
(10) Winkler, H. & Rajamani, L., 2014. Climate Policy 14 (2014) 102-121.
(11) Stua, M., 2013. Energy Policy 62 (2013) 1309–1319.
(14) Diringer, E., 2013. Nature 501 (2013) 307–309.