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Allocating the remaining global carbon budget based on international and intergenerational equity throughout a sustainable world

Elzen, M.G.J. den, M.A. Janssen, J. Rotmans, R.J. Swart and H.J.M. de Vries

1992 International Journal of Global Energy Issues 4(4): 287-301.


The feasibility of an effective international response to anticipated climate change is dependent on the recognition of the present and historical inequities between developing and industrialized countries. Developing countries should be enabled and supported to continue their development towards higher standards of living in a fashion that is consistent with the sustainability of the global biosphere. This paper evaluates long-term climate strategies by which the burden of mitigating climate change by controlling CO2 emissions is shared equitably. Here we use as a possible criterion of equity, that every human being, past or future, is allowed to emit the same carbon quotum on an annual basis, which, as a theoretical concept, could provide for intergenerational and international equity throughout the world. In order to do this we first define the global carbon budget as the cumulated CO2 emissions over the period 1800 till 2100, from 1990 described by an emission scenario. This budget determines the permitted CO2 emissions per capita using past and future population estimates. Next, we introduce the concept of ’emission debt’, defined by the difference between the cumulated allowed CO2 emissions, based on the permitted emission quota per capita, and the actual historical CO2 emissions. Finally the remaining carbon budget, described as the global carbon budget (1800-2100) minus the actual cumulated CO2 emissions (1800-1990) is allocated to the different world regions, taking into account the regional past CO2 emissions. This gives the future emission quota per capita. The results show that past industrialisation has coincided with a large relative contribution of the rich regions to the rise in CO2 concentration, an estimated 40 per cent for the European Community and North America, which have built up an emission debt of 36 GtC and 75 GtC, respectively, using recent World Bank projections of population growth. The developing countries, however, have built up an emission credit of 24 GtC. These regional emisson debts and credits increase the future per capita budget for the developing regions till 0.2-0.8 ton C/cap yearly, whereas North America and the EC end up with a negative future carbon budget of 0.4 to 1.5 ton C/cap yearly. Even if the IPCC Business-as-Usual scenario is considered as reference, the future emission quota of most industrialized countries are lower than their present per capita emissions, i.e, North America has a negative future carbon budget of 0.3 tC/cap yearly.

Keywords: future emissions allocation; carbon dioxide; CO2; carbon emissions; emission debt; global carbon budget; global warming; Integrated Model to Assess the Greenhouse Effect; IMAGE; sustainable climate strategies; sustainable temperature targets; sustainability; sustainable development.



Allocating CO2-Emissions by Using Equity Rules and Optimization

Janssen, M.A., M.G.J. den Elzen and J. Rotmans
1992 RIVM, Report nr. 222901012, Bilthoven, The Netherlands.


In order to reduce the risks of climate change, a major problem in developing an effective international policy is the allocation of the responsibility for reducing greenĀ­ house gas emissions among regions.

This report presents two approaches to provide for the allocation problem of emission reductions in the most important greenhouse gas C02. The first deals with a description of the emission debt concept. We use an equity rule by which all past and future dwellers on earth are permitted to emit an equal C02 quotum per year. Furthermore, the level of the equal emission quotum is dependent on the policy-related C02-equivalent concentration targets. The regional emission debt is the amount of C02, based on an equal share per capita, emitted in a region in the past exceeding the amount allowed. The resulting initial allocation of emission rights may be used as a start for a concept of tradable emission rights.

In the second approach, the allocation problem is formulated as an optimization problem. This contains an ‘optimal’ trade-off between rough estimates for social and economic consequences of reducing fossil C02-emissions in order to meet policy targets, as expressed in a C02-equivalent concentration level. The optimization algorithm developed is a first attempt in solving the optimization problem, where restrictions are dependent on simulation runs with IMAGE (an Integrated Model to Assess the Greenhouse Effect). The algorithm is used to find an allocation of regional fossil C02-emissions in order to maximize the welfare of future generations, given a maximum allowable concentration level.

Results of both approaches indicate that if the world community is to accept constraints on C02-emissions, industrialized regions will have to take the main responsibility in reducing C02-emissions either by reducing emissions in their own regions and in developing regions.


Historical and Future Regional Emission Paths of Carbon Dioxide: Allocation and Optimization Mechanisms

Janssen, M.A.
1992 Master Thesis, Department of Operations Research, Erasmus University of Rotterdam.

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