This website presents illustrative national “fair shares” of effort as related to the actions and support needed to address climate change at the global level. It does so reflecting the values and demands of many climate justice movements from across the world.

The approach rests on a number of basic assumptions including:

  • To prevent run-away climate change, and limit warming to the safest levels still possible, we must set a limit on global greenhouse gas emissions (including historical emissions already affecting the atmosphere and projected future emissions).
  • The global emissions budget and the effort to remain within it must be divided fairly among all people.
  • To be fair, this division must consider countries' historical use of the budget (historical responsibility) and their capacities to address climate change, while addressing the needs of the poorest
  • Even if temperature rise is limited to the safest levels possible there will be considerable adaptation costs, losses and damage. The obligation to address these must also be shared fairly.
  • These concepts are set out in the UN Climate Change Convention and must be the basis for any future climate agreements established under the Convention.

The methodology of this site approaches fair shares by selecting an emissions-budget overtime and then allocating the effort to stay within that budget using the principles of the UN Climate Convention (UNFCCC).

The effort-sharing approach adopted here starts by identifying a global mitigation pathway based on a global emissions budget; this implies a certain amount of required global mitigation effort in each year relative to business-as-usual emissions growth. Each country’s fair share of the global mitigation effort is then determined for each year by its share of global responsibility and capacity.

Effort-sharing frameworks (unlike resource-sharing frameworks that divide up, say, a fixed emissions budget) require the use of national emissions baselines, because a country’s “effort” must be measured against a business-as-usual pathway that reflects “no effort” or “no policies”.

The approach adopted here in defining fair shares is based on the methodology developed by the Stockholm Environment Institute and Ecoequity, and builds out of their Climate Equity Reference Calculator – for more detailed background please do checkout their extensive site.

The calculations utilized by the Climate Equity Reference Calculator rely on a set of no-effort baselines that, in turn, rely as heavily as possible on existing, widely known and well vetted projections for all key indicators (i.e. population projections, GDP projections, carbon intensity projections) updated for recent history.

To limit warming, this approach identifies an emissions budget — i.e. the total amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) that humanity can emit over time for a particular probability of limiting warming to a temperature goal (e.g. 1.5C above the pre-industrial average). It then converts this limit into an ‘emissions pathway’ or trajectory – so that the total amount in the budget is converted into annual budgets or limits.

The budget used by this website is an extremely ambitious mitigation pathway; but one that can still be defended as achievable in technological and economic terms (Höhne et. al. 2013). Emissions peak immediately and reach an annual peak reduction rate of about 6.1% per year (6.0% for fossil CO2 only). Cumulative carbon dioxide emissions after 2012 are 780 gigatonnes CO2 (Gt CO2), which is well within the IPCC’s budget of 1,010 GtCO2 for maintaining a 66% likelihood of keeping warming below 2°C and around 50% for 1.5°C.

The groups supporting this tool recognize that in reality 2°C does not represent a scientifically rigorous or ‘safe’ guardrail with respect to climate change, given the risks of tipping points and severe impacts on food and human security, and for those reasons many peoples, movements, and governments have called for a stronger goal limiting warming to well below 1.5C – however the current mainstream science produced by Northern institutions has not generated sufficient data points to construct a pathway that reflects this demand from the South.

Due to the need for a less dangerous temperature target, and a correspondingly smaller emissions budget, the numbers generated by this website are conservative and tend toward the upper range of cuts, to reflect the need for the global effort to be sufficient to well and truly fit within the budget to avoid catastrophic climate change. The budget used here is called the “Strong 2°C pathway” within the Climate Equity Reference Calculator.

After determining an emissions budget and calculating the global effort required to move from “business as usual” to the less dangerous level of climate pollution that fits within the budget, we then apply principles to determine how much of that global effort is ‘fair’ for each country.

In the language of the UN climate convention the principles we apply are:

  • Common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in which obligations to take action and provide support, and rights to receive such support, are accepted as functions of both historical and current emissions, and of capability to act. (Article 3.1: “The Parties should protect the climate system for the benefit of present and future generations of humankind, on the basis of equity and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.”)
  • The right to sustainable development, which we understand as the right of all people have sustainable and dignified living standards. By sustainable we mean “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (Article 3.4: “The Parties have a right to, and should, promote sustainable development.”)

The principles are then applied through particular indicators which can be used to determined an indication of each country’s historical responsibility, respective capacities, and which take into account sustainable development need.

The indicator for Responsibility used by this tool is the cumulative emissions of each country since 1850 which directly reflects a nation’s contribution to climate change. This date roughly corresponds to the time at which carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion reached significant levels. This is also the earliest date for which plausible emissions histories exist. Using this data we can assign a percentage of global responsibility to each country.

The indicator for Capacities is per capita income, which is one indicator of the wealth and resources at a country’s command. We use market exchange rate (MER) levels, to consider the fact that much of the technology and knowhow necessary to meet the climate challenge will be sourced internationally and so local purchasing power is less relevant. Using this data we can assign a percentage of global capacity to each country.

The indicators that adjust for Sustainable Development are two-fold:

  • The first is that we employ a threshold of income within countries, so that the meager income of the impoverished does not unfairly increase the ‘capacity’ of a country under our calculations.
  • Secondly, the income of those above the threshold are held to have progressively higher levels of capacity as would occur in a progressive domestic income tax scheme.

The lower income threshold is set at $7,500, with income above this threshold counting toward national capacity at a steadily rising rate, until it reaches a upper income threshold (set at $50,000) at which all income is counted as an indicator of national capacity. Note that the $50,000 upper threshold is chosen because it falls within the income of the highest earning “one percent” of the global population. The $7,500 PPP is chosen to reflect an income level modestly above a global poverty line that is adjusted for costs of living.

When combined, these indicators present a responsibility-capacity indicator for each country, which is expressed as a percentage in any given year. It is that percentage that is applied to the global effort required to stay within the emissions budget to determine each country’s ‘fair share’ of effort.

In general this approach — reflecting the actual distributions of cumulative emissions and of current income in today’s world — produces two broad groups of countries, which largely reflect what are called within the UN climate negotiations “developed” and “developing” countries. They are:

  • Countries with high capacity and responsibility – these are generally wealthier industralised countries with fair shares (of the shared global mitigation effort) that are large enough to exceed possible mitigation opportunities domestically. These fair shares are best understood as comprising a two-fold obligation: domestic mitigation action (called “Proposed fair domestic cut” in the graphs) and their international contribution including finance, technology sharing, and capacity building in other countries (called “Complete International Fairshare”).
  • Countries with relatively low capacity and responsibility – these are generally lesser or non-industralised countries of the South whose fair shares of the total global mitigation effort are smaller than the mitigation that must occur in these countries if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change. In these cases each country has a “Proposed Fair Domestic Emissions” which reflects what it should reduce from business as usual in line with its responsibility, capacity and the right to sustainable development. However, it also has a “full cut with international transfers” which represents the reduction in emissions that needs to happen in that country with the transfer of resources from a country with higher capacity and responsibility that cannot fulfill its entire fair-share domestically.

In determining how much of a country’s effort must be done domestically we assume that wealthier countries have a variety of lower-cost mitigation options available to them (lifestyle changes, policy or technology options), countries with per-capita income higher than a specified income threshold (defined as global mean per-capita income in 2012, or approximately US$10,000 at market exchange rates) reduce domestic emissions faster than the global average rate, and countries with lower incomes reduce their emissions slower than the global average rate.

On the graphs and in the tables we show emissions as millions of tonnes of CO2e (also known as greenhouse gas emissions or GHGs) as well as in percentages. These percentages refer to reductions on 1990 or 2013 levels, to give an indication of the relative effort required.

Although the transfers necessary to fulfill global fair-shares of climate effort will involve finance, technology and capacity building, we have converted these transfers into United States Dollars (USD) to allow for easier comparison.

The numbers generated for each country, as either a provider or receiver of international finance, is determined by converting the non-domestic mitigation effort (either that done internationally by the rich industrialized countries, or that done domestically with provision of resources in countries in the South) into USD. This conversion uses the $65 per tonne of CO2e mitigation figure from the Summary for Policy Makers of the IPCC Working Group 3, Fifth Assessment Report.

The provision of finance to fulfill an international obligation to meet a fairshare is NOT offsetting – it is in addition to deep domestic emission cuts, and it is in accordance with existing obligations to provide finance and technology under the UN climate convention. It is not expected that the delivery of these resources would be by ‘market mechanisms’ but by grants and policy regulation.

The figures used to illustrate the scale of finance and technology transfer necessary in the graphs are purely illustrative. They will not hold in all cases across all the countries on Earth. They are not intended to be prescriptive or suggestive of the necessary priorities for the transfer of those resources. Nor does their inclusion indicate an endorsement of the approaches used or promoted by their source institutions. They are intended to help put the transfers required into some perspective to help us visualise the level of resources, cooperation and action required to solve the climate crisis.

The figures are:

  • $100 million per kilometer of metro construction (Source: World Bank; and Alon Levy)
  • $325 per person per year to deliver 2700 Kilowatt hours (Source: DESA)
  • $23 billion is the current global budget for agriculture research (Source: FAO)
  • $7 is the average fossil fuel subsidy per tonne of CO2 in a developed country (Source: ODI)
  • $1 billion in stimulus spending during the recession created 30,000 jobs (Source: ILO)
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