A new way for nations to divvy up greenhouse-gas cuts?
(Page 2 of 2)
How might it work? The researchers give an example.Skip to next paragraph
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Let's say the world had agreed to cut annual carbon-dioxide emissions to 30 billion tons by 2030, starting in 2003. Compared with business as usual by 2030, the team calculates, that's a 30 percent cut, or 13 billion tons. Based on population trends, income distribution, and carbon intensity estimates, that cut translates into an emissions cap of 10.8 tons of CO2 for each person on the planet. For the record, the calculations also yield 1.13 billion "high emitters" globally.
Apply that cap to the estimated distribution of high emitters in each country, and emissions-reduction targets for some big names in the climate-negotiation game look like this, compared with business-as-usual in 2030:
And the cuts are?
Among industrial countries: the US cuts emissions by 55 percent; Japan cuts by 15 percent; Australia/New Zealand cut by 50 percent; Europe collectively cuts by 20 percent; Canada cuts by 43 percent; and Russia cuts by 45 percent.
The team first offered up this approach at global climate talks in Bali in 2007, and received encouragement, said Princeton University physicist Shoibal Chakravarty during a phone chat. He is the lead author on the research paper.
The team acknowledges that nuances must be worked out before anyone could think of considering this approach for a formal treaty.
Still, Dr. Chakravarty says, "It's a very flexible approach. You don't have to bother about negotiating interim targets or a division of labor between countries. Once everybody decides on a global target, this mechanism automatically provides national targets."
But an approach that may look equitable and fair on the international stage may not play so well domestically.
"I appreciate the elegance of these solutions for carving up the emissions of the world," he says, But in the end, politicians in individual countries still determine what they can or can't contribute to the cause -- assuming they agree a cause exists. They are unlikely to yield their roll as decision-makers to a set of mathematical equations, Dr. Kopp suggests.