We present a framework for allocating a global carbon reduction target among nations, in which the concept of “common but differentiated responsibilities” refers to the emissions of individuals instead of nations. We use the income distribution of a country to estimate how its fossil fuel CO2 emissions are distributed among its citizens, from which we build up a global CO2 distribution. We then propose a simple rule to derive a universal cap on global individual emissions and find corresponding limits on national aggregate emissions from this cap. All of the world’s high CO2-emitting individuals are treated the same, regardless of where they live. Any future global emission goal (target and time frame) can be converted into national reduction targets, which are determined by “Business as Usual” projections of national carbon emissions and in-country income distributions. For example, reducing projected global emissions in 2030 by 13 GtCO2 would require the engagement of 1.13 billion high emitters, roughly equally distributed in 4 regions: the U.S., the OECD minus the U.S., China, and the non-OECD minus China. We also modify our methodology to place a floor on emissions of the world’s lowest CO2 emitters and demonstrate that climate mitigation and alleviation of extreme poverty are largely decoupled.We tend to see the idea of per capita emissions used by developing countries as a way of showing how much more carbon-intensive is the lifestyle of the average Westerner, but this paper turns that on its head: if per capita emissions are what matters, then we should target the highest-polluting populations, regardless of where in the world they live.
2. To clarify my last post on this subject, I certainly think China deserves more credit for its efforts on clean energy than it's received thus far. But I agree with Christina Larson that China is benefiting on the world stage from the US being mostly MIA on the climate crisis for the last decade; getting a climate bill through the Senate will, if nothing else, remove the US as the big villain and force all countries to look more seriously at they are doing to address climate change.
3. It would be interesting to compare different regions or cities around the world by their per capita emissions, but the data doesn't seem to be readily available. Anybody know where to look?