1 The 2007/2008 Human Development Report (HDR) Fighting dangerous climate change: Human solidarity in a divided world highlights the threat posed by global warming to human progress across the 21st Century. Drawing on climate science, it warns that failure to act on climate change will lead to unprecedented reversals in human development in the near-term, with future generation left to face the risks associated with ecological catastrophe. The HDR calls for international climate change mitigation to ensure that average global temperatures do not rise by more than two degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels. It uses climate-modelling work carried out by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research to illustrate a potential emissions pathway for achieving this goal. That pathway points to a need for 50% reductions in emissions against a 1990 benchmark by 2050. The HDR also develops for illustrative purposes a ‘two country’ emissions pathway, broadly differentiating between developed and developing countries. The latter exercise is provided for illustrative purposes and it charts a broad average. It is based on emission reductions by developed countries of 80% to 2050, with 30% reductions by 2020. Under this scenario, developing countries would need to cut emissions by 20% by 2050, with emissions rising until 2020. This exercise is entirely consistent with IPCC modelling exercises which explore a range of emission cuts for 80-95% for developed countries, and which were accepted by all governments (see IPCC Chapter 13 Box 7).
2 Concerns have been raised over the implications of the HDR’s pathways for equity in climate change mitigation. During the launch of the HDR in India, the Deputy Chairman of the Indian Planning Commission, Montek Ahluwalia, suggested that the implied reductions in emissions were unbalanced. In that context, he contrasted the HDR framework with an ‘equal per capita emissions’ approach under which developed and developing countries would see average emissions converge by 2050. In his response to the HDR, Mr Ahluwalia commented: “Today, the US emits about 20 tonnes of carbon dioxide (the main GHG) per capita per year. Reduce that by 80% and you get four tonnes per capita. India emits about 1 tonne per capita. Reduce that by 20% and you get 0.8 tonnes per capita. That’s not equal.” This note addresses the concerns raised by the Government of India.
3 The HDR pathway does not envisage per capita reductions in emissions from India from 1990 levels. What the pathway describes is a reduction in aggregate average emissions for developing countries. Applying an average to a specific country produces meaningless results. Translating the average reduction into an average per capita figure and using it for purposes of cross-country comparison, self-evidently requires adjustment for initial emission levels. Under the HDR emissions trajectory (see page 50 of the HDR) average emissions in developed and developing countries would converge to around 2.0 tonnes CO2 eq/capita by 2060. Currently, India’s emissions are 1-1.5 tonnes CO2 eq/cap. For sub-Saharan Africa the average is under 0.5 tonnes CO2 eq. In other words, the HDR trajectory is consistent with an increase in emissions from India of between one-third and 100%, rising to 400% for sub-Saharan Africa. By contrast, US emissions would have to fall from 20 tonnes CO2 eq/cap – a decline of 90%. The HDR does not offer prescriptions for national commitments. It points out that these are a matter for negotiation under the UNFCCC framework. That framework enshrines the key principle of common but differentiated responsibility, along with the principle that climate change mitigation will not require developing countries to compromise national poverty reduction objectives. With over 500 million people lacking access to basic energy services in India and sustained economic growth an imperative for poverty reduction, reducing per capita emissions from 1990 levels would be inconsistent with UNFCCC principles.
4 Differences between the ‘equal per capita emissions’ approach and the HDR model have been exaggerated. Under the HDR emissions trajectory, per capita emissions equalise shortly after 2060. Advancing that date to 2050 would require the reduction commitment from developed countries to increase from 80% to 85%. This is entirely consistent with the HDR’s formulation that developed countries will need to reduce emissions by at least 80%. Importantly, a pathway that equalises per capita emissions by 2050 will still require aggregate reduction by developing countries of around 8% against 1990 emission levels. The bottom line is that both approaches require rich countries to undertake deep and early cuts in emissions – and both require far smaller (and much later) reductions by developing countries. Failure on the part of most of developed countries to comply with the modest reduction commitments made under the Kyoto Protocol point to a more pressing challenge than differences in philosophical starting points.
5 The HDR does not suggest that countries such as India should undertake quantitative emission reduction commitments in the next Kyoto commitment period. Under our model, which was developed by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research, emissions from developing countries increase to 2020, before declining on average thereafter. For the vast majority of low-income countries, however, the percentage increase would exceed the average. The central message of the HDR is that, in the next Kyoto commitment period, the onus is on developed countries to (i) agree to targets for deep cuts and (ii) put in place policies that facilitate emission reductions in developing countries from 2020.
6 At no stage does the HDR suggest that developing countries assume sole financing responsibility for their emission reductions. The report argues that any reduction commitment by developing countries have to be preceded by the creation of an architecture for cooperation that creates incentives for low-carbon transition. These incentives include finance and technology transfer to support a low-carbon transition in energy generation. The HDR proposes the creation of a $25-50bn Climate Change Mitigation Facility (CCMF) to provide concessional finance, risk guarantees, and wider financial support for energy investments in developing countries. Such a facility could help to unlock a wide-range of ‘win-win’ scenarios, giving rise to efficiency gains and increased low-carbon financing that enhances access to affordable energy while supporting climate change mitigation. Similarly, international financial support for reducing emissions from deforestation could provide an important resource flow for mitigation. The bottom-line is that rich countries have to take on full or part-financing responsibility for incremental emission reductions in developing countries.
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