This is a quick notice of a brief “correspondence” piece, just published in Nature Climate Change.
Cascading biases against poorer countries (see the sharable link at https://rdcu.be/MMbA) was written by an ad-hoc group of analysts and philosophers who got together in 2017 to respond to Equitable mitigation to achieve the Paris Agreement goals (the sharable link is https://t.co/vXFWgLDBOV), which du Pont et. al. published in December of 2016 in Nature Climate Change.
Our published response to du Pont et. al., Cascading biases against poorer countries, is quite short, but we think it manages to make its core points. In a nutshell, our claim in that du Pont and his colleagues reach counter-intuitive conclusions (for example that the EU has made a more “equitable” pledge than either China or India) by way of a cascading series of decisions that, taken together, skew their approach towards various kinds of grandfathering, while, at the same time, appearing to be derived from a balanced and comprehensive set of high-level equity principles.
A bit more . . .
Climate politics can be brutally difficult. You have to tell the truth, for one thing, but if that’s all you do, you lose. The real trick is telling the truth in a helpful manner, one that opens doors. So kudos to Jason Mark, the Editor-in-Chief of Sierra Magazine, who pulls this off nicely in The Case for Climate Reparations, the cover story of the current issue.
The subtitle, “It’s Time the Carbon Barons Paid the Costs for our Unnatural Disasters,” signals the secret of Mark’s success. He’s asking for something real, but he’s not asking for the world. This is the Transitional Justice way. Reparations are just one tool in the toolkit, one device among many. The real challenge is to face history, and to do so in a meaningful way that makes it possible to then move forward.
That said, reparations are a very special device, for they go beyond the recognition of past wrongs to demand paybacks for historical debts. In South Africa, after Apartheid, these are the debts owed by colonizers to their former subjects. Today, in the United States, on the reparations for slavery front, they are the living legacy of the Confederacy, and of “reconstruction” and its cruelties, and of “the new Jim Crow.” (For more on these themes, see The Case for Reparations, by Ta-Nehisi Coates.)
But, again, Mark is making a measured case. He’s not even naming the great challenge of “differentiated responsibilities” a phrase from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that, overplayed in decades of often bitter negotiations, has left the realists terrified of equity in any form. Quiet conveniently terrified, actually. He’s just talking about the fossil corporates, his “carbon barons,” and suggesting that it’s their time on the block, their time to face history.
The Sierra Club should be congratulated for this piece. I hope they don’t have to put up with too much carping for running it. Because the truth is that, unlike the challenge of mitigation — which can to some degree be met with technology, and market mechanisms, and policy reforms — the challenges of adaptation and loss & damage are absolutely going to elude the devices of politics as usual. When the waters rise in earnest, and they will, when the deserts spread and intensify, and they will, the question of responsibility is going to hang heavy in the air.
In fact, it already does. And facing it in a helpful way is going to be hard. But, hey, we gotta start somewhere. Why not with the fact the Exxon lied?
Oil Change International, the very model of an activist climate think tank, has released an excellent critique of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA’s) climate scenarios. It’s called Off Track: The IEA and Climate Change, and it’s well worth your time. Also note that the principle author of the report, Greg Muttitt, has recorded a concise webinar version of the report which is archived here.
This is pretty technical stuff, but if given that the IEA’s New Policy Scenario is one of the most influential climate / energy projections in all the world, and given that it is massively inconsistent with the Paris temperature goals, it’s also pretty important.
Just one specific point. The IEA not only has its New Policy Scenario, it also has its so-called Sustainable Development Scenario, and even this latter scenario is nowhere close to being consistent with the Paris temperature goals. Moreover, the IEA’s conception of this more stringent scenario is nowhere close to being equitable.
This graphic, from the Oil Change report, makes this clear. It shows that, in the IEA’s view, the bulk of the reductions that need to be made if we’re to increase ambition from the from the New Policy level to the Sustainable Development level, should be made in the developing countries.
If this is what passes for realism in the IEA, we’ve really got a problem.
It’s two years now since Paris, and time for another dose of Kevin Anderson, straight-shooter extraordinaire. You can get it by watching this talk, given at Anderson’s home base at the University of Manchester. The talk begins at time-code 11:00 and runs until about 42:20. There’s a lot more to say, but Anderson fits a lot into those 31 minutes. My only quibble is with his explanation of why the political elites behind the Paris Agreement were so eager to celebrate it, which I find to be painfully thin. But the mainline of talk is great, as far as it goes, and that’s pretty far, actually. Here’s a sample slide:
The Heinrich Boell Foundation has published an excellent report on COP23, which you can find here. It’s long, but if you’re going to read one piece, this is the one. Also, I just did a half-hour interview with Earth Island’s Maureen Mitra on KPFA’s Terra Verde, here. It’s not bad, though I probably said “Loss and Damage” too many times. On the other hand, this may be a habit we all get into in the years ahead.
Great post by Dave Roberts on VOX, here. It’s nominally a response to the “not having a kid is the best way to reduce your carbon footprint” argument, which Roberts debunks by reminding us that carbon emissions are class stratified, all the way down. He does so quoting Oxfam’s top-notch inequality research, including this graph:
How to interpret this? Like so:
“This shows that the top 10 percent of the wealthiest people in China emit less carbon per person than people on the bottom half of the US wealth distribution — again, inequality between countries — but it also shows that the top 10 percent wealthiest in the US emit more than five times as much CO2 per person as those on the lower half of the income scale.
So wealthy people in the US produce 10 times more per capita emissions than the wealthy in China. That is pretty mind-boggling.
The point here is that not all individual choices are created equal, because not all individuals are equally capable of having an impact. The choices of developed-world citizens matter more than the choices of (say) Chinese citizens, and the choices of wealthy developed-world citizens matter most of all.
The rich, in other words, are the ones that should be getting hassled about their choices. For most working schmoes, this kind of moralizing of lifestyle is as pointless as it is off-putting.”
With the publication of Fairly sharing 1.5: national fair shares of a 1.5 °C-compliant global mitigation effort in the journal International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, we finally have a peer reviewed overview of our effort sharing framework. It’s part of the special issue on Achieving 1.5 °C and Climate Justice
Sorry, but some of the papers are behind a paywall. But some of them aren’t, and you can read our paper here.
“The problem of fairly distributing the global mitigation effort is particularly important for the 1.5°C temperature limitation objective, due to its rapidly depleting global carbon budget. Here, we present methodology and results of the first study examining national mitigation pledges presented at the 2015 Paris climate summit, relative to equity benchmarks and 1.5 °C-compliant global mitigation.
Uniquely, pertinent ethical choices were made via deliberative processes of civil society organizations, resulting in an agreed range of effort-sharing parameters. Based on this, we quantified each country’s range of fair shares of 1.5°C-compliant mitigation, using the Climate Equity Reference Project’s allocation framework. Contrasting this with national 2025/2030 mitigation pledges reveals a large global mitigation gap, within which wealthier countries’ mitigation pledges fall far short, while poorer countries’ pledges, collectively, meet their fair share.
We also present results for individual countries (e.g. China exceeding; India meeting; EU, USA, Japan, and Brazil falling short). We outline ethical considerations and choices arising when deliberating fair effort sharing and discuss the importance of separating this choice making from the scholarly work of quantitative “equity modelling” itself. Second, we elaborate our approach for quantifying countries’ fair shares of a global mitigation effort, the Climate Equity Reference Framework. Third, we present and discuss the results of this analysis with emphasis on the role of mitigation support.
In concluding, we identify twofold obligations for all countries in a justice-centred implementation of 1.5 °C-compliant mitigation: (1) unsupported domestic reductions and (2) engagement in deep international mitigation cooperation, through provision of international financial and other support, or through undertaking additional supported mitigation activities. Consequently, an equitable pathway to 1.5 °C can only be imagined with such large-scale international cooperation and support; otherwise, 1.5 °C-compliant mitigation will remain out of reach, impose undue suffering on the world’s poorest, or both.”
The new Christian Aid fair shares report — Climate Inequality in the Commonwealth: A call for urgent action (which we provided the analytic support for) is a step forward for at least two reasons. First, it very practically provides a fair-shares analysis at a sub-global level, within the 53 member Commonwealth of Nations. Second it calls for the wealthy Commonwealth nations to support the poorer members by very specifically aiding them in eliminating energy poverty. In fact, it expresses that support not in cash terms but in terms of in terawatt hours of renewable electricity generating capacity. The renewables side of the analysis is based on the latest work of the International Renewable Energy Agency
Well its two years since Paris, and the Bonn climate conference is over, and the future looms.
It’s a good time to stop and read the new report of the Civil Society Equity Coalition, which EcoEquity, a core member of the Climate Equity Reference Project, is extremely pleased to support. It’s a really short report, so you have time to do so. Read at least the summary, and don’t be put off by the report’s subtitle, which is “Towards a meaningful 2018 Facilitative Dialog.” The Facilitative Dialog is one of the “ambition mechanisms” that was created by the Paris Agreement, and we should all wish it the best. Dialog, after all, is fundamental to governance, and indeed to civilization. In the absence of a global state, we’re going to have to make the most of it, and of all the ambition mechanisms, if we’re going to have a real chance of stabilizing the climate system.
Here’s the blurb we used in the press release:
CLIMATE SCIENCE TELLS THAT US URGENT AND DRAMATIC ACTION IS NEEDED TO HAVE ANY CHANCE AT STOPPING IRREVERSIBLE GLOBAL WARMING
Accepting the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scenarios provide us with a global carbon budget that will be consumed in 10–20 years at current emissions levels, and entail very significant levels of risk. A commitment to keep at least within this limited budget, and to share the effort of doing so equitably and fairly, is at the heart of the international debate around climate change.
As a result of agreeing the Paris Agreement in 2015, governments have put forward voluntary pledges starting in 2015 in the form of ‘Nationally Determined Contributions’ (NDCs).
An updated analysis from a diverse and broad global mix of civil society organizations seeks to ascertain whether these pledges are ambitious enough and tolerably fair.
(By the way, the picture above is of a makeshift seawall in Patuakhali, Bangladesh, a region prone to frequent cyclones and devastating floods. It was taken by Brandon Wu of Action Aid).