The climate fair shares idea is no longer novel. But as the planetary crisis deepens, its profile is changing. Humanity is facing a civilizational emergency – a polycrisis with both climate and injustice at its core – and we need big ideas that can help guide us out of it.
This discussion paper, which was prepared by the Climate Equity Reference Project for the Climate Action Network International, is focused on one such idea: climate fair shares. Its purpose is to support analysis and campaigns for equitable climate action, including – quite explicitly – greatly increased international climate finance flows.
Note here a political premise — the equity challenge cannot be set aside while we concentrate on “implementation.” To be absolutely clear — we are in trouble, but a rapid global climate transition can still be achieved. We have (all) the money and (most of) the technology we need. But it is hard to see how any sufficiently rapid transition will be possible unless the benefits and promises and also the unavoidable pain and disruption are shared amongst the people of this world in a way that is widely accepted as being fair, or at least fair enough. We can not follow, yet again, the all too often repeated pattern in which most of the benefits are captured by those who are already wealthy and powerful, while most of the pain and suffering is born by those already marginalized and oppressed.
- Lessons and Thoughts contains a careful executive summary, which is good, because the paper as a whole is pretty long. By today’s standards.
- It contains a tidy chapter on planetary inequality – which is what you get when you have a world of nations, some of them wealthy and some of them not, and all of them internally stratified between rich and poor.
- It contains a brief history of the equity debate within the international Climate Action Network, which is at this point a global network of more than 1,800 civil society organizations in over 130 countries.
- It reviews the various fair shares projects that have been done over the past few years — in Norway, Canada, the US, the UK, Quebec, New Zealand, France and South Africa. The lessons are both varied and interesting.
- It contains a brief — if somewhat technical — explanation of why, when thinking about national fair shares in an emergency climate mobilization, it might help to lean into the Climate Equity Reference framework. As opposed to some of the alternatives.
- It lays out some preliminary — but not entirely preliminary — thoughts about “climate realism”, which is considerably different from the traditional variety. Given the future we’re looking at, as we shoot far beyond the boundaries of a safe climate system, this conversation needs real attention.
- It offers some advice on framing the financial costs of stabilizing the climate system, and why these costs – though certainly denominated in trillions – might be far more tractable than they appear. Particularly given how much money we waste today, on the militaries and, of course, on the rich.
- Finally, it asks a group of big strategic questions, and invites reflections on difficult equity challenges that go beyond even climate fair shares.
Tom Athanasiou, for the Climate Equity Reference Project.