Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The middle kingdom

It looks a little like 'everyone turn around us':
The Carbon Budget Proposal [put forward by China at Poznan] suggests that emission allowances could be set at 2.33 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year for each person on the planet in the period 1900 to 2050 as part of a goal of halving world emissions by 2050...

..."You might say this is in favor of China," says Jiahua Pan, who led the study. "It's not the case. China's own "carbon budget" would be roughly in balance at 2.33 tonnes per capita over the period 1900 to 2050, he says.
-- from Give everyone CO2 permits, say scientists

Convenient for China. What is the assumed total carbon budget?

David Adam on expecting the worst.

1 comment:

Clive Bates said...

I think there is more to be positive about... it may look self-serving (and is) but it's a useful counter-attack by the Chinese.

The main thing is that it is a useful reminder about equity and responsibility. I doubt it is really meant as a proposal, in the sense of something to be negotiated over and operationalised. More a rhetorical gambit, aimed at wrong footing those that say China should do more.

Conceptually it is not a bad idea as it creates a kind of 'carbon debt' held by the developed world, most of which have already used their 1900-2050 allowance, and it reminds us that the accumulated carbon is not that much the responsibility of the billion+ Chinese.

It's conceptually much better than convergence and contraction in my view. C&C not only unfairly allocates valuable rights until the point of convergence, it also grants rights to polluters through its grandfathering of 1990 emissions right through to the point of convergence and it has no reflection of past responsibility. C&C does some advantages, as does Kyoto-2 - but neither have a strong implementation of polluter pays principle.

The Chinese model could be improved by more sophisticated accounting for the impact of emissions at different times (a tonne of CO2 emitted in 1900 would count less than one emitted now) or the value of rights acquired at different times might be 'depreciated' over time - reflecting the idea they represent the right to use or abuse a 'sink' and that absorptive capacity isn't completely fungible over time. Anyway, I doubt it will ever come to that degree of tuning.

The Chinese proposal is a reasonable attempt to allocate emission rights fairly, and then to rely on gigantic trading flows for continuity and efficient use of the available 150 year budget. Which is why it will never be accepted - too much money would need to change hands.

But it is a good rejoinder to that increasingly vocal tendency that seeks to pin too much responsibility on China and too little to US and Europe.