Our Common Future Under Climate Change

International Scientific Conference 7-10 JULY 2015 Paris, France

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Friday 10 July - 14:00-15:30 UNESCO Fontenoy - ROOM VI

4412 - Inequalities, responsibilities and equity in global climate policy

Parallel Session

Lead Convener(s): M. Fleurbaey (Princeton University, Princeton, United States of America)

Convener(s): P. Frumhoff (Union of Concerned Scientists, Cambridge, MA, United States of America), D. Michel

14:00

Why We Should Make RICE NICE: The Importance of Intragenerational Inequalities for the Economics of Climate Change

M. Budolfson, (Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, United States of America), F. Dennig (Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, United States of America), M. Fleurbaey (Princeton University, Princeton, United States of America), A. Siebert, (Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, United States of America), R. Socolow (Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, United States of America)

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Why We Should Make RICE NICE: The Importance of Intragenerational Inequalities for the Economics of Climate Change

M. Budolfson, (1) ; F. Dennig (1) ; M. Fleurbaey (2) ; A. Siebert, (3) ; R. Socolow (4)
(1) Princeton University, Uchv/wws, Princeton, New Jersey, United States of America; (2) Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton, United States of America; (3) Princeton University, Climate futures initiative, Princeton, New Jersey, United States of America; (4) Princeton University, Mechanical engineering, climate futures initiative, Princeton, New Jersey, United States of America

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RICE and leading IAMs focus on aggregate economic growth, which has the effect of downplaying important detrimental effects of climate change on the poorest populations.  In this paper we introduce a variant of the RICE model in which income distributions at a sub-regional level are modeled. We call the new model NICE, for Nesting Inequalities, Climate and Economy. By reframing the model with the above income disaggregation (in our case into income quintiles), we strive to address these issues of temporal urgency and intraregional equity more thoroughly.

When the degree of inequality aversion (embodied in the elasticity of marginal utility) is increased in RICE, the prescribed mitigation effort is reduced quite significantly. The underlying reason is the Ramsey equation:

discount rate = pure time preference + inequality aversion x growth rate.

With the positive (and often significant) growth rates of such models, an increase in the elasticity simply leads to more discounting.

However, if inequality aversion is a good reason to discount future damages to wealthier individuals relative to equivalent mitigation costs to the less affluent present, it should also be a good reason to be more concerned about damages (and costs) to poorer individuals than richer individuals, regardless of the time in which they take place.

In NICE sub-regional income distributions are explicitly modeled. We combine these with several point estimates from the literature on the distribution of climate damages across income groups. Once these are incorporated, the picture of the richer future benefiting from the effort of the relatively poor present disappears. We find that for some reasonable damage distributions the poorest income groups in some regions could be worse off than their predecessors even under the low damage estimates from the IAM literature. The effect on the policy prescription is that much more aggressive mitigation is warranted to avoid damaging those vulnerable groups. Furthermore, the effort is increasing in the degree of inequality aversion in the social objective for some damage assumptions.

Explicit incorporation of distributional concerns in the evaluation of a public good such as climate change mitigation can be criticized for making an inefficient use of policy instruments. Ideally, the public good should be provided considering aggregates, and distributional concerns dealt with by more efficient redistributive policies. We consider such a possibility in NICE, and find that the redistributive policies required to substitute for the strong mitigation policy are well beyond what can be considered politically feasible. If income redistribution from rich to poor is performed within regions (with no transfers across regions), an additional 65% marginal tax rate would have to be levied and redistributed in order to alleviate the same (modeled) economic damages to the poor as might be alleviated by the welfare optimal mitigation rate. We also examine transfers between regions. “Overseas” aid from other regions would have to be particularly efficient at targeting only the poor to be an adequate substitute at all, and even so, it would have to be significantly greater than currently accepted levels.

14:12

The climate responsibilities of industrial carbon producers

P. Frumhoff (Union of Concerned Scientists, Cambridge, MA, United States of America), R. Heede (Climate Accountability Institute, Snowmass, CO, United States of America), N. Oreskes (Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, United States of America)

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The climate responsibilities of industrial carbon producers

P. Frumhoff (1) ; R. Heede (2) ; N. Oreskes (3)
(1) Union of Concerned Scientists, Cambridge, MA, United States of America; (2) Climate Accountability Institute, Snowmass, CO, United States of America; (3) Harvard University, Department of the history of science, Cambridge, MA, United States of America

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Responsibility for climate change lies at the heart of societal debate over actions to address it. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) established the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" among nations, suggesting that industrialized nations that had produced the greatest share of historic emissions bore particular responsibility for preventing dangerous interference with the climate system.

But climate responsibilities can be distributed in other ways as well. Here, we consider the distinctive responsibilities of the major investor-owned producers of fossil fuels, assessing the actions these companies took and could have taken to act upon the scientific evidence of climate change. 

Recently published data show that just 90 entities have produced the fossil energy responsible for 63 percent of the world’s industrial emissions of CO2 and methane; of these, 50 are investor-owned companies. As the scientific evidence became clear, many of these companies sought sow doubt about the science linking their products to global warming, and today are seeking new and increasingly carbon-polluting sources of fossil fuels

We conclude that major investor-owned fossil energy companies carry significant responsibility for climate change. It is still possible for these companies to effectively contribute to a solution. Significant progress in reducing emissions and limiting climate change could be achieved if companies 1) unequivocally communicate to the public, shareholders, and policymakers of the climate risks resulting from continued use of their products, and therefore the need for restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the 2 °C global temperature target; 2) firmly reject contrary claims by industry trade associations and lobbying groups; and, 3) accelerate their transition to the production of low-carbon energy. Evidence from history strongly suggests that a heightened societal focus on their climate responsibilities may hasten such a transition.

14:24

Equity, Justice, and Security in Global Climate Governance

D. Michel (The Stimson Center, Washington, DC, United States of America)

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Equity, Justice, and Security in Global Climate Governance

D. Michel (1)
(1) The Stimson Center, Environmental Security Program, Washington, DC, United States of America

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Global climate change presents the international community with a seemingly intractable collective action problem. Growing greenhouse gas emissions are projected to raise global temperatures, shift precipitation patterns, and increase extreme weather events. The emerging repercussions of climate changes already underway threaten the livelihoods and security of countries and communities everywhere. Both the drivers and the impacts of transcend traditional state boundaries and governance structures. No single state can counter or avert the impacts of climate change on its own. But any country that moves to reduce its emissions shares the climate benefits with every other nation while bearing the cost of taking action alone. Those states which do nothing to combat climate change can “free ride” on the efforts of those that do. The UNFCCC has become the global platform for international negotiations to agree and coordinate climate policies among nearly 200 sovereign states. But ongoing debates over the effectiveness and equity of mitigation measures, adaptation, technologies and funding suggest the need for re-evaluation. The future of greenhouse governance depends on innovation towards new type(s) of climate regime. Does the architecture of universal agreement constitute the way forward, or are other channels more suited for climate action? Could the emerging landscape of regional, multi-sectoral, and non-state institutional structures open fruitful potential options and practices for advancing more effective climate governance? Can new governance mechanisms simultaneously ensure climate security and justice, efficiency and accountability, technology innovation and dissemination, or must decision makers and stakeholders inevitably navigate trade-offs between these goals?

 

In preparation for the 70th anniversary of the United Nations in 2015, The Hague Institute for Global Justice and The Stimson Center have convened a high-level Commission on Global Security, Justice & Governance, to enhance global understanding and capacity and to advance practical recommendations for innovative collaborative action to address critical global challenges such as climate change.  Co-chaired by former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Foreign Minister Ibrahim Gambari of Nigeria, commission members include Yoriko Kawaguchi, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of the Environment of Japan; Shyam Saran, former Foreign Secretary and chief climate negotiator of India; and Erna Witoelar, Founder of the Indonesian Environmental Forum.  The Commission will conclude its report in June 2015.  This contribution will provide the opportunity to present and discuss the Commission’s analysis and recommendations.

14:36

A novel approach for analysing how equitable and ambitious countries' national policy actions and targets are in the light of the forthcoming Intended National Determined Contributions (INDCs)

N. Höhne (NewClimate Institute, Cologne, Germany), M. R. Rocha (Climate Analytics, Berlin, Germany), H. Fekete, (NewClimate Institute, Cologne, Germany), B. Hare (Climate Analytics, Berlin, Germany), M. Schaeffer, (Climate Analytics, Berlin, Germany), M. Hagemann, (NewClimate Institute, Cologne, Germany), M. L. Jeffery (Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Potsdam, Germany), J. Gütschow (Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Potsdam, Germany), F. Sferra (Climate Analytics, Berlin, Germany), Y. Deng (Ecofys, Cologne, Germany), K. Blok (Ecofys, Cologne, Germany), K. Wouters, (Ecofys, Cologne, Germany), B. P. Van (Ecofys, Cologne, Germany), F. Comaty (Ecofys, Cologne, Germany)

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A novel approach for analysing how equitable and ambitious countries' national policy actions and targets are in the light of the forthcoming Intended National Determined Contributions (INDCs)

MR. Rocha (1) ; N. Höhne (2) ; H. Fekete, (2) ; B. Hare (1) ; M. Schaeffer, (1) ; M. Hagemann, (2) ; ML. Jeffery (3) ; J. Gütschow (3) ; F. Sferra (1) ; Y. Deng (4) ; K. Wouters, (4) ; BP. Van (4) ; F. Comaty (4) ; K. Blok (4)
(1) Climate Analytics, Berlin, Germany; (2) NewClimate Institute, Cologne, Germany; (3) Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Potsdam, Germany; (4) Ecofys, Cologne, Germany

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Countries are currently working on preparing measures to conquer climate change at many frontiers. They are developing policies that will lead to emission reductions in the short and medium term, they are considering aspirational long-term targets that provide guidance to policy-makers and stakeholders, and they are preparing submissions to the UNFCCC, in the form of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), committing to legally-binding targets (e.g. emissions reductions below base year) for the post-2020 period. The sum of the initially proposed national actions at a global level so far falls short of what is required to keep global warming below 2 degree above pre-industrial level. More action will be needed and major questions remaining include; which countries are doing their fair share?, which ones are not?, and by how much does each country need to increase their effort?

To answer these questions, global 2 degree-compatible emission pathways have to be broken down to country-level, fair emissions allowances. This can be achieved using effort-sharing methodologies. A wide variety of such approaches exist and their different underlying criteria and assumptions can lead to very different outcomes and a large range of emissions allowances for different countries. Here, we propose a methodology that allows the comprehensive assessment of countries’ fair level of effort in a 2-degree world, which integrates the many views put forward by countries and the scientific community, without bias towards specific methodologies.

This methodology builds on previous work for the IPCC Fifth report that gathered and categorized existing effort sharing studies. The categories provided there serve as the basis for our analysis framework as they represent the broad range of possible ‘principles’ that could be applied to effort sharing. With the goal of extracting a unified benchmark system from the various approaches and categories for countries, we used these ‘principles’ to develop a framework that enables the rating of countries current level of effort against their fair level of effort. In addition the framework takes account of countries’ mitigation potentials and aspects such as finance provided and the conditionality of targets on external parameters. Four categories are introduced that describe the countries’ overall effort level: inadequate, medium, sufficient and role model.

Under this proposed framework, the ambition of a large number of countries that have put forward targets so far are rated as inadequate or medium according to the scale developed here. One of the major emitters, China, has pledged to peak emissions no later than 2030. The Climate Action Tracker quantifies resulting emissions of up to 15Gt in 2030, and rates this as inadequate, as only the least stringent effort sharing category is achieved at this level. The currently announced target of the USA of 26 - 28% below 2005 in 2025 results in a rating of medium, meaning that this target is within the range of a number of effort-sharing categories, but the level of ambition would only be sufficient at the global level, if other countries moved into the more ambitious end of their effort sharing ranges. The submitted INDC of the EU of reducing emissions by 40% below 1990 also receives the rating inadequate. Effort sharing approaches demand a stronger change in trends of the EU, in order for it to contribute in a fair manner to the global target.

14:46

Quantifying Development Needs: An energy centered approach to climate justice

N. Rao (IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria), W. Lamb (Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, Manchester, United Kingdom)

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Quantifying Development Needs: An energy centered approach to climate justice

N. Rao (1) ; W. Lamb (2)
(1) IIASA, Energy, Laxenburg, Austria; (2) Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom

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Despite the vast literature on global climate justice, there is a surprising lack of studies that attempt to quantify the emissions impact of basic human development, even though many of these frameworks aim, either implicitly or explicitly, to shield basic human development from the costs of mitigation.[1] Broadly, the literature that frames distributive justice in terms of emissions rights neglects to relate these rights to development needs, making them susceptible as claims of ‘hot air’. Proposals that aim to differentiate nations’ capacity to mitigate define relatively arbitrary, universal thresholds of exemption,[2] typically in terms of income[3] or emissions, which ignore the heterogeneity in countries’ energy sectors, and consequently their mitigation costs.[4] Yet, achieving climate stabilization at 450 ppm or less would significantly restrict global growth in energy, whose sufficiency for even basic development is not known.[5]

 

This paper presents a new basis for differentiating countries’ mitigation responsibilities based neither on emissions rights nor income differences, but directly linking human development needs to greenhouse gas emissions through energy. Drawing on the well-known linkages between energy and human development, this paper presents theoretically and empirically grounded quantification of countries’ energy needs for achieving basic human development. Using different indicators of human development (HD), including life expectancy and a composite (new) basic needs indicator, the historical relationship between countries’ energy consumption and HD are estimated, and then projected into the future. The methodology also estimates historical decoupling between HD and energy use, so as to account for technological progress. Carbon intensities of energy are then separately projected based on different scenarios of the future, incorporating co-benefits and other future incentives for low-carbon development.

 

The cumulative emissions budgets for countries, so calculated, provide country-specific estimates of development needs for a universal set of HD standards, which can serve as a basis for deriving countries’ mitigation responsibility. The paper discusses how the underlying analysis enables claims of basic development to be incorporated into both country-specific aggregate emissions targets, as well as into sector-specific cross-country mitigation regimes.

 

This work buildings on a forthcoming publication in Global Environmental Change [6] and presents preliminary ideas from research commencing shortly as part of a European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant entitled ‘Decent Living Energy: energy and emissions thresholds for providing decent living standards to all’.

[1] Rao, N. 2011. Climate change and equity: different metrics and views. In A Handbook on Climate Change and India, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, India

[2] Rao, N. 2013. International and intranational equity in burden-sharing agreements for climate change mitigation. International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Diplomacy, 14(2) 129:146.

[3] Baer, P., Kartha, S., Athanasiou, T., Kemp-Benedict, E., 2009. The Greenhouse Development Rights Framework: Drawing Attention to Inequality within Nations in the Global Climate Policy Debate. Dev. Change 40, 1121–1138

[4] Chakravarty, Shoibal, et al. "Sharing global CO2 emission reductions among one billion high emitters." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2009): pnas-0905232106.

[5] Steckel, JC. et al. 2013. Development without energy? Assessing future scenarios of energy consumption in developing countries, Ecological Economics. 90, 53-67

[6] Lamb, W., & N. D. Rao, forthcoming, Human development in a climate-constrained world: what the past says about the future, Global Environmental Change.

14:56

Legal Strategies to Accelerate Climate Action

N. Amerasinghe (Center for International Environmental Law, Washington DC, United States of America)

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Legal Strategies to Accelerate Climate Action

N. Amerasinghe (1)
(1) Center for International Environmental Law, Climate & Energy Program, Washington DC, United States of America

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Climate change is occurring at a faster pace than the international negotiations to address the problem.  In the absence of meaningful progress to reach an ambitious and binding global agreement on climate change, we need new strategies to accelerate climate action.  Strategic legal challenges are a powerful tool in effecting transformative change, a tool that groups around the world are already starting to explore.  

There are a variety of legal challenges that could be used to hold culpable actors responsible for causing climate-related harms.  While the types of legal claims and corresponding evidentiary burdens will vary across jurisdictions, they typically involve a plaintiff with a particularized harm, and a defendant who is responsible and potentially liable for causing that harm.  Thus, two primary hurdles in bringing these kinds of claims are identifying those responsible for climate change and connecting their actions to the harms suffered by climate-affected individuals and communities.  

Scientific evidence plays a critical role in addressing these hurdles by providing the information needed to identify potential defendants and to link actions to harms (i.e. demonstrating causation).  For example, in 2014, the scientific journal Climatic Change published new research that traces nearly two-thirds of all industrial emissions of greenhouse gases to only 90 carbon producing entities (including 50 investor-owned entities).  This groundbreaking research provides an identifiable set of defendants whose impact can be quantified at the global level. Coupled with ongoing research to connect specific extreme weather events to the human contribution to greenhouse gas concentrations, the research adds a vital link in the causal chain essential to all successful litigation: connecting the actions of identifiable defendants to the harms suffered by identifiable plaintiffs.  Scientific research can also show if climate harms can be redressed and quantify the remedy if the harms cannot be redressed.  

This presentation will explore potential legal theories to hold culpable actors, particularly the major carbon producers, responsible for their contributions to climate change and its resulting harms.  It will also discuss the importance of integrating scientific research into emerging legal strategies and, conversely, how legal strategies can inform and shape litigation-relevant science.

15:06

Beyond Burden-Sharing: The Potential for Peace and Reconciliation Processes in Climate Equity Debates

S. Klinsky (Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, United States of America)

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Beyond Burden-Sharing: The Potential for Peace and Reconciliation Processes in Climate Equity Debates

S. Klinsky (1)
(1) Arizona State University, School of Sustainability, Tempe, AZ, United States of America

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Geopolitical changes combined with the increasing urgency of ambitious climate action have re-opened long-standing debates about equity in the international climate arena.  Tensions about historical responsibility have been particularly difficult and have the potential to intensify as climate impacts and losses become more severe, and as developing countries face mounting pressure to take mitigation action. Resolving conflicts about the role of historical responsibility may be necessary to enable a global transition to a regime capable of facilitating the depth of collective action required.  This paper presents an alterative to burden-sharing and suggests that a peace and reconciliation approach – in which the focus is on balancing efforts to address historically rooted injustices with a future-oriented collective direction and narrative – may have utility in the climate context.

 

Although substantial policy experience has been gained through efforts to address other complex conflicts at the interface of historical responsibility and imperatives for new collective futures – such as the transition from apartheid in South Africa – lessons from these processes have not been examined in the climate context. The contexts are profoundly different but international climate policy debates share three key similarities with conflicts in which peace and reconciliation processes have been pursued: a) unavoidable interdependence and mutually harmful consequences of not finding an agreement; b) limited ability to address justice concerns through existing judiciary processes; and c) profound disagreements about how the past and future should relate in a period of transition.

 

This paper provides an overview of insights from existing peace and reconciliation processes and focuses on the importance of negotiating a balance between addressing historical injustices and moving into a new, collective future.  It then illustrates how approaching climate equity from this angle could productively refocus the discussion in particularly important areas for international negotiations, including loss and damage, financial support and capacity building. 

15:16

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