The four questions we should ask about emissions cuts, and CGC’s answers

Griffin Carpenter recently posted a blog article on the New Economics Foundation website which brings up some good questions with regard to emissions cuts. I’ve copied his questions below, and provided some possible answers from the CGC perspective:

1. How should we measure emissions? The tendency is to focus on large emitters like the US and China, but to some extent this is a measure of their population size. Instead it seems reasonable to start from a point of country obligations on a per person basis. And while emissions are usually measured as within a country’s borders, there is a measurement problem around whether global trade should be taken into account. For example, since 1990 annual emissions in the UK have fallen by 25% but UK consumption-based emissions have only fallen by 7%.”

CGC would measure emissions ‘upstream’, from the point of production of fossil fuels, which would entirely circumvent the problems outlined above – emissions from trade, aviation, and shipping would automatically be included, and the system would ensure that those producing fossil fuels, regardless of the country in which they are located, pay for their use of the atmosphere as a dump. This cost would then be passed on to fossil fuel consumers. We are not alone in making this argument: commentators as various as Sir John Houghton and George Monbiot share our view.

2. Should historic emissions matter? Many countries have polluted, and continue to pollute, more greenhouse gas emissions than others. We’ve previously pointed to a tally showing that the UK leads in the world in historic per capita emissions. India often argues that it should face lesser obligations than those nations whose development has created the problem.where necessary. “

Again, CGC would automatically benefit those who produce fewer emissions, as they would directly gain financially under the system, in contrast to those who consume larger amounts of fossil fuel energy. This not only solves the problem of discrepancies between countries’ current emissions described above, it also solves an additional problem: the élites within many Global South countries consume more than their share of fossil fuel.

While CGC does not include a direct mechanism for addressing historic emissions, it could provide a valuable springboard for achieving broader climate justice by empowering impoverished Global South communities, enabling them to take further legal action where necessary.

3. Who has the ability to reduce emissions? Some countries say the onus should be on those most capable of doing so. This is not just a point about relative levels of emissions – it being easier to reduce from 10 to 9 tonnes/capita than from 1 to 0 tonnes/capita – but also due to economic development and the tremendous economic inequality between countries.”

As stated above, CGC would ensure that those who consume less-then-average amounts of fossil fuel would benefit in financial terms. Indeed, it would trigger a significant transfer of wealth, resources and technology from the Global North to the Global South. The funding could be used by individuals and communities worldwide to invest in renewable energy, healthcare, education and whatever else they deem useful or valuable.

4. Who will climate change hurt the most? Climate change costs are not only in lessening emissions (mitigation) but also in dealing with the impacts (adaptation). Research continues to show that the impacts of climate change will not fall evenly across the globe….. The sad reality is that those who have contributed the most to climate change will be impacted the least, and as we’ve pointed out, are also the most likely to be climate sceptics.”

CGC would ensure that even climate sceptics would have to make the needed cutbacks in emissions, and also pay compensation. Moreover, since it would likely have a stabilising effect on the world economy by reducing poverty and inequality, it might even gain some advocates among climate sceptics. You don’t actually have to believe in anthropogenic climate change to be able to appreciate many of the benefits of CGC.

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