17 October 2009

Unlocking the emissions impasse

Here's a good idea. Writing in the Guardian, Prasad Kasibhatla and Bill Chameides suggest a solution to the conflict between the developed and the developing nations over greenhouse gas emissions.

The developing nations argue, quite reasonably, that developed nations contributed most to the problem of global warming, and have enjoyed most of the benefits, so they should accept most of the responsibility for reducing the offending emissions. The developed nations claim this would subject them to politically and economically unacceptable restrictions and they demand binding targets from the developing nations. The result is an impasse.

Kasibhatla and Bill Chameides suggest an eminently reasonable compromise they call "progressive convergence." Developed countries would agree to make an early start on reductions, and developing countries would agree to never exceed the average per capita emissions of developed countries. Developing nations would be allowed to increase their per capita emissions until they equalled those of the developed nations; thereafter they would be required to match the declining per capita emissions of the developed nations. The result would be nations in sum converging to a declining per capita emission rate. India has already indicated it would be willing to commit to such a scheme.

This approach would still lay a heavy responsibility on the developed nations which some, Canada among them, have indicated little enthusiasm for. However, it is eminently fair and may, therefore, pique the consciences of the malingerers sufficiently to convince them to accept their responsibilities. Well ... we can always dream.

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