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Climate agreements based on responsibility for global warming: Periodic updating, policy choices, and regional costs

Nathan Appleton Rive, Asbjørn Torvanger, Jan S. Fuglestvedt

It has been suggested that calculations of historical responsibility for global warming should be used to distribute mitigation requirements in future climate agreements. For a medium-term mitigation scenario, we calculate regional mitigation costs resulting from global allocation schemes based on the Brazilian Proposal that solely incorporate historical responsibility as a burden sharing criterion. We find that they are likely to violate ability-to-pay principles. In spite of less stringent abatement requirements, developing country regions experience cost burdens (as a percentage of GDP) in the same range as those of developed countries. We also assess the policy options available for calculating historical responsibility. The periodic updating of responsibility calculations over time, concerns over the robustness and availability of emissions data, and the question of whether past emissions were knowingly harmful, may lead to policy choices that increase the relative historical responsibility attributed to developing countries. This, in turn, would increase their mitigation cost burden

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