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Burden differentiation of greenhouse gas abatement: Fairness principles and proposals

Ringius, Lasse, Asbjørn Torvanger, Arild Underdal

This report is the second working paper of the joint CICERO (Center for International Climate and Environmental Research, Oslo) and ECN (Netherlands Energy Research Foundation) project ‘Rules for Burden Differentiation of Greenhouse Gas Reduction’. The funding of this research project by the Research Council of Netherlands is gratefully acknowledged. We are grateful to our ECN partners Remko Ybema, Jaap Jansen and Frank Ormel, and to Benito Müller, for useful comments and suggestions. Beginning in the late 1980, a series of international negotiations has been conducted with the explicit objective of preventing a negative change of the global climate system due to increasing concentrations of anthropogenic greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere. These on-going international negotiations therefore aim at the provision of an international public or collective good by a group of countries. The international public good in question - protection of the global climate system - is to be provided through a process of international negotiated cooperation. The good therefore is not provided by a single predominant actor who either supplies the good to itself and others, or who uses its power – understood in an economic or military sense – to force others to assist in providing the good. But, unsurprisingly, finding a way to distribute the costs within the group of countries involved has been a major obstacle in these negotiations. International negotiators have, in other words, been faced with the challenge of reaching an agreement on burden sharing among countries. In this context, burden sharing refers to the way in which a group of countries benefiting from a public good agrees to share the costs of providing that good. In the future, it will be important that international climate negotiations succeed to distribute the costs of protecting this international public good in a way that is widely seen as fair and just. Thus, developing a burden sharing scheme that is generally recognized as ‘fair’ is an essential condition for agreement on policy measures. Chapter 2 in this report makes a first attempt to identify those fairness and justice principles that are widely accepted by states and seem relevant for burden differentiation in future international climate policy negotiations. As this report points out, it seems quite clear that in order to be acceptable to a critical mass of parties a burden sharing scheme will have to combine two or more principles of fairness. No single principle can meet the full range of requirements. This report discusses in particular three different notions; equality, equity and exemption. Those notions or principles, if translated into operational rules that can be widely accepted by states, seem to create a normative platform upon which a fair burden sharing agreement could be fleshed out. Moving from theory to practice, chapter 3 presents a summary analysis of burden differentiation proposals and methods presented by governments in the course of the recently completed negotiations resulting in the Kyoto Protocol. It shows that there is a rather broad-based support for indicators applying the egalitarian principle as well as the ‘polluter pays’ principle. There also seems to exist a need to distinguish those real national economic and natural resource circumstances that are responsible for large part of the observed emissions asymmetries existing across countries. Chapter 4 offers a brief summary of implications for the design of more specific burden sharing rules.

More details

  • Year: 1999
  • Language: English
  • Series/Report: CICERO Working Paper;1999:13