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Contract and converge

Written By: - Date published: 11:13 am, August 27th, 2009 - 15 comments
Categories: climate change - Tags:

There’s a limited amount of carbon emissions we can make as a world in the coming decades if we are to avoid runaway climate change.

So, how to fairly share the remaining ‘safe’ emissions that can be made over the next 50 years?

The solution is called contract and converge. Click on the image below to see an animation on this concept from the movie The Age of Stupid (they’ve disabled embedding, sorry)

contract and converge

So, initially the allocation matches current per capita emissions in each country. The total amount that may be emitted falls each year but the per capita right to emit falls faster for people in big emitting countries and actually rises in the lowest emitters. By 2025, everyone on Earth has the same right to emit, and this right continues to shrink year on year so that in 50 years time emissions are less than 20% of what they are now.

The system is fair and equitable. It recognises that some people live more high carbon lifestyles at present but also says that ultimately the only fair way to share this limited resource is equally.

Poor countries who get rising caps over the first years could sell excess emission rights to other countries, which would end up being a source of income for these poorer countries. Richer countries would purchase a larger right to emit in those earlier years, easing their transition without letting them off the hook.

To get such a system in place, it would require the world’s nations to make a long-term commitment and the big emitters to step up and shoulder the biggest burden. Unfortunately, our leaders will probably lack the courage. Instead, we’ll get piecemeal and insufficient reduction targets that have more to do with politics than the scientific reality of the biggest threat we face as a species.

15 comments on “Contract and converge ”

  1. Anon 1

    Is this a real proposal on the table or a fictional idea?

  2. ieuan 2

    Nice idea, but it doesn’t have a hope in hell of working.

    Also there does not seem to be any allowance for population growth. The populations of India and Africa are still growing at a very high rate whereas the populations of most 1st world countries are stable or even falling (ignoring immigration).

    • So Bored 2.1

      You may be right that it has no hope in hell of working. The problem as I see it is that there is no commitment to anything else working either, as evidenced by the attitude of NACT to emmissions targets.

      We seem to be collective cigarette smokers, we know that if we continue smoking we die of lung diseases, nothing surer. In between whiles we all take a few more “breathers” and puffs of the fag, after all we are not dead today and we can all give up smoking tomorrow and fix things. So we carry on blithely smoking. Then follows the collective question of how did the cancer become terminal?

    • Bright Red 2.2

      You could incorporate population growth in but it couldn’t lift the total amount of emissions allowed, the cap would have to be spread thinner is all. The climate doesn’t care how many of use there are, just what the total emissions are.

      • ieuan 2.2.1

        It’s a bit hard to say to the US population that their carbon ration is lower than predicted because the African population is growing faster than anticipated.

        That is why per country emission targets or limits would work better (rather than limits on each individual). It also allows a country to plant more trees, invest in public transport etc to help meet its target rather that just trying to control the actions of each individual.

  3. roger nome 3

    Cheep shot ahoy!:

    I thought that was David Farrar on the top left for a while – rather apt given the colour (politically), size and consumption patterns of the individual.

  4. Lanthanide 4

    “Unfortunately, our leaders will probably lack the courage”

    I’m a bit sick of this dumping on “our leaders” all the time. It’s not “our leaders” that are the primary problem, it is *us*. “Our leaders” represent us – if they do something we don’t like, we replace them with leaders whom we think will represent us better.

    • Rob A 4.1

      hear hear. Lets face it, all politicians really care about is the next election. If we make it a make or break issue then it becomes one.

    • So Bored 4.2

      On the carbon issue we are all able to do something apart from vote: it is down to our personal consumption patterns. We might do as little as walk to the dairy, or use less packaged foods etc. We cannot wait for politicians or interest groups to do the right thing, we can lead them by the nose by our habits. Its where true market power comes in, consumer leadership.

      • Bill 4.2.1

        “Its where true market power comes in, consumer leadership.”

        Sorry SB, but that is utter bollox. Organised citizens can change shit. Not consumers. It’s simply not about consumption, it’s about production.

        I’d punt that the proportion of our contribution to CO2 ( as individuals) is very much higher in job related activity than in consumer/non-job activity.

        Job related CO2 includes travel to and from work and in a manufacturing setting, the CO2 belching industrial processes we make ourselves a part of eg making flat screen TVs or whatever that we know are shite in a CO2 context but that we keep doing ’cause “It’s a job.” ‘Cause ” I’ve got a family to support.” ‘Cause ” What else am I meant to do?”

        And if you are not a hands on factory or production worker then you might want to consider all those job related conferences and meetings that are flown to.

        And then you might want to think about the post from last week that highlighted suicide rates increasing with job losses and wonder how we get out of this if it is the doing of our jobs that is the main cause of CO2 levels but that we consider our jobs as so important that we will potentially will kill ourselves if they don’t have them!

        But maybe you believe it is the running of the car rather than its manufacture; the burning of the lightbulb rather than its manufacturing and distribution….Green Capitalism. Buy it?

  5. So Bored 5

    Bill, beat me for optimism…I started out with your view and concluded the current political / economic paradigm was not going to allow us to kick dependency. All you say is correct, except we can fight back even if in a minor way. Small actions by enough people have an effect, perhaps replace the words consumer leadership with consumer resistance. Its the Gandhi method. We can cause some pain to producers, and as you point out it will give us pain too.

    Its that or sit and do zilch, because the current set up wont change. As for markets, they represent exploitation of people and resources and as such can never be anything other than destructive. Green capitalism, forget it , its an oxymoron.

    • Bill 5.1

      Producers aren’t some off-planet life form..we, workers, are the producers. And we don’t have to do what we do. And we don’t need permission to not do what we are currently doing.

      I’m sick and tired of hearing that by buying a particular light bulb or some-such other utterly ridiculous course of action is going to have any effect whatsoever. It won’t. And any person who believes that it will is, or will become, a part of the problem.

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