Join the new openDemocracy debate on the politics of climate change hereDuring the past decade, negotiations at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), have become progressively divorced from the objective and principles of the original agreement reached at Rio in 1992. The objective had been to stabilise rising concentrations of greenhouse gases in the global atmosphere below a level that would trigger dangerous rates of climate change. The principles were precaution and equity.
The Kyoto Protocol of 1997, the result of the post-Rio negotiation, has been recognised both as 'a heroic first step' and also as completely inadequate. However arduously achieved, it is a creature of blame and shame resulting from what was, effectively, guesswork. It is hardly a robust long-term framework for survival.
There is a real need for a global framework for survival that takes us beyond guesswork. Contraction and Convergence (hereafter C&C;) is such a model. The Global Commons Institute (GCI) has advocated it at the UN and elsewhere during the past decade. Precisely because it is a global accounting system based on the objective and principles of the UNFCCC, it has attracted increasingly influential support. Many governments at the UN support it, as do eminent persons and institutions.
C&C; is a tool for negotiating the totality of global greenhouse gas emissions contraction to save the climate on the basis of precaution. At the same time, it offers a way of negotiating the international shares of the process which addresses two fundamental requirements - that the negotiation takes place on the logical basis of equity (that is convergence to equal per capita shares or rights by all the parties involved); and that the negotiation takes place on a global and time-specific basis.
GCI's C&C-Options; computer model simply provides the numbers for all the possible rates of emissions contraction and, within this, all the possible rates of convergence. GCI has its own views about what rates of C&C; will be effective, but in essence C&C; is a straightforward calculating procedure that makes possible a review of all the options and therefore an effective, inclusive outcome that is both safe and fair.
A model for the real world
Benito Muller says "it would be feasible, affordable, fair and sensible to give everyone in the world an equal per capita allocation now. Each person would also have the right to trade emissions so that the poor low emitters could benefit from this legitimate asset."
In fact, the C&C; model remains possibly the only calculating device put forward so far that not only embraces exactly what Benito is arguing for, but which is capable of calculating in full the necessary international accounting figures.
It is not accurate to say that C&C; "starts out with a 'grandfathering' allocation, essentially a uniform percentage target across the board". From day one, C&C; removes grandfather rights at a rate that is determined by the disparate initial per capita emissions levels internationally, in favour of equal rights by an agreed date However, this process would apply the principles of C&C; at rates that have been negotiated by the parties themselves, rather than those pre-determined and handed down by experts and observers.
If the international community commands an immediate convergence within a staged contraction, the model will calculate it. It is not GCI's role to decree the content of decisions that can only be reached by negotiation, but it is our role to point out their detailed consequences in the light of the C&C; model.
Benito is right that the shares that result from his proposal or from negotiated rates of C&C; should be internationally tradeable. The GCI is with him all the way on this. Avoiding dangerous climate change can only occur if there are resource flows to developing countries at a rate that makes it possible for them to avoid the dirty energy mistakes the West has made so far.
When all countries and regions agree (and, as necessary, trade) a system of shares based on C&C;, the result will be to constrain further global climate change and damages and to hasten the development of the clean technologies that will help make a sustainable future for humanity and the planet.