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Journal article

Greenhouse Development Rights: towards an equitable framework for global climate policy

The assignment of obligations to pay for mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and for adaptation to unavoidable climate change is a critical and controversial component of international negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Sivan Kartha / Published on 5 March 2009

Baer, P.; Fieldman, G.; Kartha, S.; Athanasiou, T. (2008). Greenhouse Development Rights: towards an equitable framework for global climate policy. Cambridge Review of International Affairs. Vol 21., Issue 4.

In this article we present a new framework called ‘Greenhouse Development Rights’ (GDRs): a formula for the calculation of national obligations on the basis of quantified capacity (wealth) and responsibility (contribution to climate change). GDRs seek to preserve the ‘right to development’ by exempting from obligation any income and emissions under a ‘development threshold’.

By taking into account the distribution of income and emissions within countries, and calculating national obligations as if they were the aggregated obligations of individuals, the framework treats every global citizen identically, and allocates obligations even to poor countries that are proportional to their actual middle-class and wealthy populations. When coupled to a trajectory of rapid emissions reductions (for example, 80 per cent reduction below 1990 levels by 2050), the framework results in larger reduction obligations for both rich and poor countries than they currently seem prepared to accept. However, the formula may be ‘fair enough’ to break the impasse that currently separates rich and poor countries in the negotiations.

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Sivan Kartha

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