Advisers to the German government are proposing a new approach to pay for global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions: a global "carbon bank."
The proposal would assign each country its allowable emissions based on its population size in 2010. Countries that exceed their "carbon budget" would be required to purchase excess emissions allowances from the world's least-developed countries through the carbon bank, the German Advisory Council on Global Change suggests.
International climate negotiators continue to disagree on
how much funding wealthy nations should provide for developing countries to
create low-carbon infrastructure, adapt to climate change, and avoid future
losses of carbon-absorbing forests. Countries that are historically large
polluters, such as the United States,
Japan, and many European
countries, have withheld funds until large developing economies such as China and India commit to emissions
reductions and dedicate more of their own financial resources to the effort.
The advisory council's report [PDF] recommends that negotiators
resolve the financing debate by focusing on per-capita emissions rather than
each country's emissions total.
"The only fair and just principle would be to assign
[emissions reductions] on a per-capita basis, because no human being can argue
they have an inherently bigger right to put carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
than anyone else," said Stefan Rahmstorf, an oceanographer with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research,
who serves on the advisory council.
The advisory council proposes that each country's national carbon budget average 2.7 tons of carbon dioxide per person. By 2050, each country would emit an average of 1 ton of carbon dioxide per person, a goal that the report estimates would be possible if the 95 least-developed nations avoided substantial increases in their emissions during the next 40 years.
Currently, most countries in sub-Saharan Africa emit less than 1 ton per person. By comparison, the average U.S. citizen emits 20 tons of carbon dioxide, and the average person in China releases 4 tons, according to the latest estimates.
Ben Block is a staff writer with the Worldwatch Institute. He can be reached at email@example.com. This article is a product of Eye on Earth, Worldwatch Institute's online news service.