Greenhouse Development Rights

Differentiating Responsbility

Posted in GDRs methodology by Jörg Haas on February 26, 2008
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The core of the Greenhouse Development Rights Framework is an indicator: The Responsibility and Capacity Indicator (RCI). It quantifies the responsibility for climate change and the capacity to act. As for responsibility, the indicator takes into account the cumulative emissions since 1990 of the population living above a development threshold of 9000$/capita income (PPP adjusted).

Benito Müller and others have published already last October a paper on “Differentiating (Historic) Responsibilities for Climate Change”. Looks like a quite interesting methodological contribution.

ResponsibilityThe Report recognises two distinct kinds of responsibility, namely strict (or unlimited) responsibility, and limited responsibility, which are based on, but different from, the causal contribution to climate change. The latter equals cumulative historic emissions of the greenhouse gases CO2, CH4 and N2O (incl. those from land use change and forestry).

In order to determine a country’s share in the strict responsibility for the climate change problem, it is allocated a part of the harmless global emissions on a per capita basis. This ‘basic allowance’ is then subtracted from the country’s historic emissions, with the remainder (if any) determining its share in strict responsibility for the problem.

The limited responsibility calculations were restricted to post-1990 emissions. The justified need to grow, in turn, was implemented through the introduction of individual subsistence allocations’ of 2tCO2eq. per poor inhabitant (the average per capita energy emissions of the developing world), which were allocated to every inhabitant surviving on less than $1 a day.

The latter concept of limited responsibility is quite similar to the one applied in calculating the RCI, with a difference only in calculating the subsistence emissions. It could well serve as an alternative approach to calculating the responsibility part in the RCI. Still, we have never claimed that the way the RCI is calculated is the only one that makes sense. We just claim it is defensibly fair.

Looking at the different shares that countries have in causal contribution, strict and limited responsibility, it is quite interesting to observe the differences (click at the thumbnail above to see the full graph). Interesting enough, India has a small but relevant share of the causal contribition, but no share of strict or limited responsibility. China, on the contrary, has an equally relevant share of 11-12% of the causal contribution and the limited responsibility. In this case, the limited responsibility is quite high, probably due to the fact that the share of the population surviving on less than $1 a day is much smaller than in India.

Well worth reading, this Summary Report.