CC-03-01 Crafting a Fair Climate Agreement

Fairness, Development, and Per Capita Emissions Rights

Photo of demonstrators dressed as Polar Bears for Fight Climate Poverty. Photo by Ng Swan Ti, Oxfam International Polar Bears Fight Climate Poverty
CREDIT: Ng Swan Ti, Oxfam International (CC).

This is lesson five of six on climate change. 

Here are links to the other five:

Introduction and the Precautionary Principle:
Lesson 01-01, Lesson 01-02

Allocating Responsibility:
Lesson 02-01, Lesson 02-02

Agreements and Competing Values
Lesson 03-01, Lesson 03-02

INTRODUCTION

A lot of criticism has been leveled at the world's first attempt to tackle global warming, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Kyoto Protocol). Some fault it for being too strong and binding, while others criticize it for being too weak and unenforceable.

The agreement is redrawn periodically to adapt to new evidence and new political circumstances. Contentious issues during the upcoming phase of climate negotiation and implementation include: adaptation funding and technology transfer to developing countries; compensating poor countries for protecting forests and indigenous rights; and international versus domestic environmental justice and competitiveness problems associated with cap and trade.

Has the agreement to date been effective? Can the Kyoto Protocol be an engine for development, or is it merely a smokescreen to hide the developed world's inaction on climate change? How can the "right to pollute" be allocated fairly across nations? Do poor people have the right to subsistence emissions for survival?

INSTRUCTOR PREPARATION NEEDED

Familiarity with arguments for and against the Kyoto Protocol. Familiarity with the case for allocating emissions rights on a per capita basis. Familiarity with the merits of a cap-and-trade system for mitigating carbon versus a carbon tax.

LESSON PLAN

In-Class Activities
Do: Discussion (60 minutes)
Could per capita allocation of emissions rights help international development and solve climate change in a fairer manner? What are the pros and cons of using a cap-and-trade system versus a carbon tax? What mechanism for technology transfer could help the developing world to reduce pollution?

Assignments to Be Completed in Advance (0-2+ hours)
Read:
Saul Gomez, "Cap and (Fair) Trade," Policy Innovations (July 11, 2007)

Could a global cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions help redistribute wealth and technology to the developing world while reducing pollution?

Matthew Hennessey, "Cap and Trade vs. Carbon Tax," Policy Innovations (November 19, 2007)

What's the difference between taxing carbon emissions and instituting a market-based system of cap-and-trade? Which approach will more effectively reduce emissions? Which is fairer?

Peter Singer, "A Fair Deal on Climate Change," Project Syndicate, June 21, 2007

Renowned ethical philosopher Peter Singer argues that climate change solutions should allocate emissions allowances on a per capita basis, which would greatly favor poor and populous countries.

Listen:
Nikhil Chandavarkar, "Crafting a Fair Climate Agreement," Workshop for Ethics in Business (November 2, 2007)

United Nations official Nikhil Chandavarkar says developed countries focus on mitigation and absolute emissions levels whereas developing countries cite their low per capita emissions and their need for adaptation, technology, and finance.

RELATED ETHICS QUESTION

Since the wealthier countries consume disproportionately more energy and resources than the poorer countries, should emissions rights be allocated on a per capita basis to enhance fairness and development?

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Financing the Global Climate Change Response: Suggestions for a Climate Change Fund, South Centre Analytical Note (May 2008)

This South Centre Analytical Note stresses that the provision of financing from developed countries to developing countries is required under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Scott Barrett, Why Cooperate? The Incentive to Supply Global Public Goods (audio), Policy Innovations (October 16, 2007)

Solving climate change will benefit nearly everyone, yet there is collective inertia preventing action. Who are the actors and obstacles involved in solving this problem?

Stephen Gardiner, "The Global Warming Tragedy and the Dangerous Illusion of the Kyoto Protocol," Ethics & International Affairs 18, no. 1 (Winter 2004)

Gardiner insists that the Kyoto agreement, far from being too demanding, does too little to protect future generations. 

Shiyang Li, "Environmental Treaties: Inconvenience or Opportunity?" Policy Innovations (December 20, 2006)

This article explores some of the friction in the United States over participating in environmental treaties, and discusses how emissions trading under the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism may not be working as intended.

Vicente Paolo Yu, "Integrating Development in Climate Change" (PDF), South Centre (November 2007)

Yu argues that a comprehensive post-Kyoto Protocol policy framework should reflect the concern of developing countries to place their economies on a sustained and sustainable development path and the global concern to substantially reduce GHG emissions and mitigate and adapt to global warming.

Read More: development, energy, environment, ethics, globalization, human rights, oil, poverty, world economy

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