Conflict about historic responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions

Feb 23, 2013

The commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions should be allocated based on countries' historic responsibility for the emissions. This logic was recognized early on in climate negotiations. But the countries are still disputing how it should be interpreted and applied.

When the was adopted in 1992, "historic responsibility" was established – that is, the countries that release the most also have a greater responsibility to reduce emissions. To some extent this is also reflected in the convention, where the industrialised countries (OECD) have made a greater commitment than the .

But despite twenty years of negotiations, there is still no prevailing consensus on how the historic responsibility should be interpreted in detail. Rather, the conflict has become sharper. So argues Mathias Friman, who recently defended his doctoral thesis at Water and Environmental Studies (WES) at Linköping University in Sweden. In his study, he brings out two different interpretations of the historic responsibility, which have come out in .

"On one hand there is proportional responsibility, namely responsibility in proportion to impact on the climate. This gives the industrialised countries the greatest responsibility, and has given rise to a number of different models; there are thousands of ways to calculate this."

"Another interpretation is , where the countries contribute to reductions based on their capacity. This also gives the greater responsibility, but opens up a way for the new developing countries to make a greater commitment."

While the developing countries argued for proportional responsibility, in accordance with the principle "the polluter pays", it was countered by the rich countries with two main arguments: One is that it is far too difficult to calculate exactly what proportional responsibility means in the commitment. The other is that we cannot hold previous generations responsible for something they didn't know was harmful.

The rich countries prefer to talk about moral responsibility, more based on capacity. This way, rapidly developing countries like Brazil, China, Mexico, South Africa, and India could also have greater commitments imposed as their capacity increases. China, for its part, has argued for historic responsibility calculated on a per capita basis.

Up until 2007 it historic responsibility was fairly silent in the negotiations, Friman states. The concept had been accepted, but the issue had been referred to an advisory body where various calculation models were worked out. Now, there are a range of such models and it is more difficult to blame it on "it can't be calculated," he says. The issue of historic responsibility has returned to the negotiations, and the conflict has become sharper.

"It is understandable that the conflict will heat up considerably now that historic responsibility will actually be translated into a range of commitments," Friman says, citing the United States as an example:

The US says it wants to take the lead in climate work through committing to decreasing its emissions by 3% up through 2020, as compared with 1990. On the other hand, if the responsibility would be calculated proportionately, the US would end up with a reduction requirement closer to 50-60%.

Right now it's difficult to see a solution, Friman states, who in his thesis also reviewed the rules for dialogues within the climate convention. Rules for decision-making are absent, and the mechanisms for conflict resolution other than through negotiation are very weak. Among other things, this means that all decisions must be taken in and that agreements must be accepted or rejected in their entirety – something that paves the way for sharp contradictions and intense conflicts, he states.

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2.7 / 5 (11) Feb 23, 2013
On the other hand, if the responsibility would be calculated proportionately, the US would end up with a reduction requirement closer to 50-60%.

Sigh! No wonder these negotiations are a mess, and the US is one of the few countries actively reducing CO2 emissions. If all other countries agreed to maintain their emissions at the 1990 level (and actually do it) the crisis would be averted, and the US would be responsible for 100% of the reduction. But what we really have is most first world countries working hard on reducing their CO2 footprints, and China and a few others massively increasing their CO2 emissions.

To some extent, the problem is self correcting. China's cities are experiencing killing smog levels, just like London did in the 19th century, and Los Angeles and others in the 20th century. The choice now for China now is to clean up their act or die. Some, but not all, of that clean up will reduce CO2 emissions per capita.
Terry Floyd
2 / 5 (4) Feb 23, 2013
The US researched the Thorium Molten Salt Breeder Reactor in the
1960s under Dr Alvin Weinberg at Oak Ridge. The time to continue this development of the Thorium Molten Salt technologies is 40
years behind and LIGHT YEARS ahead of all of the other energy technologies combined. One ton of Thorium in a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Rector will produce more thermal and electrical energy than 3 million tons of coal that is also CO2 free.
1.6 / 5 (7) Feb 23, 2013
Here I have written an article along with a "We the People" Petition and a bunch of other articles which goes into the details of who is responsible for what portion of CO2 emissions by country producing the CO2. It is very detailed and contains a chart to the effect. Here it is: . Also, Terry_Floyd I have created a
We the People" Petition to fund a study of the efficacy of converting all coal fire plants to LFTR nuclear reactors. I need 150 signatures before its public. Please read and sign. Here it is
3.7 / 5 (9) Feb 23, 2013
"China and a few others massively increasing their CO2 emissions."

China has 100 GW of wind power in their pipeline. http://www.greent...Pipeline

Many parts of the world are now talking seriously about 100% renewables in the forseeable future - http://cleantechn...-normal/

The cost of solar panels is predicted to continue dropping very significantly over the next few years (thin film by 50%) - http://cleantechn...modules/

It is actually happening at break neck speed - it is just hard to see it when you are in the midst of it. It makes a joke of the spammers on this site who say things like "renewable energy will never power an advanced industrial society"
1 / 5 (11) Feb 23, 2013
IMO it's all just a single huge mistake - the greenhouse emissions come with desorption of carbon dioxide and methane from ocean water and permafrost with heating with radioactive decay, accelerated with dark matter cloud (neutrinos) at the galactic plane. They advance the global warming, not recede it.

So, should we fuck the fossil fuel replacement at all and enjoy our lives? Of course not, because without backup solution we will all face the global nuclear war very soon. When the price of oil will jump above $300/gallon, then the nuclear conflict will become unavoidable. It's not fear mongering from my side - this is simply how our world works.

So we should decrease our fossil fuel dependency as much as possible - if nothing else than just because it will make authoritarian and religious regimes weaker. The wind and solar plants are just temporal and very limited solution in capacity, not to say about biofuels (it's the most reliable way, how to destroy the rain forests completely)
4.4 / 5 (7) Feb 23, 2013
"When the price of oil will jump above $300/gallon,"

That will be right after Rossi produces his first e-cat (April 19th Otto - it is on my calender). I hope that gas does go that high - but think you are probably way off base. Electric cars are about on a par with gas cars in terms of their cost per mile - so if gas prices triple - every one will have an electric.
1.7 / 5 (12) Feb 23, 2013
Who cares.

2.3 / 5 (8) Feb 23, 2013
Did this argument include the huge methane emissions from China's rice paddies? http://www.npr.or...22638800

And if the US decreased their emissions 60 percent, wouldn't that mean destroying the economy?
1.4 / 5 (11) Feb 23, 2013
If all other countries agreed to maintain their emissions at the 1990 level (and actually do it) the crisis would be averted,

Poop on a stick. There is no crisis.
1.8 / 5 (10) Feb 24, 2013
So emerging economies must be allowed to pollute because USA and others did?

Given that logic, the emerging economies should also use slaves for labor and ....

5 / 5 (4) Feb 24, 2013
An overnight reduction of that magnitude would certainly do so.

But no one is proposing that.

"And if the US decreased their emissions 60 percent, wouldn't that mean destroying the economy?" - Tioe

Not burning fuel needlessly will actually improve the U.S. economy, since it will represent a reduction in waste.

But even if slow reductions would also destroy the U.S. economy. The decision to do so is forced upon the U.S. by nature.

Double product lifetimes and you half the rate of production by halving the rate of consumption.

Therefore you half the rate of energy use in that consumption.

Leisure is the ultimate Liberty.
5 / 5 (3) Feb 24, 2013
The only equitable starting point is equal carbon emissions per capita for each nation.

"So emerging economies must be allowed to pollute because USA and others did?" - k_m

This means that the U.S. will have to reduce it's CO2 emissions by 80 to 90 percent.

Nature demands it.

Failure to comply means mass death.

5 / 5 (5) Feb 24, 2013
The ongoing reversion of the U.S. grain belt to desert is no crisis to ShooTard.

The inability of his children to feed themselves is part of his glorious plan for America's future.

"There is no crisis." - ShooTard
1.8 / 5 (5) Feb 24, 2013
Poop on a stick. There is no crisis.
How to boil the frog in global warming way
1.3 / 5 (6) Feb 24, 2013
The ongoing reversion of the U.S. grain belt to desert is no crisis to ShooTard.
The inability of his children to feed themselves is part of his glorious plan for America's future.
"There is no crisis." - ShooTard

Even if we experience a measurable negative effect of human emitted CO2 in some regions of the world (after we subtract 'natural warming' and black carbon that accounts for almost half of the measured warming) adapting to the new circumstances is one of 'our' strong points. Irrigation and building dikes comes to mind.
Birth control would be another healthy idea. After all who would like to live in a world with one large city filled with skyscrapers covering the entire world (read Stand on Zanzibar). With or without climate effects induced by humans we will hit all limits in a relatively short time.


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