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A climate for change

A concept for mitigating climate change and at the same time economically lowering population growth, bridging official negotiation positions of the Indian, the Chinese and the US-administrations

Essay 2007 15 Pages

Business economics - Economic Policy

Excerpt

Content

Abstract

Introduction: Climate Change as A Major Threat to Development in India and China

The Conflict: Pushing Around Responsibility Leads to Current Standstill

No time left – The economic impact of climate change for India and China

A concept for reductions of GHG emissions down to sustainable levels that follows the US-position to include India and China while respecting their need for development

Idea of an international, free trading of CO2-emission permits and the likely role of China, India and the USA in this trade

Suggested design of a real international emissions trade

The cost of climate change mitigation for MEDCs; the impact of the introduction of the new market on position of the Sino-Indian region towards the MEDCs and on the Sino-Indian relationship

How linking each nation's gross amount of emission permits to its population size at a base year could give a strong incentive for every country to lower their population size

Western responsibility for historic CO2-emissions – Eastern responsibility for historic population increases? - Idea of putting the base year into the 20th century

Not realistic?

Abstract

One of the major vindications for the US not signing Kyoto is that the treaty does not contain any legally binding emission reduction targets for China and India, although these countries have become respectively the second and fifth biggest emitter of CO2.[1] India and China -in return- claim that a path of development that would not harm the climate is too expensive for them; the West has to pay for a historical responsibility that stems from its past emissions, which brought about anthropogenic climate change in the first place. In this way the blame is passed from one nation to the other, and in the meantime all three countries keep on increasing their gross emissions.[2] The essay identifies that part of the problem is the current perspective in intergovernmental emission reduction negotiation. All negotiation is about how much the global top -polluters agree to reduce their emissions. Kyoto left open to what value of CO2-equivalent countries ultimately have to reduce their emissions. Thus it was also not possible to tell how much India and China can increase their emissions. The essay rationalises how the exclusiveness of a top-down negotiation increases the cost of climate change mitigation in the US, as in China and India, by constricting the US-suggestion of international CO2-emission trading to the inflexible Clean Development Mechanism. It describes how China and India could be integrated into emissions trading by setting a definite limit to each country's emissions of CO2-equivalent. Here John Rawl's Original Position is used to identify that this value should be found on a per-capita basis. The essay follows on to analyse the effect that the introduction of such a huge new market would have on the Sino-Indian region compared to the West, and additionally how it could alter the economic relationships between China and India. The essay then presents two ideas on how the cost of this trading scheme would be divided between economically more developed countries and less economically developed countries, in order to improve the political feasibility of the concept.

Finally, the essay explains how linking each nation's gross amount of emission permits to the population size at a base year could give a strong economic incentive towards all countries world-wide to lower their populations.

Introduction: Climate Change as A Major Threat to Development in India and China

When the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change presented its Fourth Assessment Report this February in Paris, leaders from all over the world expressed their deep concern about climate change. The discussion whether or not climate change is caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations is over. Or, as Hu Jintao, the president of China put it “Climate change was only a scientific issue in the past, but at present it is a reality.”[3] Climate change -Hu concluded- was an “issue of development”[4]. This essay shall identify the severe consequences climate change is already having on the development of China and India. It the follows on to suggest a concept on how India and China could participate meaningfully in the global climate change mitigation that both countries deeply need and how we can bridge both the US and the Indian and Chinese government's positions in making this possible.

For India and China the effects of climate change are dramatic and they cover the whole region: Glaciers in western China's Qinghai-Tibet plateau, known as the “roof of the world”, are melting at a rate of 7 percent annually.[5] The Yellow River Valley- which is the very birthplace of the Chinese Han majority- is now suffering from constant water shortage. From the Western provinces of Xinjiang, Qinghai and Gansu, the Gobi Desert is coming so close to China's East that even Beijing is under the danger of being invaded by it.[6] Last year the sand storms dumped 300,000 metric tons on the city in two days alone[7]. At the same time, China's Southern provinces are fighting against the effects of increased frequency of rainfalls that virtually wash away villages. While climate change already endangers the standard of living of many of China's and India's peasant majority it presents a serious threat to the whole economy of both countries. Perspectives for both countries to keep on developing at their current pace seem to vanish considering current climate developments. 2005 probably was not only the warmest year since the measurement of temperatures but also the year with the largest annual increase in CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. And a perceived world-wide lack of meaningful political action to counteract this trend leads the United Nation's Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to predict that the global average temperature could rise by +4°C[8] until 2050 (medium estimate: +2.8°C[9]) which is way over the threshold level of +2.0° at which scientist expect environmental systems to collapse – threatening the basis of living of millions of Chinese and Indians.

The Conflict: Pushing Around Responsibility Leads to Current Standstill

Today's atmospheric concentration of CO2 (379 ppm[10]) can mostly be attributed to the development of today's more economically developed countries (MEDCs). For past methane and nitrous oxide emissions the share of less economically developed countries (LEDCs) has been larger as these gases are largely emitted from agricultural activities. For other greenhouse gases (GHGs) like CFCs however the past emission sources have almost exclusively been MEDCs and that presents us with the global picture that it is the past GHG emissions of MEDCs that are inhibiting development perspectives for LEDCs now. This idea was taken up by the world's governments in December 1997 when they agreed in Kyoto, Japan that the world should be divided into developed “Annex 1-countries” which had to meet legally binding emission reduction targets and the developing “Non-Annex 1 – countries” that were only required to pledge their good will to contribute to climate safety. Today the Kyoto Protocol has entered into force but has failed to reduce world-wide emissions meaningfully, especially because the USA as world's biggest CO2-emitter (~25%) has not ratified the contract and also because other MEDCs like most EU-countries are failing to meet their targets. US-president George W. Bush justifies his refusal of Kyoto “[...] because it exempts 80 percent of the world, including major population centers such as China and India [...][11] The position seems to make sense in that any effort to cut emissions can only be successful if all big emitters reduce and by 2010 China and India's enormous economic growth will have made these countries the biggest and fifth biggest emitters![12] Every day the number of cars on the roads of Beijing alone increases by 1000[13], every week China builds a new coal fired power plant.[14] All that will fuel an annual increase in Chinese CO2-emissions of over 4% (projection for 2010-2025[15]). China, however, justifies its lack of climate change mitigation with the fact that the USA is not doing enough. In the recent COP/MOP climate conference in Nairobi China's delegation leader Jiang Weixin confirmed that as long as the First World does not bring itself to fix limitations for after 2012 [the time when the Kyoto protocol expires] China would not see a reason to limit itself[16]. Chinese senior climate official Gao Guangsheng further demands “We appeal to developed country parties to fulfil their commitments on providing financial and technological support to developing country parties to enhance the developing country parties capacity in responding to climate change in accordance with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change”[17]. This quote expresses an attitude that both China and India take towards the negotiations: Their countries would lack the financial and technological means to cut emissions themselves, instead any such move would have to be induced and paid for by MEDCs. In this way the blame for the current standstill is being passed between governments.

No time left – The economic impact of climate change for India and China While China and the USA continue blaming each other, science is producing ever stronger evidence that climate change needs urgent action. The British government recently published a report by its head economic adviser and former executive director of the World Bank, Nicholas Stern. The report warns that the mentioned threshold level of +2°C could be reached as soon as 2035. It further predicts that “if we don’t act, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global GDP each year, now and forever. If a wider range of risks and impacts is taken into account, the estimates of damage could rise to 20% of GDP or more.”[18] For China and India things could be even worse since “[...] a disproportionate share of the climate-change burden falls on poor regions of the world [...]”[19] meaning that “The impacts of climate change are not evenly distributed – the poorest countries and people will suffer earliest and most.”[20] To put it blank, this would put an end to India and China's development plans. But Stern also concludes that “Even if the rich world takes on responsibility for absolute cuts in emissions of 60-80% by 2050, developing countries must take significant action too.”[21]

A concept for reductions of GHG emissions down to sustainable levels that follows the US-position to include India and China while respecting their need for development

A major problem of the negotiation perspective under the current Kyoto system can be identified and this problem contributes to the issue of shifting responsibility between governments.

Top-Down Perspective in the negotiation of GHG emission reduction

The emission reduction targets for Annex-1 countries were defined in comparison to a base year: 1990. All negotiation was about how much Annex 1 countries were willing to reduce based on their existing 1990 levels of emission . All binding emission targets were about how much those MEDCs with the highest level of emission (the top -level) needed to go down. It was never about how much the emissions of those LEDCs with the lowest emissions (the bottom -level) can go up.[22] We can describe this negotiation perspective as a top-down, the protocol lacked any bottom-up perspective. Why was this and why is it relevant to India and China?

[...]


[1] 'Each Country's Share of CO2 Emissions' 2000, Union of Concerned Scientists, [Online] Available at http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/science/each-countrys-share-of-co2-emissions.html

[2] ibid

[3] The State of The Climate at The China Meteorological Bureau, (2007, February 6). Press Conference [in Chinese], from http://news.qianlong.com/28874/2007/02/06/183@3661130.htm

[4] The State of The Climate at The China Meteorological Bureau (2007, February 6). Press Conference [in Chinese], from http://news.qianlong.com/28874/2007/02/06/183@3661130.htm

[5] China Daily (03.05.2006). Roof of the World, from http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2006-05/03/content_582276.htm

[6] Gluckman, Ron (2000). Beijing's Desert Storm, from http://www.gluckman.com/ChinaDesert.html
Brown, Lester R (2003). Earth Policy Institute. China loosing war with advancing deserts, From http://www.earth-policy.org/Updates/Update26.htm

[7] Tibetan Glaciers Reported Melting at Rapid Rate, http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,193970,00.html, 3May2006

[8] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007). Fourth Assessment Report Summary for Policymakers, page 11, from http://ipcc-wg1.ucar.edu/wg1/docs/WG1AR4_SPM_Approved_05Feb.pdf

[9] Temperature increase of the A1B scenario that the IPCC considers most likely. The A1B is seen as the 'middle scenario'. Temperatures are however likely to be higher than A1B assumes since the model cannot take into account of the so-called 'positive feedback mechanisms' the impact of which is feared to become drastic when the biological thresholds are crossed.

[10] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007). Fourth Assessment Report Summary for Policymakers, page 2, from http://ipcc-wg1.ucar.edu/wg1/docs/WG1AR4_SPM_Approved_05Feb.pdf

[11] Bush, George W (2001). Text of a Letter from the President to Senators Hagel, Helms, Craig, and Roberts, Office of the Press Secretary, From: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/03/20010314.html

[12] Shah, S (2006). China to pass US greenhouse gas, from http://news.independent.co.uk/world/asia/article1962439.ece

[13] Maas, H. (2007. February 6.), In China fahren bald mehr Autos als in den USA, Frankfurter Rundschau, No. 32

[14] Fairley, P (2007). China's Coal Future, from http://www.technologyreview.com/Energy/18069/

[15] National Environmental Trust, Global Warming Emissions in the U.S., China and India, From: http://www.net.org/warming/docs/technology_and_emissions.pdf

[16] Dieterich, J. (2006. November 18), Viel warme Luft in Nairobi, Der Bund, p.5 http://194.209.226.170/pdfarchiv/bund/2006/11/18/27005Ausland20061118_1.pdf 18.11.2006

[17] Xinhua (2006. November 16). China Calls for Deadline for Post-Kyoto Talks, From http://www.china.org.cn/english/international/189138.htm,

[18] HM Treasury. Stern Review – The Economics of Climate Change, Executive Summary (Full), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

[19] HM Treasury. Stern Review – The Economics of Climate Change, Executive Summary (Full), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

[20] HM Treasury. Stern Review – The Economics of Climate Change, Executive Summary (Full), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

[21] HM Treasury. Stern Review – The Economics of Climate Change, Executive Summary (Short), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

[22] This also applies to the Clean Development Mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol. While the CDM does involve LEDCs into the climate change mitigation efforts under Kyoto, it is always MEDC companies that can lower emissions in LEDC countries or through their investment prevent emissions. Also in CDM the perspective never was about how much emissions can increase.

Details

Pages
15
Year
2007
ISBN (eBook)
9783638695350
ISBN (Book)
9783638794206
File size
1.4 MB
Language
English
Catalog Number
v72842
Grade
Tags
Harvard College China-India Development Relations Symposium York

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Title: A climate for change