22 November, 2015

Historical responsibility for climate change – from countries emissions to contribution to temperature increase


Marcia Rocha, Mario Krapp, Johannes Gütschow, Louise Jeffery, Bill Hare, Michiel Schaeffer

This report, commissioned by the Brazilian Environmental Ministry, seeks to determine countries’ historical contribution to climate change. The notion of historical responsibility is central to the equity debate and the measure of responsibility as a countries’ share of historical global emissions remains one of the essential parameters in so-called equity proposals, which attempt to distribute effort among countries in an equitable manner.

The focus of this report is on the historical contribution of countries, but it takes it one step further: its general objective lies on estimating countries’ contribution directly to the change in climate. The historical responsibility is not based on cumulative emissions but instead measured in terms of the countries’ estimated contribution to the increase in global-mean surface-air temperature.