7 February, 2023

Uncompensated claims to fair emission space risk putting Paris Agreement goals out of reach


Gaurav Ganti, Matthew Gidden, Christopher Smith, Claire Fyson, Alexander Nauels, Keywan Riahi and Carl-Friedrich Schleussner

Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh, India

Addressing questions of equitable contributions to emission reductions is important to facilitate ambitious global action on climate change within the ambit of the Paris Agreement. Several large developing regions with low historical contributions to global warming have a strong moral claim to a large proportion of the remaining carbon budget. However, this claim needs to be assessed in a context where the RCB consistent with the long-term temperature goal of the Paris Agreement is rapidly diminishing.

Here we assess the potential tension between the moral claim to the remaining carbon space by large developing regions with low per capita emissions, and the collective obligation to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. Based on scenarios underlying the IPCC’s 6th Assessment Report, we construct a suite of scenarios that combine the following elements:

  • two quantifications of a moral claim to the remaining carbon space by South Asia, and Africa,
  • a ‘highest possible emission reduction’ effort by developed regions, and
  • a corresponding range for other developing regions.

We find that even the best effort by developed regions cannot compensate for a unilateral claim to the remaining carbon space by South Asia and Africa. This would put the LTTG firmly out of reach unless other developing regions cede their moral claim to emissions space and, like developed regions, pursue highest possible emission reductions, which would also constitute an inequitable outcome. Furthermore, regions such as Latin America would need to provide large-scale negative emissions with potential risks and negative side effects.

Our findings raise important questions of perspectives on equity in the context of the Paris Agreement including on the critical importance of climate finance. A failure to provide adequate levels of financial support to compensate large developing regions to emit less than their moral claim will put the Paris Agreement at risk.