Sharing a quota on cumulative carbon emissions

Abstract

Any limit on future global warming is associated with a quota on cumulative global CO2 emissions. We translate this global carbon quota to regional and national scales, on a spectrum of sharing principles that extends from continuation of the present distribution of emissions to an equal per-capita distribution of cumulative emissions. A blend of these endpoints emerges as the most viable option. For a carbon quota consistent with a 2 °C warming limit (relative to pre-industrial levels), the necessary long-term mitigation rates are very challenging (typically over 5% per year), both because of strong limits on future emissions from the global carbon quota and also the likely short-term persistence in emissions growth in many regions.

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Figure 1: Sharing the carbon-quota pie.
Figure 2: Quotas, cumulative committed emissions and fossil-fuel reserves.
Figure 3: Dependence of the regional mitigation challenge on the sharing index (w) and the warming limit.
Figure 4: Distribution of the mitigation challenge among countries.

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Acknowledgements

M.R.R. and J.G.C. acknowledge support from the Australian Climate Change Science Program of the Department of Environment, Australian Government. G.P.P. and R.M.A. were supported by the Norwegian Research Council (236296). P.C. acknowledges support from the European Commission's 7th Framework Programme under Grant Agreements 603864 (HELIX) and the ERC Synergy Project P-IMBALANCE. P.F. was supported by the European Commission's 7th Framework Programme under Grant Agreements 282672 (EMBRACE) and 603864 (HELIX). F.J. was supported by the Australian Research Council (grant DP110102057). C.L.Q. was supported by the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)'s International Opportunities Fund (project NE/103002X/1) and EU/FP7 project GEOCarbon (283080). The authors are grateful to C. Wilson and H. Ransan-Cooper for insightful comments. This work is a contribution to the Global Carbon Project (www.globalcarbonproject.org).

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M.R.R. designed the study, carried out calculations and coordinated the conception and writing of the paper. S.J.D. contributed data on committed emissions and drew figures. G.P.P. and R.M.A. contributed data on committed emissions and resources. All authors contributed to the writing of the paper.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Michael R. Raupach.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Raupach, M., Davis, S., Peters, G. et al. Sharing a quota on cumulative carbon emissions. Nature Clim Change 4, 873–879 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2384

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