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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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).

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Climate Change Institute, Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200, Australia

    • Michael R. Raupach
  2. Department of Earth System Science, University of California, Croul Hall, Irvine, California 92697, USA

    • Steven J. Davis
  3. Center for International Climate and Environmental Research – Oslo (CICERO), PO Box 1129 Blindern, N-0318 Oslo, Norway

    • Glen P. Peters
    •  & Robbie M. Andrew
  4. Global Carbon Project, Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2601, Australia

    • Josep G. Canadell
  5. IPSL-LSCE, CEA CNRS UVSQ, Centre d'Etudes Orme des Merisiers, 91191 Gif sur Yvette, France

    • Philippe Ciais
  6. College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter EX4 4QF, UK

    • Pierre Friedlingstein
  7. Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200, Australia

    • Frank Jotzo
  8. PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, Postbus 303, 3720 AH Bilthoven, The Netherlands

    • Detlef P. van Vuuren
  9. Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University, Postbus 80.115, 3508TC Utrecht, The Netherlands

    • Detlef P. van Vuuren
  10. Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of East Anglia, Norwich Research Park, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK

    • Corinne Le Quéré

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Contributions

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.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Michael R. Raupach.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2384