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National post-2020 greenhouse gas targets and diversity-aware leadership

Abstract

Achieving the collective goal of limiting warming to below 2 °C or 1.5 °C compared to pre-industrial levels requires a transition towards a fully decarbonized world. Annual greenhouse gas emissions on such a path in 2025 or 2030 can be allocated to individual countries using a variety of allocation schemes. We reanalyse the IPCC literature allocation database and provide country-level details for three approaches. At this stage, however, it seems utopian to assume that the international community will agree on a single allocation scheme. Here, we investigate an approach that involves a major-economy country taking the lead. In a bottom-up manner, other countries then determine what they consider a fair comparable target, for example, either a ‘per-capita convergence’ or ‘equal cumulative per-capita’ approach. For example, we find that a 2030 target of 67% below 1990 for the EU28, a 2025 target of 54% below 2005 for the USA or a 2030 target of 32% below 2010 for China could secure a likely chance of meeting the 2 °C target in our illustrative default case. Comparing those targets to post-2020 mitigation targets reveals a large gap. No major emitter can at present claim to show the necessary leadership in the concerted effort of avoiding warming of 2 °C in a diverse global context.

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Figure 1: Global 2025/2030 GHG emission waypoints implied by the IPCC 2 °C carbon budget of 1,010 GtCO2.
Figure 2: Re-analysis of the IPCC allocation database and our country-level allocations in comparison for USA and China.
Figure 3: Illustration of the ‘diversity-aware leadership’ concept in contrast with self-differentiation.
Figure 4: Global GHG emissions in 2010 and allocations with respect to 2010 for 2025, if countries follow either USA, EU or China as potential leadership countries.

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Acknowledgements

We acknowledge the work by IAM modellers that contributed to the IPCC AR5 scenario database and IIASA for hosting the IPCC AR5 Scenario Database. M. Meinshausen is the recipient of an Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellowship (grant number FT130100809). Furthermore, we offer thanks for discussions and comments on an earlier version of this manuscript by P. Christoff, R. Eckersley, K. Dooley and R. Lethbridge, and general discussions with N. Wilke, C. Zerger and L. Morgenstern.

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Contributions

All authors contributed to interpreting the results and writing the manuscript. M.M. designed the study and performed the calculations. Y.R.d.P. assisted in data management. N.M. provided the quantile regression method. J.R. compared the 2025 and 2030 waypoints to the UNEP GAP Report estimates. L.J. programmed the GDR allocation approach and J.G. downscaled RCP emissions scenarios using SSP data to the national level for the RCPs. L.J. and J.G. contributed the composite PRIMAP4 data (Supplementary Information). M.d.E. and N.H. compiled the allocation database used in IPCC. M.S. complemented the IPCC AR5 scenario database emissions pathways with missing gases.

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Correspondence to Malte Meinshausen.

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Meinshausen, M., Jeffery, L., Guetschow, J. et al. National post-2020 greenhouse gas targets and diversity-aware leadership. Nature Clim Change 5, 1098–1106 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2826

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