• A Corrigendum to this article was published on 01 February 2017

This article has been updated


Benchmarks to guide countries in ratcheting-up ambition, climate finance, and support in an equitable manner are critical but not yet determined in the context of the Paris Agreement1. We identify global cost-optimal mitigation scenarios consistent with the Paris Agreement goals and allocate their emissions dynamically to countries according to five equity approaches. At the national level, China's Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) is weaker than any of the five equity approaches, India's and the USA's NDC are aligned with two, and the EU's with three. Most developing countries’ conditional (Intended) NDCs (INDCs) are more ambitious than the average of the five equity approaches under the 2 °C goal. If the G8 and China adopt the average of the five approaches, the gap between conditional INDCs and 2 °C-consistent pathways could be closed. For an equitable, cost-optimal achievement of the 1.5 °C target, emissions in 2030 are 21% lower (relative to 2010) than for 2 °C for the G8 and China combined, and 39% lower for remaining countries. Equitably limiting warming to 1.5 °C rather than 2 °C requires that individual countries achieve mitigation milestones, such as peaking or reaching net-zero emissions, around a decade earlier.

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  • 01 February 2017

    In Fig. 1c of the original version of this Letter, the 2030 assessment of the NDC for the USA was misplotted. This changed the number of equity approaches that the USA's NDC was in line with. The figure and text that referred to the findings of that figure have been updated.


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We gratefully acknowledge the work of modellers behind the IPCC-AR5 emissions scenarios. M. Meinshausen is supported by the Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellowship (grant number FT130100809). Deep thanks to A. Talberg for her comments on the manuscript.

Author information


  1. Australian-German Climate & Energy College, The University of Melbourne, Parkville 3010, Victoria, Australia

    • Yann Robiou du Pont
    •  & Malte Meinshausen
  2. Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Telegraphenberg, 14412 Potsdam, Germany

    • M. Louise Jeffery
    • , Johannes Gütschow
    •  & Malte Meinshausen
  3. Energy Program, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria

    • Joeri Rogelj
  4. Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland

    • Joeri Rogelj
  5. School of Geography, The University of Melbourne, Parkville 3010, Victoria, Australia

    • Peter Christoff


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All authors contributed to discussing the results and writing the manuscript. Y.R.d.P. led the study and performed the calculations. M.L.J. modelled the GDR approach. J.G. downscaled to the national-level global RCP8.5 emissions scenarios using SSP data. Y.R.d.P. and M.M. suggested the study. J.G., M.L.J. and M.M. updated and managed the composite PRIMAP database.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Yann Robiou du Pont.

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