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Fair-share carbon dioxide removal increases major emitter responsibility

Abstract

The Paris Agreement long-term temperature goal is to be achieved on the basis of equity. Accomplishing this goal will require carbon dioxide removal (CDR), yet existing plans for CDR deployment are insufficient to meet potential global needs, and equitable approaches for distributing CDR responsibilities between nations are lacking. Here we apply two common burden-sharing principles to show how CDR responsibility could be shared between regions in 1.5 °C and 2 °C mitigation pathways. We find that fair-share outcomes for the United States, the European Union and China could imply 2–3 times larger CDR responsibilities this century compared with a global least-cost approach. We illustrate how delaying near-term mitigation affects the CDR responsibilities of major emitters: raising emission levels in 2030 by one gigatonne generates about 20–70 additional gigatonnes of CDR responsibility over this century. An informed debate about equitable CDR contributions will be essential to achieve much-needed progress in this area.

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Fig. 1: Illustration of CDR distribution under different equity approaches.
Fig. 2: Comparison of CDR fair shares with cost-optimal distributions.
Fig. 3: Relationship between near-term emissions reductions and long-term CDR burdens.

Data availability

Data for the IAM scenarios used in this analysis are available at https://data.ene.iiasa.ac.at/iamc-1.5c-explorer/ and on request from the IMAGE, MESSAGE and REMIND modelling groups. Historical emissions data are available from http://dataservices.gfz-potsdam.de/pik/showshort.php?id=escidoc:4736895 (PRIMAP-hist) and http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/GL (FAOSTAT land-use module). Historical population data are available at https://databank.worldbank.org/reports.aspx?source=world-development-indicators (World Bank World Development Indicators).

Code availability

The code used for this analysis is available at https://github.com/SusanneBaurCA/CDR_equity60.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the IMAGE, MESSAGE and REMIND modelling groups for providing access to their data, J. Strefler for valuable comments, and our reviewers for their constructive feedback. C.L.F. acknowledges support by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (11_II_093_Global_A_SIDS and LDCs). C.-F.S. acknowledges support by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (01LS1905A) and from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 821124.

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Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

C.L.F. and C.-F.S. conceived and designed the project. S.B. and C.L.F. produced the analysis. M.G. provided data. All authors contributed to the interpretation of the results. C.L.F. wrote the paper with contributions by all authors.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Claire L. Fyson.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Peer review information Nature Climate Change thanks Nicole van den Berg, Johannes Emmerling and Henry Shue for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Extended data

Extended Data Fig. 1 Mid- and end-century CDR shares.

CDR shares in 2050 (above) and 2100 (below) for the least-cost, ability to pay and cumulative per capita emissions approaches for all pathways analysed in this study. Coloured bars show the interquartile range of CDR shares for each country / region, with whiskers giving the 5–95 percentiles; symbols show the CDR shares for pathways of different warming levels: 1.5 °C with no or limited overshoot (squares), high overshoot with 1.5 °C at the end of the century (closed circles) and below 2 °C (open circles).

Extended Data Fig. 2 Per capita CDR versus per capita GDP.

CDR obligations per capita for the AP scheme compared with GDP per capita in 2050 (above) and 2100 (below) for the major countries / regions included in this analysis. Squares, filled circles and open circles show the results for 1.5 °C no / low overshoot, 1.5 °C high overshoot and 2 °C pathways respectively. Countries / regions with below average GDP/capita are excluded from CDR obligations.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–6 and Tables 1–4.

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Fyson, C.L., Baur, S., Gidden, M. et al. Fair-share carbon dioxide removal increases major emitter responsibility. Nat. Clim. Chang. 10, 836–841 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-020-0857-2

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