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Special Issue "Sustainable Policy on Climate Equity"

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A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 November 2011)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Dr. Paul Baer

School of Public Policy, Georgia Institute of Technology, 685 Cherry St., Atlanta, GA 30332, USA
Phone: (404) 385 1526
Fax: (404) 385 0504

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Debates about fair or equitable climate policy have been prominent for many years in academic and policy circles. It is widely argued that climate policy must be fair, or at least fair enough, if it is to be effective and sustainable. The UNFCCC itself embraces the concept of equity in the idea of “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities”, which is reflected in various operational distinctions between the historically industrialized (Annex I) and developing (non-Annex I) countries – the “North” and the “South.”

However, in the nearly 20 years since the signing of the UNFCCC, the world has changed substantially, and the simple Annex I/Non-Annex I, industrialized/developing division has arguably become substantially obsolete. Yet a new political configuration, with consensual principles for fair global burden sharing that would transcend this distinction, has yet to arise; the North-South division still pervades the climate talks, and the idea of equity remains highly contested.

To foster creative thinking about possibilities for a “fair enough” climate solution, in this issue we we invite submissions on all topics related to equitable climate policy including, but not limited to:

  1. The target: what is the role of equity in setting an objective for emissions reductions, and thus for dividing risks and costs between those who will be affected by climate change and those who must pay for emissions reductions?
  2. Allocation: How should the costs of paying for emissions reductions be shared, between countries and within countries?
  3. Adaptation and liability: what represents equitable support for adaptation and for compensation for those harmed by climate change, and how should the costs of that support be shared?
  4. Procedural Justice: What processes could support fair international bargaining, and fair participation in climate policy decision-making within countries?

Dr. Paul Baer
Guest Editor

Keywords

  • climate change and development
  • sustainability
  • equity
  • burden-sharing
  • adaptation
  • mitigation
  • global justice

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle “Decent Living” Emissions: A Conceptual Framework
Sustainability 2012, 4(4), 656-681; doi:10.3390/su4040656
Received: 2 February 2012 / Revised: 4 April 2012 / Accepted: 9 April 2012 / Published: 18 April 2012
Cited by 14 | PDF Full-text (516 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
There is very little elaboration in literature of the phrase “equitable access to sustainable development” that is referenced in the Cancun Agreement on climate change. We interpret this at a minimum as people’s right to a decent living standard, which gives rise [...] Read more.
There is very little elaboration in literature of the phrase “equitable access to sustainable development” that is referenced in the Cancun Agreement on climate change. We interpret this at a minimum as people’s right to a decent living standard, which gives rise to claims by countries to an exemption from mitigation for the energy and emissions needed to provide a decent life to all. We elaborate a conceptual framework for a comprehensive quantification of such an energy requirement, including the energy required to build out infrastructure to support these living standards. We interpret decent living as the consumption by households of a set of basic goods including adequate nutrition, shelter, health care, education, transport, refrigeration, television and mobile phones. We develop universal indicators for these activities and their infrastructure requirements, and specify a methodology to convert these to energy requirements using energy input-output analysis. Our main recommendations include estimating bottom-up, country-specific energy and emissions requirements, incorporating a minimum for methane emissions, and using international benchmarks at the sector level to encourage the reduction of countries’ energy and emissions intensity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Policy on Climate Equity)
Open AccessArticle The Tragedy of Maldistribution: Climate, Sustainability, and Equity
Sustainability 2012, 4(3), 394-411; doi:10.3390/su4030394
Received: 12 December 2011 / Revised: 2 March 2012 / Accepted: 12 March 2012 / Published: 16 March 2012
Cited by 5 | PDF Full-text (268 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This essay is an initial exploration of the dimensions of the equity/sustainability linkage from the perspective of public goods analysis. Sustainability requires an abundance of public goods. Where these commons lack governance, sustainability is at risk. Equity is a critical component of [...] Read more.
This essay is an initial exploration of the dimensions of the equity/sustainability linkage from the perspective of public goods analysis. Sustainability requires an abundance of public goods. Where these commons lack governance, sustainability is at risk. Equity is a critical component of sustainability that can itself be viewed as a public good, subject to deterioration (maldistribution) when left ungoverned. As is the case for so many forms of environmental degradation, the private benefits of maldistribution tend to overshadow the larger social costs, and the result is a degradation of equity. This article sketches out the analogy of equity as a public good by: examining the evidence regarding current and historical income equality within and between countries; introducing the characteristics of public goods and grounding equity in this idiom; reviewing several theories explaining the sub-optimal provision of environmental goods; applying these theoretical frameworks to the case of equity, with an examination of the potential causes of, and solutions to, maldistribution; and, finally, addressing equity’s critical role as a component of sustainability in the case of climate change, with implications for climate policy. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Policy on Climate Equity)
Open AccessArticle Safe vs. Fair: A Formidable Trade-off in Tackling Climate Change
Sustainability 2012, 4(2), 210-226; doi:10.3390/su4020210
Received: 7 December 2011 / Revised: 10 January 2012 / Accepted: 19 January 2012 / Published: 6 February 2012
Cited by 7 | PDF Full-text (260 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Global warming requires a response characterized by forward-looking management of atmospheric carbon and respect for ethical principles. Both safety and fairness must be pursued, and there are severe trade-offs as these are intertwined by the limited headroom for additional atmospheric CO2 [...] Read more.
Global warming requires a response characterized by forward-looking management of atmospheric carbon and respect for ethical principles. Both safety and fairness must be pursued, and there are severe trade-offs as these are intertwined by the limited headroom for additional atmospheric CO2 emissions. This paper provides a simple numerical mapping at the aggregated level of developed vs. developing countries in which safety and fairness are formulated in terms of cumulative emissions and cumulative per capita emissions respectively. It becomes evident that safety and fairness cannot be achieved simultaneously for strict definitions of both. The paper further posits potential global trading in future cumulative emissions budgets in a world where financial transactions compensate for physical emissions: the safe vs. fair tradeoff is less severe but remains formidable. Finally, we explore very large deployment of engineered carbon sinks and show that roughly 1,000 Gt CO2 of cumulative negative emissions over the century are required to have a significant effect, a remarkable scale of deployment. We also identify the unexplored issue of how such sinks might be treated in sub-global carbon accounting. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Policy on Climate Equity)
Open AccessArticle Intergenerational Justice: How Reasonable Man Discounts Climate Damage
Sustainability 2012, 4(1), 106-122; doi:10.3390/su4010106
Received: 26 October 2011 / Revised: 14 December 2011 / Accepted: 31 December 2011 / Published: 5 January 2012
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (81 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Moral philosophers and economists have evaluated the intergenerational problem of climate change by applying the whole gamut of theories on distributive justice. In this article, however, it is argued that intergenerational justice cannot imply the application of moral ideal theories to future [...] Read more.
Moral philosophers and economists have evaluated the intergenerational problem of climate change by applying the whole gamut of theories on distributive justice. In this article, however, it is argued that intergenerational justice cannot imply the application of moral ideal theories to future generations. The formal principle of equality simply requires us to treat like cases as like. If intergenerational justice is to have any meaning, it would require future generations to receive the same treatment under the law and the same treatment from the authorities, as far as cases are like. In the context of climate change, the reasonable man standard from tort law is of particular relevance. There is no justification to handle pollution across generational boundaries according to norms which differ from the (international) laws for handling pollution across national borders. It is argued that this implies, for example, that a zero social rate of time preference should be used in cost-benefit analysis of climate policy: climate damage experienced by future generations should be discounted neither for their higher expected wealth, nor purely for their being remote. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Policy on Climate Equity)
Open AccessArticle A Turbo Drive for the Global Reduction of Energy-Related CO2 Emissions
Sustainability 2011, 3(4), 632-648; doi:10.3390/su3040632
Received: 25 October 2010 / Revised: 19 March 2011 / Accepted: 28 March 2011 / Published: 7 April 2011
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (307 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The Copenhagen Accord performed a seizure in the COP ungainly crawl. The Accord’s urgent combat against climate change and deep cuts in emissions require a policy reversal, ending the zero sum games on pledged caps, creating clarity on immediate marching directions and [...] Read more.
The Copenhagen Accord performed a seizure in the COP ungainly crawl. The Accord’s urgent combat against climate change and deep cuts in emissions require a policy reversal, ending the zero sum games on pledged caps, creating clarity on immediate marching directions and eliciting worldwide action by today’s operational institutes at all levels. For reducing energy-related CO2 emissions, all turbo drive components are available. First the global 2 °C ceiling needs translation into, by country, marching directions and indicative future paths of their national average CO2 emissions per person. The latter intensity indicator is the product of three driving intensities: wealth per person, energy used for wealth production, and CO2 emissions of energy use, all observed annually for virtually all countries in the world. Second, parties should commit to nearby year improvements on the three driving intensities. Third, transfers from rich to poor countries depend on ability to pay and on ability to spend, and on countries’ mitigation progress. The approach dissolves main barriers to mitigation progress, like: outdated emissions baselines; illusory global instruments; bureaucratic MRV (monitoring, reporting and verification) concepts; blocked graduation of parties; unclear transfer mechanisms. In revamping the jammed COP rituals, UNFCCC now leaves operations to established global institutes and mainly to the parties acting in common resolve, stimulated and verified by a lightweight, transparent global framework. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Policy on Climate Equity)

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