The sound of pennies dropping

by | Sep 9, 2009

It’s long been a source of frustration to me that developing countries don’t come out and demand quantified emissions targets, based on an equal per capita entitlements, since this would at a stroke (a) create the space for agreeing a global emissions budget – a prerequisite for stabilising concentrations of greenhouse gases at any defined level, and (b) set up a massive new source of finance for development, as David and I noted in our paper for DFID (pdf) on international institutions for climate change.

All the more welcome, then, to see this observation in UNCTAD’s 2009 Trade and Development report (highlights; pdf):

An international carbon market in the form of a cap-and-trade system could be a source of income for many developing countries.

If designed in a manner that takes into account the responsibility of the industrialized countries for the existing GHG concentrations in the atmosphere, on the one hand, and the need for developing countries to contribute to global climate change mitigation, on the other, such a system might go a long way towards meeting their requirements for the financing of imports of the technology and equipment necessary for GHG abatement.

For example, if population size were to be given an important weight in the initial allocation of permits across countries, many developing countries would be able to sell their emission rights because they would be allotted considerably more permits than they need to cover domestically produced emissions.

P.S. UNCTAD forgot to mention one thing: said emissions budget is currently being used up awfully fast by developed and middle income countries – which puts a rather different slant on the oft-seen spectacle of developed countries saying reassuringly that of course low income countries needn’t think about targets before 2020.

Low income countries: beware of Greeks (and other Annex 1 Parties) bearing gifts…


  • Alex Evans

    Alex Evans is founder of the Collective Psychology Project, which explores how we can use psychology to reduce political tribalism and polarisation, a senior fellow at New York University, and author of The Myth Gap: What Happens When Evidence and Arguments Aren’t Enough? (Penguin, 2017). He is a former Campaign Director of the 50 million member global citizen’s movement Avaaz, special adviser to two UK Cabinet Ministers, climate expert in the UN Secretary-General’s office, and was Research Director for the Business Commission on Sustainable Development. He was part of Ethiopia’s delegation to the Paris climate summit and has consulted for Oxfam, WWF UK, the UK Cabinet Office and US State Department. Alex lives with his wife and two children in Yorkshire.

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