Sir David King: world should abandon Kyoto protocol on climate change

UK’s former chief scientist calls instead for a system where each nation is awarded a carbon emissions quota based on population

Sir David King, chief scientific adviser to the UK government

Sir David King, chief scientific adviser to the UK government. Photograph: Alan Weller/Getty news

The world should abandon the Kyoto protocol on climate change and move instead to a system where each nation would have a carbon emissions quota based on population, the UK’s former chief scientist has urged, in an explosive contribution to the long-running climate negotiations.

Sir David King is one of the most respected figures in climate change policy.He is the architect of the UK’s response to global warming, credited with reviving the flagging climate talks in 2004 when he called the problem “a greater threat than international terrorism“.

He told the Guardian: “I can’t see the Kyoto protocol making any headway – there are enough blocks in place, especially from the US and China, that it is wholly unlikely that it will go on. We need to be pragmatic.” He said his proposals – by which countries could take their own actions on greenhouse gases without agreeing them at an international level – offered “a far more realistic pathway than hoping countries will come together in an international agreement at a single point”. …

Read the full article at the (Click here)

I am not convinced that population size is the best metric for establishing a quota. This proposal put forward in 2009 from Princeton Environmental Institute seems to me to be a fairer distribution. It’s cited on my “Politics” page. One application of the strategy would see roughly equal allocations for

  • USA
  • OECD minus USA
  • China
  • non-OECD minus China

New Princeton method may help allocate carbon emissions responsibility among nations

Just months before world leaders are scheduled to meet to devise a new international treaty on climate change, a research team led by Princeton University scientists has developed a new way of dividing responsibility for carbon emissions among countries.

The approach is so fair, according to its creators, that they are hoping it will win the support of both developed and developing nations, whose leaders have been at odds for years over perceived inequalities in previous proposals. …

The lead authors on the paper are physicist Shoibal Chakravarty and economist Massimo Tavoni, both research scholars at the Princeton Environmental Institute, which is the University’s interdisciplinary center for environmental research, education and outreach. …

“Most of the world’s emissions come disproportionately from the wealthy citizens of the world, irrespective of their nationality,” Chakravarty said, noting that many emissions come from lifestyles that involve airplane flights, car use and the heating and cooling of large homes. “We estimate that in 2008, half of the world’s emissions came from just 700 million people.” …

The work is part of the Carbon Mitigation Initiative, which is based at Princeton. Launched in 2000, the project has produced new practical approaches to managing the carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming. The initiative is aimed at supporting fundamental scientific, technological and environmental research that would lead to safe, effective and affordable solutions to climate change. …

PNAS: Sharing global CO2 emission reductions among one billion high emitters
doi: 10.1073/pnas.0905232106


We present a framework for allocating a global carbon reduction target among nations, in which the concept of “common but differentiated responsibilities” refers to the emissions of individuals instead of nations. We use the income distribution of a country to estimate how its fossil fuel CO2 emissions are distributed among its citizens, from which we build up a global CO2 distribution. We then propose a simple rule to derive a universal cap on global individual emissions and find corresponding limits on national aggregate emissions from this cap. All of the world’s high CO2-emitting individuals are treated the same, regardless of where they live. Any future global emission goal (target and time frame) can be converted into national reduction targets, which are determined by “Business as Usual” projections of national carbon emissions and in-country income distributions. For example, reducing projected global emissions in 2030 by 13 GtCO2 would require the engagement of 1.13 billion high emitters, roughly equally distributed in 4 regions: the U.S., the OECD minus the U.S., China, and the non-OECD minus China. We also modify our methodology to place a floor on emissions of the world’s lowest CO2 emitters and demonstrate that climate mitigation and alleviation of extreme poverty are largely decoupled.

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One Response to Sir David King: world should abandon Kyoto protocol on climate change

  1. Christine says:

    Well, we certainly need some new ideas on the table. With Australia proposing a carbon tax, it may be (finally) that the inevitable shift in the political winds is happening. I refuse to believe that there isn’t a way to solve this at the political level!

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