Colorado utilities on the way to 100% renewable

Amid the ferment, it’s important to remember that even House liberals of the so-called progressive wing of the Democratic caucus are resistant to change. Many talk as if the Obama years were a period of green enlightenment, a fallacy that Carol Dansereau, organizer of a new System Change Not Climate Change (SCNCC) chapter in Seattle, demolishes in her piece, “Climate and the Infernal Blue Wave: Straight Talk About Saving Humanity.”  Dansereau calls it time to leave dangerous delusions behind.  NBC News published an opinion piece by Kate Aronoff who raised the same question about the sincerity of progressive Democrats in confronting the climate crisis. Her article leads off with a scorching review of Nancy Pelosi’s first response to the demands for the next Congress to center climate change among its priorities:

California is on fire, and the Democrats just won back the House. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — whose district sits not far from the flames — took this historic opportunity to propose a bold solution: reviving a toothless, decade-old committee to, as the New York Times reported, “educate the public about the impact of more frequent extreme weather events.”

Fort Collins power provider commits to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030

Jacy Marmaduke, Fort Collins ColoradoanPublished 10:55 a.m. MT Dec. 6, 2018 | Updated 11:05 a.m. MT Dec. 6, 2018

A rundown of Platte River Power Authority’s renewable energy sources as of January 2018. Jacy Marmaduke

Platte River Power Authority has committed to a goal of 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030, outpacing a high-profile target announced by Xcel Energy this week and setting the stage for a substantial decrease in Northern Colorado greenhouse gas emissions.

Platte River, the power provider for Fort Collins, Loveland, Estes Park and Longmont, set the goal at its Thursday board meeting after more than a year of resident-led campaigning from all four communities. The goal hinges on nine necessities related to technology and infrastructure, including the advancement of battery storage and a revamped electric grid.

Platte River board members approved the electricity goal Tuesday as part of the utility’s newly minted resource diversification policy. Tasked with choosing between the 100 percent by 2030 goal and a vaguer pledge to “continue to diversify Platte River Power Authority’s resource mix to meet its owner communities’ energy goals,” the board voted unanimously to use 100-percent noncarbon resources by 2030.

More: Fort Collins will aim for 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030

Board member and Loveland Mayor Jacki Marsh likened the move to “putting a line in the sand.”

“I can say that I want to lose 20 pounds, and I may or may not get there,” she told the Coloradoan in advance of the meeting. “But if I say I’m going to do it by Dec. 31, 2019, I’ve set a mark, and I believe I’ll work harder to do it.”

Achieving the 100 percent renewable goal would mean shutting down Platte River coal plant Rawhide Unit One, the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Larimer County. Platte River will also need to double the size of its renewable electricity portfolio, which will account for about 50 percent of delivered electricity by 2021.

More: As coal falters, Larimer County’s largest polluter could close its doors

It’s a tall order, but making it work is critical given the implications of human-induced climate change, said Kevin Cross, convener of the Fort Collins Sustainability Group.

The Fort Collins group and several others, including Estes Valley Clean Energy Coalition, Renewables Now Loveland and Sustainable Resilient Longmont, joined last year to form a coalition called Northern Colorado Partners for Clean Energy.

The group successfully pushed Fort Collins, Estes Park and Longmont to adopt goals of 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030. Loveland’s city council hasn’t adopted a renewable electricity goal but voted this week to endorse Platte River’s plans.

Community goals aren’t binding, but they matter for Platte River because the municipalities themselves own the power provider, Cross said. He added that he doesn’t think Platte River’s goal would exist if not for prolonged petitioning from residents.

“This is a good illustration of the adage that ‘change comes from below,’ ” Cross said.

PRPA’s “if, then” approach reflects concerns expressed by board members, Fort Collins City Council and attendees of Platte River’s recent series of community meetings.

Platte River held the meetings this fall to ask each owner-community what they envision for the future of electricity. The power provider will wrap those insights into its next Integrated Resource Plan, which is like a road map for Platte River’s future electricity generation.

“That’s the special part about Platte River and being public power — we really should reflect our community’s values,” Platte River chief strategy officer Alyssa Clemsen Roberts told the Coloradoan in an October interview.

The Platte River board’s decision comes amid a crescendo of concern about climate change, catalyzed by devastating natural disasters and two recent reports profiling the present and future catastrophic impacts of climate change.

In Colorado, climate scientists say climate change will continue to diminish the snowpack that provides the state with water and exacerbate droughts, floods and wildfires.

More: ‘This is the weather and climate we fear’: Climate change and Colorado’s ski slopes

Platte River’s goal comes on the heels of a 100 percent noncarbon pledge by Xcel Energy, which announced this week that it plans to meet that benchmark for its 3.6 million customers by 2050. That announcement surpasses the goals outlined in Xcel’s  Colorado Clean Energy plan, which vowed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by almost 60 percent and produce 55 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2026.

The plan drew national attention when Xcel released it this fall.

Platte River’s service area includes about 342,000 people. Platte River and Xcel together account for about one-third of Colorado’s population, including Platte River’s owner-communities as well as the cities of Denver, Pueblo, Boulder and Aspen.

How will PRPA achieve its goal? 

Platte River staff and board members emphasized that nine things have to happen in the near future for the utility to meet the goal:

  • An organized regional market must exist with Platte River as an active participant
  • Battery storage performance must mature, and the costs must decline
  • Utilization of storage solutions to include thermal, heat, water and end-user available storage
  • Transmission and distribution infrastructure investment must be increased
  • Transmission and distribution delivery systems must be more fully integrated
  • Improved distributed generation resource performance
  • Technology and capabilities of grid management systems must advance and improve
  • Advanced capabilities and use of active end user management systems
  • Generation, transmission and distribution rate structures must facilitate systems integration

PRPA board unanimously endorses 100 percent non-carbon electricity by 2030

Members assure dedication to triple bottom line

By Julia RentschReporter-Herald Staff Writer

POSTED:   12/06/2018 11:48:14 AM MST


Wind turbines are seen at a wind farm in northeastern Colorado.

Wind turbines are seen at a wind farm in northeastern Colorado. (David Martinez / Sterling Journal Advocate)

PRPA resource diversification policy caveats

The board recognizes the following advancements must occur in the near term to achieve the 2030 goal and to successfully maintain Platte River’s three pillars:

• An organized regional market must exist with Platte River as an active participant.

• Battery storage performance must mature and the costs must decline.

• Thermal, heat, water and end user available storage must be utilized.

• Transmission and distribution infrastructure investment must be increased.

• Transmission and distribution delivery systems must be more fully integrated.

• Distributed generation resource performance must be improved.

• Technology and capabilities of grid management systems must advance and improve.

• Advanced capabilities and use of active end user management systems must be in place.

• Generation, transmission and distribution rate structures must facilitate systems integration.

The renewable energy future that Platte River Power Authority has previously assured is coming is now officially part of the utility’s guiding documents.

The PRPA Board of Directors on Thursday unanimously approved a policy that calls for Platte River to pursue a 100 percent carbon-neutral energy portfolio by the year 2030.

Platte River Power Authority provides wholesale power to its owner cities of Loveland, Fort Collins, Longmont and Estes Park. Energy comes chiefly from the coal-powered Rawhide Energy Station north of Fort Collins, though PRPA also has renewable energy in its portfolio,and has announced plans to increase its wind energy capacity.

The new document, called the Resource Diversification Policy, states: “The board of directors (the board) directs the general manager/CEO to proactively work toward the goal of reaching a 100 percent non-carbon resource mix by 2030, while maintaining Platte River’s three pillars of providing reliable, environmentally responsible and financially sustainable electricity and services.”

Nine caveats, or prerequisites, for the goal to be achievable are included in the policy.

The policy notes that resource planning is an ongoing process, and Platte River continuously evaluates opportunities to add non-carbon resources. Platte River reviews its generation portfolio annually as part of the budgeting and planning process.

“The board recognizes the integration of non-carbon resources and new technologies will shape the future of Platte River’s and the four owner communities’ energy supply,” the document states.

On Tuesday, the Loveland City Council endorsed the policy via a 7-1 vote. Several members of council emphasized that the presence of the caveats made the policy, in their eyes, approvable.

On Thursday, Loveland Mayor Jacki Marsh encouraged other PRPA board members to talk about the cost of pollution in terms of public health when discussing its move toward renewable energy.

This photo supplied by the Platte River Power Authority shows some of the 117,000 solar panels in the utility’s 30-megawatt Rawhide Flats Solar array

This photo supplied by the Platte River Power Authority shows some of the 117,000 solar panels in the utility’s 30-megawatt Rawhide Flats Solar array at the Rawhide Flats Energy Station. (Platte River Power AuthorityCourtesy photo)

“We say the environment, and that’s kind of impersonal,” Marsh said. “There’s a personal cost to people, and I’d like to see that incorporated in when we’re looking at what is the true cost.”

For Platte River, the resource planning process includes evaluating the progress of energy storage, distributed power sources and new technologies. They must submit an integrated resource plan every five years to the Western Area Power Administration.

Members of the Board of Directors noted the technological advancements needed to accomplish the goals outlined in the policy.

“This isn’t going to happen without a smarter grid,” said Estes Park director of utilities Reuben Bergsten, a board member.

“I appreciate everything that has gone into this, and I would also just like to point out that innovation clearly needs to be a part of this,” said Fort Collins Mayor Wade Troxell. “And it’s not just technology. It’s a lot of innovation in terms of regulatory structures and managing systems and more integration with distribution systems.”

“I think it’s a great policy for now, as far as taking two diverse viewpoints and being able to come together to establish a goal, recognize there are some really big obstacles,” said Longmont Mayor and PRPA Board member Brian Bagley. “I think it’s a great first step.”

Though the technology is still being pioneered, PRPA is not alone announcing their dedication to phasing in renewables.

Xcel Energy, a PRPA competitor which produces energy for millions of customers, announced Tuesday a plan to aim for zero-carbon electricity by 2050, and to reduce emissions by 80 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.

“The company believes that its 2030 goal can be achieved affordably with renewable energy and other technologies currently available,” an Xcel Energy news release stated. “However, achieving the long-term vision of zero-carbon electricity requires technologies that are not cost effective or commercially available today. That is why Xcel Energy is committed to ongoing work to develop advanced technologies while putting the necessary policies in place to achieve this transition.”

PRPA General Manager Jason Frisbie stressed that the policy is not creating a “sea change” in how PRPA operates; it merely puts onto paper an idea that already was guiding assumptions and future planning at the company, and it will be viewed in light of the company’s triple bottom line of reliability, environmental responsibility and financial sustainability, Frisbie said.

A report issued by the United Nations’ panel on climate change in October described numerous tangible effects of a warming average climate worldwide that are predicted to be felt by 2040. The effects include food shortages, worsening wildfires, and a coral reef die-off.

Some members noted that the discussion of reducing carbon emissions will likely continue.

“I appreciate the discussion. It’s one all 7.5 billion of us are going to have to have over the next couple of decades,” Bagley said.

Julia Rentsch: 970-699-5404, 


The Paris Agreement’s bottom-up approach combines with the severity of the 1.5°C challenge to make the equity and fair shares debate absolutely critical. Equity is not a moral or academic nicety, but a practical necessity in meeting the Paris goals. Yet the Talanoa Dialogue, like most other post-Paris attempts to gain traction and momentum, has sidestepped any substantive discussion of equity: How did we get here? Do we actually intend to meet the Paris temperature goals? How do we understand countries’ pledges, compared to their fair shares of the necessary global effort? What would a “just transition” to a 1.5°C world look like? These questions are not being clearly asked, or clearly answered. Unsurprisingly, there has also been no meaningful progress in ratcheting up countries’ ambitions.


In this context, our Civil Society Equity Review coalition has attempted to show how a transparent articulation of the UNFCCC’s core equity principles – even within a general framework that encompasses a broad range of perspectives – can help us to understand the fairness, or unfairness, of individual national pledges. The point here is not “finger pointing,” nor is it to let any country “off the hook”. It is that any truly ambitious global climate mobilization will require a broadly shared sense that all people – including the wealthy wherever they may live – are doing their fair share. This is why, if we don’t engage the equity challenge, an high ambition mobilization will remain out of reach. And why we reject claims that equity is “too political” and “too dangerous,” that it risks the hard-won balance that gave us the Paris Agreement.


This balance is worth little if it leaves us without a path to the Paris goals.


Crucially, this report draws attention to not only the inequality between countries, but also the inequality within counties, between the rich and the majority poor. If we are to achieve the critical 1.5oC outcome, the wealthy (individuals and companies) in all nations must take the greatest action to both reduce their own emissions and to support the global transition. The global elites must not pass this burden onto the world’s poorest and most vulnerable individuals, nor onto the so-called “global middle class.” The wealthy must not be able to hide from their responsibilities.


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We conclude that the wealthier countries must urgently and dramatically deepen their domestic mitigation, and that, if they are to contribute their fair shares to the common effort, they must also support additional actions outside their own borders. We also conclude that, while many developing country pledges do meet or exceed their fair shares, this is not universally true, and that in any case, they too will have to do much more, though as a general rule will simply not be able to do so without significant levels of international financial support. The 1.5°C objective requires profound action in developing countries that cannot realistically, or fairly, be expected without meaningful levels of international support.




There are many messages in the IPCC’s Special Report on 1.5°C, but its core is surely that the Paris’ temperature goal – keeping “the global average temperature to well below 2°C,” while “pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C” – cannot be a merely aspirational one.1


Indeed, a warming of 2°C, which was long regarded as a relatively safe guardrail against apocalyptic disruption of the climate system, is now officially recognized – and this is new – as being potentially catastrophic. We must, together, do all that is necessary to achieve the 1.5°C goal, and this can only be done if we face the equity challenge.


The good news is that the IPCC very clearly recognizes that 1.5°C can be achieved, though doing so will be very difficult. However, only those pathways that manage the climate transition while simultaneously improving the lives of people everywhere have even a remote chance of being viable in today’s world. The climate transition really is, as the optimists say, a terrific opportunity, but it is very much a challenge as well. Achieving the 1.5°C goal requires taking action urgently and across the entire global economy, which inevitably means unwelcome costs, disruptive shifts, and deep anxieties about loss, displacement, and social insecurity. Facing these challenges, honestly and robustly, is going to be essential to averting a climate catastrophe.


In principle, the Paris Agreement offers the prospect of securing increased ambition, specifically by way of the Global Stocktake, which Parties are charged to undertake “in the light of equity.” And indeed, urgency cannot trump equity, as the IPCC agrees. It carefully notes, and with high confidence, that “Social justice and equity are core aspects of climate-resilient development pathways that aim to limit global warming to 1.5°C.”


In this report, we represent a 1.5°C future using a scenario (via the “Low Emissions Demand” pathway that was presented as one of the IPCC’s four marker pathways2 and is described further below) that explicitly incorporates a future convergence of development levels among countries. Also, this report, unlike our previous ones, is explicit in its treatment of inequality within nations. To be sure, the job of the UNFCCC is to help us address the international side of the climate inequity challenge, which we must do if we’re going to stabilize the climate system. But the challenge of inequality within countries has much to do with the dark character of the current political moment, and will have everything to do with our ultimate success, or failure, both within nations and globally.


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The IPCC’s recent report on the 1.5°C goal is a key document, for it sets the stage for a new honesty about ambition. Here, very briefly, are the IPCC’s most critical takeaways:

  • Even 5°C will be very dangerous, but 2°C would be much worse than 1.5°C, and much worse than we used to think. 2°C is no “guardrail.” Rather, it would be an unmitigated [sic] disaster, for 2°C will bring a staggering increase in the heat waves, droughts, storms and sea level rise that are already battering people, places and economies the world over, and will expose hundreds of millions of people to higher risks of displacement, water shortages and poverty.
  • 5°C is achievable, though doing so will be very difficult. As the report’s Summary for Policymakers tells us, keeping warming below 1.5°C “would require rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, urban, infrastructure … and industrial systems” that are “unprecedented in terms of scale.” Still, it’s important to realize that, geophysically, technically, and economically, 1.5°C is achievable, and moreover without extravagant levels of negative emissions. We have to go for it, seriously and with heart.
  • However, 5°C is only achievable if equity is prioritized, because it means vigorously pursuing a low energy demand civilization, and success on this front will only be possible if we’re simultaneously prioritizing poverty eradication and the protection of the vulnerable. In fact, the IPCC’s 1.5°C report is notable for the detail in which it discusses the centrality of climate equity (see the appendix for more of the IPCC’s equity-related conclusions). For example:

“D6.1. Social justice and equity are core aspects of climate-resilient development pathways that aim to limit global warming to 1.5°C as they address challenges and inevitable trade-offs, widen opportunities, and ensure that options, visions, and values are deliberated, between and within countries and communities, without making the poor and disadvantaged worse off (high confidence).”

  • The IPCC is constrained to be over-cautious in its scientific In particular, the Summaries for Policymakers that begin its reports are negotiated consensus documents that lean hard to the lowest common denominator. Given this, it’s important to keep in mind that the dangers we’re now facing could be much worse than suggested by the 1.5°C report, and this despite that fact that this report presents them with startling clarity.
  • With regard to such dangers, recall the “Hothouse Earth” paper, which was published by a team of eminent climate scientists in June of 3 The IPCC’s 1.5°C report essentially ignores the research behind this paper, which argues that “a planetary threshold could exist at a temperature rise as low as 2°C.” Or, as one if its authors, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, the long-time director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, put it:

“What we do not know yet is whether the climate system can be safely ‘parked’ near 2°C above pre- industrial levels, as the Paris Agreement envisages. Or if it will, once pushed so far, slip down the slope towards a hothouse planet. …” 4


The Paris Agreement charted a new course forward, but it is clearly and radically unfinished. The most obvious problem is that, even though all countries are now expected to act (even those who opt out of Paris can’t escape this expectation), Paris is failing to deliver the scaled-up action needed to meet its necessarily ambitious goals. Its first-round NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions, also known as “pledges”) put us on track for a planetary warming of more than 3°C,5 an unimaginable threat to both people and the planet as we know it, and indeed to our civilization. Nor will an exclusive focus on “the opportunity” and the rhetorical insistence that “we all have to do more” succeed in bridging the gap to 2°C, let alone 1.5°C. Nor does it help us face today’s deadly deficits of adaptation and loss & damage support.


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Indeed, this misleading – or at best incomplete – framing of the situation is part of the problem. The opportunities are real, but they will not be seized while we sidestep the fact that it is specific countries – overwhelmingly wealthy industrialized countries – which are failing to do their “fair share” of the global effort. And this fact carries profound political implications.


To be sure, current political trends make difficult matters like this extremely challenging to face.





Why is equity necessary?


It has long been said that “equity is the pathway to ambition.” This is because the urgency of the climate crisis demands coordinated global action and international cooperation at an unprecedented scale. No single country can solve “its own” climate problem, even if it rapidly drives its own emissions to zero. Rather, countries must act together to protect our shared climate. And for any country to launch itself into the truly radical transition that is now necessary, it must do so in concert with others. Action on the necessary scale will only come when, everywhere, countries are not only acting in their own interests, but also looking outward into a world in which other countries are also prepared to do their fair shares of the global challenge.


It is not enough for national pledges to be science-based; they must also be fair. They must take account of the irreducible fact that high-consuming individuals – most of them in wealthy countries – have disproportionately contributed to the global emissions burden. Even more importantly, national pledges must take account of the fact that wealthy countries have greater economic and institutional capacity to act than other countries do, and that their obligations are appropriately greater than those of developing countries that have few emissions or little economic and technology capacity and yet still face the absolutely overbearing need to prioritize developmental challenges. Only when the majority of countries recognize these disparities, and then act in line with them, will we be able to honestly hope for action on the scale necessary to meet the Paris Agreement goals.


These realities, of course, have always been recognized in the climate negotiations – and are known by the name “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities” – but the wealthy countries, in particular, have determinedly shied away from facing up to what these words actually mean in today’s dynamic, rapidly changing world.


Equity among nations and among individuals


The claim that “equity is the gateway to ambition” goes beyond the UNFCCC and the rules of a global climate regime. What can be said about inequity among countries at the international level can just as surely be said about inequality among individuals at the national level. To undertake deeper national climate efforts, a broader consensus within national populations is absolutely necessary, as the IPCC recognized in its 1.5°C report, where it said that:


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“Public acceptability can enable or inhibit the implementation of policies and measures to limit global warming to 1.5°C and to adapt to the consequences. Public acceptability depends on the individual’s evaluation of expected policy consequences, the perceived fairness of the distribution of these consequences, and perceived fairness of decision procedures (high confidence).”


The international “fair shares” challenge is thus, inevitably, a national debate as well, one that must occur everywhere where populations suffer stark economic inequality. Obviously, such inequality within nations raises issues that sprawl far beyond the ambit of the climate negotiations, where equity among nations is the primary point of contention. But looking at equity among individuals when considering equity among nations can clarify the stakes, at both at the national and at the global levels.


The global injustices are striking. The diagram below is the well-known “champagne glass,” showing the obscene disparities that characterize today’s global income distribution. The richest 10% of the global population receives more than half of global income (the dark green bar). And that income is received overwhelmingly in the wealthy countries, primarily in US and EU (see the pie charts on the right of the diagram).


Figure 1: The Twice Divided World. The “champagne glass” on the left represents the share of global income received by each decile (i.e., one tenth) of the world’s population, from the wealthiest (the top decile, receiving more than half of the world’s income) to the poorest (the bottom decile, receiving less than 1% of the world’s income). The three pie charts to the right represent, by their sizes, the share of global income that goes to the top 10%, the middle 40%, and the bottom 50% (top, middle, and bottom pie charts, respectively). The pie charts are divided into segments that show the countries where that


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income is received. ROW= Rest of the World; JP/NZ/AU=Japan, New Zealand and Australia; USA/CAN= United States and Canada.6



In contrast, the poorest half of the world receives less than one-tenth of the global total income (see the five light green sections). The wealthiest people in every country live starkly different lives from the poor, many of who survive on less than $2 per day and generate almost no emissions.


Between them, with 40% of the global income, is the group that many are tempted to call the “global middle class,” though the term, with its connotations of comfort and security, is hardly appropriate. Nor, it should be said, is it globally homogenous. In fact, the chief point to note here is that most of the people in the “global middle class” are quite poor. Consider, for example, an income threshold of $20 per day – ten times higher than the abject poverty threshold of $2 per day – and the easily defensible claim that income below that threshold is entirely spoken for, as a matter of basic needs and the struggle to establish some modicum of economic security. Fully two-thirds of the human population falls below this $20 threshold, including nearly half of that middle 40% shown in the chart! (In poorer countries, such as India, most income is distributed sparsely among the members of the global lower- and middle-income groups.)


These disparities are very closely paralleled by disparities in emissions. The richest 10% of the world’s population, for example, is responsible for over 50% of global greenhouse gas emissions.7 And, again, wealthy people overwhelmingly reside, and consume, within the world’s wealthy countries. Their emissions support lifestyles that simply cannot, absent some far-fetched technological revolution, be shared by all. Clearly, in any fair approach to international cooperation, these wealthy countries (along with their concentrations of “luxury emissions”), must be treated very differently from poorer countries where a far larger fraction of total emissions is associated with basic and “global middle class” living standards.


In all this, it’s important to stress that the widely differing capacities of countries are directly linked to real, human development outcomes such as infant mortality, malnutrition rates, and life expectancy. Likewise, widely differing levels of national historical emissions are directly linked to differing levels of travel, fuel consumption, food consumption, access to electricity, and so on. Given this, it’s no surprise that the wealthy countries were committed, in 1992’s UNFCCC agreement, to “take the lead in combating climate change”.


So yes, we must all take responsibility for the climate mobilization. But the rich must take responsibility in very different ways than the poor, or even the 40% of the human population that is in the “global middle class.” They must take responsibility for their consumption, for their historical and present-day emissions, and for the environmental impacts they impose on the planet and its people. They can far more easily afford to lessen their footprint than those whose impacts are already minimal.


It follows that the economies of the wealthy must be radically transformed. The reconstruction of the rich world’s energy systems will be a key beginning, but if the climate system is to be stabilized, we will need to achieve a stronger kind of sustainability as well, and this must be sustainability for all. Thus, the larger patterns of production


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and consumption must also change, just as the wealthy must provide their fair share of the financial and technological resources that will be necessary to make a high ambition transition possible. The “ways and means” needed to support these transformations are absolutely available. In our world of extreme disparities, the claim that “we” can’t afford an urgent global climate mobilization is a malign fiction. Only by discarding it can we hope to rapidly close the very real, and increasingly terrifying, gigaton gap.


The climate mobilization we need is of course far greater than decarbonization alone. The three other great equity challenges – adaptation and loss & damage on one side and just transition on the other – are no less critical. And while the cost of solar electricity is falling fast, the same can’t be said about the costs of adaptation, or the costs of loss and damage, or the costs of just transition assistance, all of which will be great in every country of the world, and all of which will only grow more urgent and daunting with further delay. Here, especially, both the truth and the limits of the “opportunity” narrative become clear. Communities everywhere must now do their best to remake themselves, to become resilient in the face of the coming disruption, but they will not be able to do enough without the support of the wealthy.


A recent opinion piece in the New York Times put the situation with admirable simplicity, arguing that “there are no technological limits” to supporting “eight billion, or even to 11 billion, people, with far less harm than we’re currently causing to the one planet all of us must live on.” To be sure there is a problem, which is that the required transformation is far-reaching and profound, and thus, inevitably, costly:


“Extremely costly, because rebuilding energy systems to make them carbon neutral, ensuring that land, water and other resources are used sustainably, adapting to climate change and cleaning up pollution don’t come cheap. But there is one hard limit. No better future will be possible if those most able to bear the costs — those who’ve benefited the most, the wealthy and the vested interests of this world — don’t step up to pay for it.” 8




In order to place a fair-share discussion of national mitigation pledges firmly in the context of the climate challenge, it’s necessary to have a proper 1.5°C scenario. Such a scenario must not only specify a path that keeps warming below 1.5°C, it must do so in a manner that is fair with respect to energy access, consumption, and other critical aspects of human well-being. To reflect such a future, we’ve chosen the “Low Energy Demand” scenario, which was one of the four IPCC marker pathways in its 1.5°C report. This scenario was developed at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and explicitly designed to be equitable in just these ways – by taking the universal attainment of a “decent living standard” as one of its design criteria – but also to avoid the problem, endemic in mainstream mitigation scenario modellings, of excessive reliance on negative emissions technologies.


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The Low Energy Demand (LED) scenario incorporates many of today’s major trends in energy demand, trends that are already observable and expected to intensify, including urbanization, digitalization, the decentralization of the energy system, the shift from ownership-based to use-based consumption of services, and the emergence of a circular economy to limit material use and waste. These trends, together with other substantial increases in energy efficiency across all sectors, lead to very low energy demand projections (e.g. 42% below 2020 levels in 2050), despite population growth and a global increase in end use energy services, including temperature-controlled housing, adequate and nutritious diets, and accessible transportation services. The point here is that, in an energy system that’s meant to satisfy only this comparatively low overall future energy demand, it becomes much less daunting to rapidly retire fossil-based generation and rapidly transition to renewables.


Because of these features, the LED scenario can satisfy humanity’s energy needs without assuming the future availability of large volumes of negative emissions, for example through large-scale bioenergy with CCS (BECCS), as assumed by many other ostensible 1.5°C scenarios. This result derives, in part, from the fact that the global forest sink can be enhanced significantly when there is less land competition from bioenergy cropland and pastures than there is in other scenarios.


Compared to current (2016) global greenhouse gas emissions of about 50 GtCO2eq, the LED pathway enables very stringent reductions, eliminating half of current emissions by 2030 (these reach 25 GtCO2eq), only about 10 GtCO2eq in 2050, and a mere 1.5 GtCO2eq, primarily for agriculture, in 2100. It’s important to note, however, that even more could be done. The LED pathway assumes that the economies of even the developed countries continue to expand, with incomes nearly tripling by the century’s end. Clearly, even deeper reductions – and a less threatened climate – could be achieved if steadily accelerating growth was not assumed.


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Figure 2: The LED Pathway, and fair shares of the global effort a. LED Pathway and baseline, showing necessary global mitigation (orange shading). b. LED Pathway and baseline, showing necessary global mitigation divided into the national shares of the selected countries and groups.



Figure 2a shows that, under the LED scenario, the world would by 2030 need to have reduced its GHG emissions by over 36 GtCO2eq compared to current global emission trends. This amount of mitigation greatly exceeds – by more than five-fold – the mitigation that has so far been pledged under the Paris NDCs.9 The fundamental question of how to equitably share the global mitigation effort can thus be posed as follows: which countries should be required to mitigate, or support the mitigation of, what share of these tons? In terms of the required effort, this is graphically represented in Figure 2b, which shows how the mitigation requirement in 2a (the widening orange area) might be divided into national shares.




Under the UNFCCC, countries have committed to act in accordance with their responsibility for causing the climate problem and their capacity to help solve it. The principles of capacity and responsibility are both well-established within the climate negotiations, and baked into both the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement. And indeed it is only fair that countries share the effort required to transition to a 1.5°C future in proportion to their relative capacity and responsibility. And, again, while Figure 3b illustrates mitigation effort, a livable 1.5°C future is not simply a


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matter of mitigation. Adaptation, and loss & damage, and just transition support are all global challenges, and there will be no robust global climate mobilization unless these too are shared fairly.


Invariably, it is wealthy countries that have the highest levels of capacity and historical responsibility, and thus should take on the largest share of the required effort. Notably, a wealthy country’s fair share of the mitigation effort can be greater than its domestic emissions. Similarly, all countries, even poorer ones, have some enclaves of wealth and comfort, and thus all countries have unconditional fair shares in the global effort to stabilize the climate system. These may be small, and in poor countries – given that we define fair shares to take the demands of poverty alleviation into account – they generally are.


But the brutal reality is that, particularly in poorer countries, the capacity to implement unconditional action is often far smaller than the national mitigation potential, which for all countries ultimately equals the potential to reduce domestic emissions to near zero levels.


Similarly, it must be remembered that even poorer countries – which do not, on their own, have the capacity to draw their domestic emission to zero – nevertheless will ultimately have to do so, when provided with the necessary finance and technology and capacity building support. In this context, large amounts of conditional action is absolutely necessary if we are to have any real hope, and the design and embrace of a proper “matching facility” by which such potential action is provisioned is an absolute priority. 10


We have here assessed countries’ INDCs by judging their commitments against the demands of the LED pathway using a range of ‘fair share’ benchmarks. In this report, as in the previous reports of the coalition, this ‘fair share range’ is bounded on the one end by a “1950/Medium Progressivity” equity benchmark and on the other by our “1850/High Progressivity” equity benchmark. (See the below box “equity settings explained” for further explanation of these and other benchmarks.) One substantive change to our NDC assessment approach is that it previously included land use emissions, which have been excluded now for several reasons11.


Figure 3 shows our assessment of the 2030 pledges for eight countries with widely varying levels of development. For each country, the black horizontal line indicates the amount of emission reductions implied by the country’s NDC. The dark green bar gives the fair share of mitigation under the 1850 /High progressivity equity benchmark, and the light green bar gives the fair share under the 1950 /Medium progressivity equity benchmark. (The grey bar shows the 1990 / Low progressivity “political” benchmark for reference.) Our equity range appears here as the range bounded by the first two bars. Note that, as an addition point of comparison, a white “full decarbonization bar” is also shown. This bar indicates complete decarbonization from current levels, which of course is not expected to take place by 2030, although substantial progress toward full decarbonization will certainly be necessary if – as indicated by the IPCC’s report on the 1.5°C target – global decarbonization by 2050 is required to preserve even a modest chance of keeping warming below 1.5°C.


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Selected national pledges, against three benchmarks





























    United States Singapore Japan EU 28 South Korea Russia South Africa Brazil China India
    1850 / High Progressivity 38.8 26.7 20.3 14.7 9.6 6.2 2.9 3.0 2.8 0.036
  1950 / Medium Progressivity 28.5 19.0 18.7 15.6 12.1 11.8 4.1 3.2 3.4 0.24
  1990 / Low Progressivity 21.9 16.9 16.7 13.2 12.5 11.8 4.7 3.8 4.4 0.69
  Low End of Pledge Range 5.3 7.0 1.8 2.5 7.4 0 0.8 3.3 2.0 0.00
  High End of Pledge Range 5.7   1.8     1.2 4.1   3.2  
  …plus Mitigation Finance12 5.9   2.7 2.9         3.2  


Figure 3: Comparison of mitigation fair shares and pledges (in tonnes of CO2eq per capita of mitigation below baseline in 2020). For each of the ten countries, the dark and light green bars shows the fair share of the global mitigation effort according to the two CSO equity benchmarks, and the grey bar shows the third “political” benchmark. The horizontal black lines show the amount of effort actually pledged in the NDCs, and the dotted line shows an estimate of the additional mitigation


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potentially generated through international financial support. (The table below the chart shows the same results in numerical form.)


Some points to note here:


The wealthier countries are by and large falling far short of their fair shares. This is true not only of the U.S., the E.U., and Japan, but also of Singapore, South Korea, and Russia, as shown. Several of these countries are more than 10 tons per capita away from even the more lenient edge of their fair share range. Comparing their fair shares to the amount of mitigation that would equate to full decarbonization, it is clear that even assuming these countries substantially increase their mitigation pledges, which they indeed must do, they cannot possibly meet their full fair shares through domestic action alone. For these countries, their fair share of the global effort can only be met by enabling mitigation in other countries. By providing substantial finance, technology and capacity support, they can enable poorer developing countries to go well beyond their fair shares, and thus to mitigate at a level consistent with a 1.5°C transition.


The poorer countries are, on the other hand, generally pledging action on the same scale as their fair shares, and in some cases are actually pledging to meet their fair share effort of the very demanding LED pathway. However, for poorer countries, their fair share is – appropriately – small, and generally much smaller than their total 2030 mitigation potential, to say nothing of the even larger effort that would eventually be needed for full decarbonization. Pledges representing their full fair shares would therefore not be large enough to support a global shift toward a wholesale 1.5°C transition and decarbonization. Only with real finance and technology support for additional mitigation beyond their fair shares will it be possible for them to achieve this. India is a good example. It’s NDC falls short of its fair share, and should be unconditionally strengthened. But, even if India were to meet its fair share, much more of its domestic mitigation potential must be unlocked through international support to bring global ambition onto a 1.5°C, or even a 2°C, path.


China’s position is notable as well, for it exemplifies the problem of countries where the needed mitigation greatly exceeds the fair share of the effort. In China’s case, although the high end of its pledge meets its fair share, more is needed to scale its action toward a 1.5° pathway, and eventually toward full decarbonization. And yet, as Figure 1 shows, much of China’s capacity (and its emissions as well) corresponds to its “global middle class” population, rather than to its rich, and certainly the members of the Chinese “middle class” cannot realistically be asked to bear more weight than their equivalents in other countries. The inconvenient truth here is that unless the full mitigation potential of all countries is realized, it will be quite impossible to achieve the 1.5°C global temperature goal, or even the “well below 2°C” temperature goal that we now know to be our desperate fallback. Given this, we can hope that such countries will find reasons to do even more than their fair shares, though it’s hard to see how this could possibly happen while the richer countries only continue to free ride.


More generally, it is encouraging that many developing country governments have made mitigation pledges that are at scale with their fair shares. Still, this is not enough. The developing countries that have not yet pledged to unconditionally undertake at least their fair share’s worth of mitigation must – as all countries must – do so as soon as possible, and if they decide to do even more they should absolutely be commended as leaders. But at the same


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time, it’s obvious that, absent a major breakthrough on international support, we will collectively fail to meet the Paris temperature goals.


The real bottom line here is that, if the world is to avoid catastrophic climate change, poorer countries that had little or no role in the creation of the climate crisis now have no choice but to shift to alternative development trajectories at an incredibly rapid pace. While we aspire to this shift in order to achieve equitable, thriving societies, there is an enduring injustice in the fact that the poor must face the now unavoidable climate reckoning with a narrow set of options and on a terribly challenging timeline. Still, the goal has to be a just, systemic transformation, which is simply not going to happen without the necessary finance. Which is why civil society and people’s movements in developing countries are not only pressing their governments to fulfill their pledges, but to do so with decisive moves away from fossil-fuel-dependent and growth-oriented economies that perpetuate inequality. This means planning for and supporting ambitious leapfrogging to zero-carbon societies, and doing so by way of development trajectories that enhance well-being and provide meaningful economic development.


Mitigation Finance


Even today, the money is there to be found. Various innovative mechanisms can generate revenue in equitable ways, without increasing the burden on the poor people of the wealthy world. Possibilities include aviation levies, financial transaction taxes, progressive carbon taxes, progressive consumption taxes more generally, special drawing rights, and so on. The redirection of private finance is critical, to be sure, but it is not the whole of the story. Public finance has a critical role to play in empowering developing countries to go beyond their fair shares and rapidly shift to zero-carbon energy, while building democratic, renewable energy systems for people and communities. It is short sighted to pretend otherwise.

All told, the reductions that must be supported in order to occur account for almost half of the global mitigation need, underscoring the necessity of a greatly scaled up institutions for effectively delivering international finance, technology sharing, and capacity-building support. This in turn highlights the importance of a deeply cooperative approach to enable scaled-up ambition.


As already noted, for wealthy (developed) countries to do their global fair shares, they must, in addition to making very deep domestic reductions, also enable a considerable amount of emissions reductions in developing countries. But at the same time, it is much harder for them to do so while they are riven by inequality and inflamed by the toxic and often racist political narratives that define the new nationalism. At the moment, in the United States, to give one obvious example, many people cannot easily afford proper housing, or health care, or higher education or early childhood education. Given this, and given its now visible consequences, it’s not too early to


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observe the obvious truth that justice within nations is the flip side of justice between nations, and that we will not have the one without the other.





The benchmarks used in this report are all based on the core equity principles of the UNFCCC, capacity and responsibility. While their ethical underpinnings are clear, their precise operational definition has never been negotiated within the UNFCCC. Thus, as a guide to discussion and an aid to greater consensus, the Climate Equity Reference Framework, upon which this report is based, supports a broad range of capacity and responsibility benchmarks, including some that are not defensibly fair.

Capacity – a nation’s financial ability to contribute to solving the climate problem – can be captured by a quantitative benchmark defined in a more or less progressive way, making the definition of national capacity dependent on to national income distribution. This means a country’s capacity is calculated in a manner that can explicitly account for the income of the wealthy more strongly than that of the poor, and can exclude the incomes of the poorest altogether. Similarly, responsibility – a nation’s contribution to the planetary greenhouse gas burden – can be based on a range of “historical start years” from which emissions are tallied, and can consider the emissions arising from luxury consumption more strongly than from the fulfilment of basic needs, including by excluding the survival emissions of the poorest altogether. And, of course, the “right” level of progressivity, like the “right” historical responsibility start year, are matters of debate.


  United States EU 28 China India
C only (High Progressivity) 34.9 16.4 3.0 0.05
C and HR (High Progressivity/1850) 38.8 14.7 2.8 0.04
HR only (1850) 42.3 13.1 2.6 0.02
C only (Medium Progressivity) 25.4 17.5 3.7 0.33
C and HR (Medium Progressivity/1950) 28.5 15.6 3.4 0.24
HR only / (1950) 31.4 13.8 3.1 0.15
C and HR (Low Progressivity/1990) 21.9 13.2 4.4 0.69

Figure 4: Equity benchmarks used in this report. Orange benchmarks are based on national capacity alone (with bright orange representing a “high progressivity” setting and the dim orange representing a “medium progressivity” setting). Blue benchmarks are based on national historical responsibility alone (with bright blue representing a “high responsibility setting” and dim orange representing a “medium  responsibility” setting). Green benchmarks are the CSO equity benchmarks, reflecting both capacity and responsibility equally – note how they fall evenly between the capacity and responsibility benchmarks. The two green benchmarks define the “equity range” used to assess the fairness of the national NDCs. The gray bar represents a “political” benchmark based on low progressivity and low responsibility  settings which are here judged to be inequitable – it is shown for illustrative purposes.


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The fair shares challenge extends deeply into our societies. To meet it, a nation’s total share of the global effort, like its domestic efforts, must be divided fairly among the communities, households, and individuals within that nation. To illustrate this challenge, we show the national fair shares calculated for each of the three global effort- sharing benchmarks used above in our NDCs assessments, in terms of their implied intra-national distributions of effort. Specifically, we ask, for each global benchmark, how much of a nation’s fair share would be allocated to each of the income classes shown in Figure 1; that is, to the richest 10%, the middle 40%, and the poorest 50%.


At its root, this question is about how much the wealthy in each country contribute, compared to its middle classes and its poor. Any answer that even vaguely threatens to add to the widening disparities cannot be seen as even remotely fair.


The figures below illustrate the implications of three different scenarios, among countries and within them. The dark green bars correspond to the 1850/High Progressivity equity benchmark, the light green bars to the 1950 / Medium Progressivity equity benchmark, and the grey bars to the 1990 / Low Progressivity “political” benchmark. For each benchmark, we assume that each country’s share of the global effort is further shared by individuals within each national population in accordance with their income level (i.e. reflecting individuals’ capacity to contribute to fulfilling their nation’s total fair share). This within-country sharing is according to income, in a way that is comparably progressive to the corresponding global benchmark (i.e., high progressivity or medium progressivity;


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as defined in the Equity Settings Explained box, though for the 1990-based political benchmark, we show an allocation that is proportional – or “flat” – with respect to income).


The first thing to note is that the first two of the global benchmarks, the ones that define our equity range, both essentially relieve the poorest 50% of the global population of any share of the global effort, so that they might focus on their immediately pressing development priorities. This is by design, and is fundamental to fair effort sharing, which must not burden the poor. Recall that the poorest 50% is populated entirely by individuals earning below (and often well below) a mere $20/day.


The second thing to notice is that exactly the opposite occurs among the richest 10%. The more progressive the benchmark, the higher the fraction of the effort that is assigned to the rich. This, again, is by design. An equitable national allocation of effort does not merely protect the poor from efforts that they cannot reasonably be expected to bear, it also takes care to assign the bulk of the effort to those who possess the bulk of the capacity.


Under the 1990 / Low Progressivity benchmark, in contrast, a substantial amount of the global effort is shifted from the middle income and rich subpopulations to the poorest group, even though this group, the poorest half of the global population, has a mere 8% of the global income. Correspondingly, and not surprisingly, this benchmark shifts effort from the wealthier to poorer countries.


Comparing the most progressive benchmark (the dark green CSO equity benchmark) to the least progressive (the grey benchmark), there is a major shifting of the effort from the richest 10% to the middle 40%. The implied fair share of the richest drops by more than one-third, while the effort of the “middle class” rises more than three-fold. And of course, effort is also shifted from wealthier countries to poorer ones.


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Fair shares of global effort, by income groups within countries

Figure 5: Distribution of the global mitigation effort to countries, shown by income group: highest decile (top 10%), lowest five deciles (bottom 50%), middle four deciles (middle 40%).   Dark and light green bars show global effort distributed according to our equity benchmarks as in Fig. 3, 1850/High Progressivity and 1950/Medium Progressivity, with effort sharing within countries according to income (not responsibility) using the same progressivity choices. Grey bars show the 1990/Low global benchmark, with internal effort sharing proportional to income (no progressivity). USC=USA/Canada; EU=European Union; CHN=China; JNA=Japan, New Zealand, Australia; IND=India, ROW=Rest of the World.


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1850/High               1950/Medium                 1990/Low

bottom 50% middle 40% top 10% USA/CAN  




23.1% 53.5% 16.9%
EU28 16.8% 13.7% 10.7%
China 13.6% 11.5% 10.8%
JA/NZ/AU 7.6% 5.3% 4.4%
India   0.1%  
ROW 14.6% 13.7% 10.6%
USA/CAN   2.7%   4.8%   4.7%




6.5% 39.4% 6.2%
China 1.4% 5.6% 8.3%
JA/NZ/AU 1.7% 2.3% 2.3%
India 0.2% 1.6% 2.7%
ROW 3.2% 11.9% 15.2%
USA/CAN         7.1%  
China     1.3%
India     1.0%
ROW     4.7%

Table 1: Distribution of the global mitigation effort to countries, shown by income group. These are the numbers behind the graphs in Figure 5, just above


The overall point here turns on the fundamental reality of the global income distribution, which, as shown in Figure 1, is that the richest 10% of the global population commands more than half of the global income. In this context, any properly progressive climate agreement would allocate a very large proportion of the global obligation to the richest 10%, who reside (as Figure 1 shows) overwhelmingly in the wealthy countries. If this wealthiest 10% were indeed obliged to deliver their fair share of climate action, this alone would amount to 67-87% of the total 2030 mitigation requirements for 1.5°C, based on the range set by our equity benchmarks. Or, as Kevin Anderson similarly points out, if the emissions of the richest 10% of the global population were reduced to the European average, then, all else being equal, global emissions would drop by 30%.14


These indicative numbers suffice to show what different allocations might imply for different income groups and countries, and by so doing they illustrate the stakes here. The point here is that equity matters, and that fair global effort sharing system must also be fair in its impact at different points on the intra-national economic ladder. It is difficult to believe that poorer countries, and especially the poorer individuals within them, will agree to be saddled with obligations that wealthier countries and individuals would much more easily – and properly – bear.




Any climate response that does not recognize that the overriding priority for many peoples and countries remains poverty eradication and economic and social development will only further impoverish the poor. More generally, any approach that abandons the demands of international equity – that does not recognize today’s stark income disparities among countries and then differentiate expectations accordingly – will only exacerbate these


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inequalities, and also the inequalities within countries. And any approach that does not require the wealthy (whether as individuals, as corporations or as countries) to contribute to an extremely rapid climate transition, supporting poor people and poor countries as they seek to develop along low-carbon paths while at the same time adapting to the worsening impacts of climate change, is doomed to fail.


We need dramatically more ambitious NDCs… from all countries. No country’s current pledge even remotely reflects a future consistent with a 1.5°C pathway. We need fair-share pledges that are explicitly designed to support a rapid phase out of fossil fuel consumption and production, an equally rapid transition to proper 100% renewable energy for all, and concerted efforts to anticipate and prepare for impending climate impacts. We need strong pledges that launch the immediate transformation needed to prevent warming rising above 1.5°C, not weak pledges that that have us vastly overshooting 1.5°C while hand-waving about future negative emissions. Clearly, this all adds up to a big ask, but the time is late and it cannot be avoided. Improved pledges mean a future in which economies are driven by new kinds of investment patterns, not “growth” as usual but the dual goal of, on the one side, creating more equitable, healthier and safer communities and on the other supporting those that are being battered and destroyed by the impacts of climate change.


In the short term, the wealthy must provide the financial and technological support that developing countries will need to follow through with sufficiently ambitious pledges. Though they are morally and legally obliged to provide such support, the wealthy countries have sought to weaken their obligations under the climate regime and focus UNFCCC processes almost exclusively on each countries’ own domestic mitigation. International support has been increasingly side-lined, with the bulk of the “cooperative implementation” efforts aimed at promoting carbon markets and offsets systems, which have simply not proven effective at mobilizing substantial resources or meaningfully reducing emissions.


The elements of a new approach could include:


  • Commitment to domestic mitigation pledges in line with fair shares and a 5°C pathway.


  • Adoption by wealthy countries of explicit QUANTIFIED commitments to support mitigation and adaptation in developing


  • More clearly specified developing country support needs, relative to conditional or more ambitious targets, either as part of NDCs or as supplemental information;


  • Creation of a mechanism under the UNFCCC for matching offers of support with needs and


  • Arrangements under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement that go beyond emissions trading to effective non- market approaches to facilitate scaled up cooperation, which could involve support for projects, policies, and programs that result in concrete and quantified emissions reductions and enhanced climate


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A rapid climate transition is of course essential, but there is also the overarching imperative of ensuring that it is a just transition, an imperative that begins with support for the most vulnerable, and includes fossil-dependent workers and communities. In this context, implementation in all countries must be premised on bold and visionary plans for social protection, and must set the course toward more just and inclusive societies. And this must be done in ways that not only protect but indeed strengthen impacted and vulnerable communities. A politically viable transition will be based on democratic dialogs at all levels, in which all can envision themselves thriving.15




Given all this, the costs of the climate transition must ultimately be borne by the people who have the money, and this is going to have to be true both within countries and between them. Whatever international support the wealthy countries provide to the poorer ones must, by necessity, be provided by wealthy people and the corporations that they largely own and control. This is, obviously, not going to happen if the wealthy people who reside within, or who have hidden their wealth within, poorer countries somehow manage to get a pass. That wealth helps constitute the capacities of the nations within which they reside. Nor is it going to happen if the poor people of the wealthy world, who are already feeling angry and begrieved, are somehow stuck with the bill.


To be sure, climate equity – among countries and within them – might well be shunted aside in favor of the interests of the elites. After all, inequalities in wealth are directly paralleled by inequalities in power. Elites are able to not only set frames and agendas, but also to overbear fragile democracies with their preferences, to engineer trade relations that undermine community resilience around the world, to spread disinformation at will, and to sabotage all efforts to mobilize at scale. This power, indeed, is a big part of the story of how we’ve arrived at our current reckoning.


And there could still be worse to come. Societies, particularly when under environmental pressure, stumble toward collapse when their elites, those who set collective priorities and allocate resources, distance themselves from the realities and afflictions of the population as a whole, and come to act so single-mindedly, so much by the logic of narrow self-interest, that they become blind to the larger predicament.16 And the same can be said, it seems, of a world in which rich countries let poor countries fall to famine and rising seas, blind to the near certainty that their fate will ultimately be the same.


In any case, the challenge now is to mobilize within the bottom-up Paris architecture. This means an equitable global regime that is underpinned by transformative national action. There is no trade off here. Unless the transition is broadly experienced – by countries and by the communities within them – as being fair, there is not going to be a transition at all. An effective climate response can only be one that recognizes the lived reality of a twice-divided world in which inequality within countries and inequity between them are only two sides of one single coin.


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  • “D2.2. The consideration of ethics and equity can help address the uneven distribution of adverse impacts associated with 5°C and higher levels of global warming, as well as those from mitigation and adaptation, particularly for poor and disadvantaged populations, in all societies (high confidence).”


  • “D4.2. 5°C pathways that include low energy demand, low material consumption, and low GHG-intensive food consumption have the most pronounced synergies and the lowest number of trade-offs with respect to sustainable development and the SDGs (high confidence). Such pathways would reduce dependence on CDR. In modelled pathways sustainable development, eradicating poverty and reducing inequality can support limiting warming to 1.5◦C. (high confidence)”


  • “D4.5. Redistributive policies across sectors and populations that shield the poor and vulnerable can resolve trade-offs for a range of SDGs, particularly hunger, poverty and energy Investment needs for such complementary policies are only a small fraction of the overall mitigation investments in 1.5°C pathways. (high confidence)”


  • “D5.6 Public acceptability can enable or inhibit the implementation of policies and measures to limit global warming to 1.5°C and to adapt to the consequences. Public acceptability depends on the individual’s evaluation of expected policy consequences, the perceived fairness of the distribution of these consequences, and perceived fairness of decision procedures (high confidence).”


  • “D6.1. Social justice and equity are core aspects of climate-resilient development pathways that aim to limit global warming to 1.5°C as they address challenges and inevitable trade-offs, widen opportunities, and ensure that options, visions, and values are deliberated, between and within countries and communities, without making the poor and disadvantaged worse off (high confidence).”


  • “D6.3 The large majority of modelling studies could not construct pathways characterized by lack of international cooperation, inequality and poverty that were able to limit global warming to 1.5°C. (high confidence)”


  • “D7.3. International cooperation is a critical enabler for developing countries and vulnerable regions”

(high confidence)


  • “D7.4. Collective efforts at all levels, in ways that reflect different circumstances and capabilities, in the pursuit of limiting global warming to 5°C, taking into account equity as well as effectiveness, can facilitate strengthening the global response to climate change, achieving sustainable development and eradicating poverty (high confidence).”


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  • Global Warming of 5°C, an IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty. October 2018,
  • Grübler, Arnulf; Charlie Wilson; Nuno Bento; Benigna Boza-Kiss; Volker Krey; David McCollum; Narasimha D. Rao; et al. (2018) “A Low Energy Demand Scenario for Meeting the 5°C Target and Sustainable Development Goals Without Negative Emission Technologies” in Nature Energy, 3, 515–527.
  • Will Steffen al., “Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, August 6, 2018,
  • Hans Schellnhuber quoted in David Spratt, “IPCC’s political fix on 5°C will undermine its credibility,” Climate Code Red, Also, for detailed criticism of the IPCC’s scientific conservativism, see David Spratt and Ian Dunlop, What lies beneath? The scientific understatement of climate risks, which features                    a                    forward                    by   Schellnhuber,
  • Climate Interactive (
  • World Income Inequality
  • See, for example, a widely cited 2015 report from Oxfam International: The “Extreme Carbon Inequality” report:
  • Erle Ellis, “Science Alone Won’t Save the Earth. People Have to Do That”, The New York Times, August 11, 2018,
  • “Aggregate Effect of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions: An Update. Synthesis Report by the Secretariat.” Bonn: UNFCCC, May 2, 2016.
  • Cite the new WWF matching facility Mark L will provide link before layout.
  • One substantive change from the previous three CSO Equity Assessments (2015, 2016, 2017) is that this assessment excludes LULUCF from national There are several reasons for this. First, the available data for national LU emissions are partial, inconsistent, and contain well-known inaccuracies, a problem that is only compounded by the various well-known opportunities for accounting mischief. A second reason is that, even with accurate data and accounting, a strict fungibility between fossil carbon and land-based carbon is deeply problematic, in that it falsely equates the scope for labile, limited, and multi-purpose stock of carbon on the land to substitute for the permanent and secure stock of fossil carbon deep underground. Third, the extremely close link between LU and other sustainability and human rights concerns suggests that land must be managed within a substantively different type of regime than the UNFCCC, one that focuses on human rights, food security, indigenous rights, biodiversity, and water-shed protection, lest it risk seriously undermining these other objectives. This is not to suggest that action on land-related emissions is unimportant or does not warrant science- and equity-based assessment, but rather to argue that such actions should be placed in their holistic context.
  • Specific 2030 mitigation finance pledges have not been made by wealthier countries, even though this information is crucially needed so that poorer countries can plan for implementing the mitigation activities that such finance could Nonetheless, given the commitment by developed countries to a yet-unspecified collective goal above their current $100bn goal, it is reasonable to assume that some climate finance will be provided. In our 2016 report, “Setting the Path Towards 1.5°C,” we conducted a detailed analysis of wealthier countries’ 2020 finance pledges including the estimated mitigation impact of these pledges. The mitigation impact of climate finance estimated in this report, is based on this analysis and assumes that wealthier countries’ ambition regarding climate finance increases in proportion to the increase in their emissions reductions ambition.
  • See for example Kevin Anderson’s lecture, delivered in Edinburgh on October 30, 2018, soon after the release of the IPCC’s special report on Global Warming of 1.5°C. Note that Anderson derives this result from the analysis in Carbon and inequality: from Kyoto to Paris, a paper published by Lucas Chancel and Thomas Piketty just before the Paris climate summit in See
  • Much more could be said about the details of a just transition, but excellent resources are to be found at https://www.ituc- org/climate-change; (
  • This point was put forward by anthropologist Jared Diamond in his 2005 bestseller, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succee
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