Climate Change

Climate Emergency CoP 25: Developed countries have already exhausted the Earth’s carbon budget

Carbon space for Africa and India will be pittance; China too is consuming more carbon from the budget

By Tarun Gopalakrishnan, Kapil Subramanian
Published: Monday 09 December 2019

The world has limited carbon budget if it wants the warming to stay under 1.5°C by 2100, and over 80 per cent of it has already been consumed in the years since 1850. While the US and the EU have been historically the big polluters, China has joined the club.

Past consumption has been deeply iniquitous. The US, with 4.3 per cent of the world population in 2018, has been responsible for 25 per cent of cumulative emissions since 1850, while the EU with 6.8 per cent of the population has been responsible for 18.4 per cent.  

India, with 17.8 per cent of the population, has been responsible for only 2.8 per cent, while China, with 18.3 per cent of the world’s population has been responsible for 10.7 per cent.

Despite the catch-up act being played by developing countries, this inequity fails to disappear even as we look to the future. Between 1850 and 2030, the terminal year for most current set of nationally determined contributions, or NDCs (climate action goals set under the Paris Agreement), the share of the global carbon budget consumed by rich countries remains grossly disproportionate.  

The US, which roughly has 5 per cent of the world's population, will emit over 17.7 per cent of cumulative emissions till 2030. The figure for India, which has about 18 per cent of the global population, is just 4.1 per cent.

But beyond the share of historic polluters, climate inequity in the present and the future needs to confront a new reality—the rise of China, whose share of emissions between 1850 and 2030 will be 16.7 per cent. This is comparable to the US and the EU. If these trends continue, the carbon space left for Africa and India will be pittance.

This is part of Down To Earth's print edition dated December 1-15, 2019

To read more on the ongoing Conference of Parties 25 click here

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