19 December 2016

How fair are countries’ climate pledges?

Benchmarks to guide countries in ratcheting up their ambition to limit climate change to well-below 2°C and pursue 1.5°C in an equitable manner are critical, but not yet determined in the context of the Paris Agreement.

Activitists demonstrate for climate justice and equity at the Paris climate meeting in 2015. ©Takver via Flickr

Activitists demonstrate for climate justice and equity at the Paris climate meeting in 2015. ©Takver via Flickr

A new study published in Nature Climate Change analyzes national climate targets needed to meet the 1.5 and 2°C goals according to five different equity principles, and how these compare with the current climate pledges.

IIASA researcher Joeri Rogelj worked on the study. He says, “The Paris Agreement saw over a hundred countries bring climate action pledges to the table. To understand how these compare, they can be stacked against equity and fairness benchmarks. Such benchmarks are subjective and imply value judgments. We provide a set of conceptually very diverse benchmarks to further facilitate this discussion.”

"Our study for the first time presents equitable emissions allocations of global cost-optimal emissions pathways consistent with the Paris Agreement goals, in particular the 1.5°C goal,” says lead author Yann Robiou du Pont of the Australian-German Climate & Energy College of the University of Melbourne. "Following equity categories outlined by the IPCC, we show that the G8 and China together could close the emissions mitigation gap to keep warming to below 2°C. However, equitably limiting warming to 1.5°C would require individual countries to achieve mitigation milestones like peaking emissions or reaching net-zero emissions much earlier".

"Equity refers to the fairness and comparability of climate pledges. Fairness can be interpreted in many ways; our paper quantifies these different interpretations so that the quantitative implications can be compared,” adds co-author Louise Jeffery of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research adds.  “Equity concepts include those that assign lower future emissions allowances to countries with high past emissions and wealthier countries, those that aim for equal emissions per person, and those that preserve the right to development and accommodate national circumstances".

Explore the data

The results of the study are available on a new website called "Paris Equity Check" which offers a multi-dimensional and completely peer-reviewed overview on climate pledges with regard to equity principles, consistent with the Paris Agreement. Click to visit the site


Text adapted from Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

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Last edited: 01 March 2017


Joeri Rogelj

Senior Research Scholar Transformative Institutional and Social Solutions Research Group - Energy, Climate, and Environment Program

Senior Research Scholar Integrated Assessment and Climate Change Research Group - Energy, Climate, and Environment Program

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