The main principle behind the Paris agreement is that every country in the world should lower their CO2 emissions by an amount sufficient to keep the temperature rise within 1,5-2 degrees C.

But the fact is that there is a huge difference between countries emitting a lot and countries emitting much less. There is also a huge difference between countries capable of speeding up investments to achieving these goals, and countries that cannot.

China – the biggest emitter of all closely followed by the USA – is not among the top ten countries when comparing CO2 emissions per capita. China emitted almost 7 tCO2 per capita in 2017. As a country The USA emits only a little more than half of China, but more than double as much in emissions per capita.

In emitting CO2 per capita Qatar is safely in the lead with 49 tCO2, almost twice that of the second contender, in 2017. The USA emitted one third per capita compared to Qatar, and China about one seventh that of Qatar’s emission.

Figure 1: the top ten emitters

Figure 2: The top ten emitters per capita

In the lower end of the scale the picture is the same, but it is quite evident that the difference between top and bottom emitters is extreme, both on the national and on the per capita level.

Figure 3: The bottom ten emitters

Figure 4: the bottom ten emitters per capita

The question is: is it reasonable and fair to tell every country to lower the emissions by the same percentage every year?

OR: Would it be more appropriate and fair to tell countries with the biggest emissions and the best economy, to do significantly more than countries with a weak economy, and a per capita emission, that is measured in 100’s of kilograms, not tons.

But there are problems with this way of thinking:

China is by far the biggest culprit with almost 10 billion tons of CO2 in 2017. But China has a huge population resulting in a per capita emission of just under 7 tons, about one seventh that of the “winner” of the per capita game, Qatar, with about 49 tons per capita. The country with the lowest per capita emission is Burindi: 49 kilograms per citizen.

We have to remember that behind the need for investing in lowering CO2 emission there is a huge potential for expanding economic activities using close to CO2-neutral technologies. But getting there requires investments, and they will always result in a negative revenue, until the greener wheels start turning and spitting out revenue. Countries that are emitting a lot, but with a sound economy can invest more in getting started, but poorer countries run the risk of being left out of the game. They simply cannot afford to invest, in many cases because IMF is demanding repay of debt before anything. In the eyes of the IMF short-term monetary stability is far more important than long-term climate stability.

We need a way to spread out the burden of investments. To do that we need to take into account the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the GDP per capita of each country and compare this to the total CO2 emission and the emission per capita of each country.

It is not that difficult!

There are 4 factors that needs to be compared:

  • Emissions (MtCO2 per year)
  • Emissions per capita (tCO2 per year)
  • GDP. A high GDP tells you that the country is capable of investing, even though the per capita GPD might not be dominant in the global picture.
  • GDP per capita: A high GDP per capita tells you that the people of the country has a surplus, that can be invested.

Each of these factors can be indexed by defining the biggest number to be 100 and then calculating all the others as a percentage of this number. These four indexes can then be summed up resulting in the sum-of-indexes, and this sum of indexes can then be indexed in the same way: Total-index – all of this for each country individually.

An example:

China is the biggest emitter with 9838 Mtons CO2 in 2017. It is set at 100.

China has a low emission per capita, about 14% that of Qatar.

China had a GDP in 2017 of about 72% that of the USA, and a GDP per capita of about 6,8% that of Liechtenstein.

The result is: 100 + 14 +72+ 6,8 = 192,8 (more precisely: 193,58), which is the second highest sum of indexes, only beaten by the USA with a sum-of-indexes of 226,92.

The USA sum-of-indexes are then set at 100. The sum-of-index of all the other countries are then calculated as a percentage.

The ten countries with the highest total-index are:

Figure 5: The ten countries with the highest total-index.

Countries can then be grouped according to its total-index, and then assigned a demand for a yearly decrease in CO2 emissions. I have chosen these 5 groups:

Figure 6: The groups and demands

In my model countries with a total-index of more than 50% should lower their CO2 emissions by at least 4% every year from 2020 and onwards. Countries with a total-index of 25% to 50% should lower their emissions by at least 3,5% every year, etc. Countries with an index less than 1% is allowed to continue with their present emissions.

But these countries should be guided and helped to increase their economic activities with close to CO2-neutral technologies, but they are so poor and several of them highly indebted, that we have to give them some leeway.

Figure 7: An example of the effect of these guidelines.

2050 has been set as a limit by the Paris agreement. In 2010 it was calculated that by 2050 the global CO2 emissions should be lowered by 60%.

Following the guidelines lined up in this blog-entry gives the result of 61% by 2050:

Figure 8: The result

Of course demands can be increased so that the result will be even lower, statistically speaking. In Denmark politicians have stated that their goal is 70% lower emission by 2030. I doubt that is possible, even if the political will is there. But many countries will fight change. Donald Trump is the prime examples. These politicians still believe that lowering CO2 emission will continue to hamper economic activity at least as long as they are in office, and the future beyond that is unfathomable to their feeble mind. Lowering CO2 emissions will inhibit growth for some time, but fossils fuels are not the only way to “fuel” economic growth. We just need to start investing in technologies that are closer to the ideal of CO2-neutrality.

To convince stupid and shortsighted politicians we need to find a model that is fair and reasonable, and that will not inhibit growth too severely in the minds of these politicians. In reality the future will prove to all of us that green investments are capable of generating economic growth just as efficiently as fossil investments, probably even more, because environmental investments in combatting the effects of climate change and i.e. the effects of air pollution on public health, has cost a lot on the public budget every year, and this will continue to increase if fossil investment are allowed a continued dominance. By converting to fossil-free technologies such public revenues will be saved.

Let’s get started. My prediction is that 60% lower CO2 emissions will be reached well before 2050, when the macro-economic effects of investing in green technologies begin to kick in.

The spreadsheet with all the number crunching can be downloaded here:

Leave a Reply