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Equity Concern in Climate Change - Büşra Öztürk

UN Emission Gas Report illustrates that the world needs to drop in annual emissions of 13 gigatons (Gt) of carbon by 2030 to get on track to limit global warming to 2°C as in the Paris Agreement target. On the contrary, the global carbon emissions rebounded to their highest level in history with 36.3 Gt last year. The Climate Action Tracker that tracks government targets, policies, and climate action indicate that most countries are not hitting 2030 climate goals. As the pledges fail, the heavy consequences of climate change, including tropical storms, extensive flooding, debilitating droughts, wildfires, and diminished crop yields, will be inevitable. In this sense, I suppose it is important to identify urgently the reasons that detain the achievement of the climate target. In this article, I would like to explain a missing item to reach the target: Equity Concern in Climate Change.

Since climate change is a global problem that influences welfare worldwide, it is a fact that everyone is responsible for it its contribution to carbon emissions and is in danger of experiencing big impacts from it. That's why everyone must be involved in pulling together against climate change. However, "the extent" to which the burden should be shared is controversial. Historically, the vast majority of carbon emissions today are caused by the combustion of fossil fuels, human activity, such as deforestation, has contributed significantly to the total. And the developed countries have been the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. When humanity was unaware of the impact of fossil fuels, developed countries powered their way to prosperity. With the scientific developments, alternative energy sources are available to mitigate climate change. However, the availability does not bring affordability and accessibility to those sources equally for everyone.

Taking actions to mitigate climate change requires a considerable cost, but that can not realistically be spread equally across all countries and individuals. It is due to the current imbalance of power, which favors developed countries, which control the majority of global capital, military power, natural resources, and knowledge resources. In this regard, global climate action will fail without considering how equity weighs in causes and power. Equity is not only a moral concept; but also the heart of the matter and a practical requirement to prevail in the face of the climate crisis.

Developing countries generally aim for the economic development and growth of the country's welfare in the first line. It could be unreasonable to expect these countries to achieve their climate targets as much as developed countries can in this development process. Therefore we need to reconsider expectations and climate targets considering the equity concern. Prof. Shukla, the co-chair in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), underlines that the climate goals should arrive at a "fair and impartial" distribution of mitigation burden that demands international cooperation on an unprecedented scale. For that, the developed countries should lead in the pathway to the Paris goals and help developing countries in the transition to green energy. Since energy resource endowments in developing countries are polluting, such as coal in China and India, efficient alternative ways should be provided to them to achieve their development goals while keeping the emissions level low.

The equity concern in climate change does not exist only among developed countries and developing &undeveloped countries. It also exists among rich and poor people who disproportionately contribute to the global emissions burden. Consumption habits that change according to individuals' income imply they have different responsibilities. For instance, a person who only has access to electricity for a portion of the day cannot be expected to bear the same burden as a businessman who travels frequently. Therefore, it is necessary to evaluate territorial-based and consumption-based when calculating emissions. Consumption-based outcomes can produce healthier results in this regard because they demonstrate a product's total emissions over its entire lifetime. Therefore, that could allow finding a path to allocate the share of the burden among the concentrated wealth levels.

Overall, tackling the climate change problem requires considering the equity in the climate goals. Expecting everyone to be involved equally is not realistic because of the asymmetric share of historical emissions, the inequivalent development levels of countries, the different consumption habits within the income level. However, I think that global success in combating climate change is possible only if we consider our climate targets and draw a consistent path without ignoring this equity concern.


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