What carbon budget for the new generations?

Global - Apr 18 2019
  • #carbon
  • #carbon/climate change

What carbon budget for the new generations?

An analysis produced by Carbon Brief on April 10, states that to maintain global warming at 1.5°C (aligned with the 2015 Paris Agreement), today's young Earth dwellers will have to significantly limit their carbon footprint compared to that of their grandparents. According to Carbon Brief experts, an average person born in the 2000s can only emit between one-third and one-eighth of the lifetime emissions of a person born in 1950 to keep global warming at 1.5°C. On the graph below, we can see the different average global carbon budgets over the lifetime as a function of birth dates from 1900 to the present day. These data provide an interesting picture of “per capita” issues at stake for investors’ assessments of carbon budgets at the sovereign level, which also raises questions for countries’ economic activities and the analysis of company carbon budgets.

Lifetime carbon budget by birth year

Source : Carbon Brief

As shown in the graph above, if global warming is limited to 1.5°C, the average global carbon budget over the lifetime of a person born in 2013, the first year of birth corresponding to the "Alpha" generation, is 68 tonnes of CO2, or about 20% of a person's budget born in 1950. This child, if he or she lives to 85 years of age, should therefore not exceed 0.8 tonnes per year at a time when CO2 emissions are currently 4.9 tonnes per year per capita worldwide. This study therefore implies that the carbon budget of a person born in 2013 would be exhausted in 2027 at the current emissions rate.

However, the Carbon Brief expects that countries’ emissions will follow different trajectories in a 1.5°C scenario instead of following a global average carbon footprint. It has therefore adopted models (the "Integrated Assessment Models") that allocate future emissions for each region of the world. In this scenario, young Americans, even if they will have to pollute five-time fewer than their elders, will still be allocated a carbon budget fifteen times higher than that of Indians, four times higher than Chinese and twice as high as that of Europeans. This approach raises some questions about equity, as it implies that citizens in countries with high historical emissions would thus receive a much larger share of the carbon budget to spend in the future. Indeed, to date, fair and applicable approaches are also considered for allocating future emissions. In the longer term, this could lead to regulations or more global pressure on the allocation of carbon budgets at the country level and perhaps at the company level as well.

Félix Fouret, Carbon/Climate Analyst
Source : Beyond Ratings, Carbon Brief

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