A study has revealed that industrialised countries of the Global North, like the US and Germany, are accountable for 90 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions that exceed limits.
To meet climate change targets by 2050, these high-emitting nations might need to pay $170 trillion in compensation to countries with lower emissions, such as India.
A study published in Nature Sustainability on Monday (6 June) claimed that India should receive an annual compensation of $1,446 per capita until 2050 and a yearly compensation equivalent to 66 per cent of its 2018 GDP.
Researchers from the UK’s University of Leeds assessed 168 countries to determine historic accountability for climate change, using excess carbon dioxide emissions beyond equality-based fair share of global carbon budgets.
When countries exceed their fair share of the carbon budget, they are disproportionately responsible for damages caused by global warming.
This also means that other countries must limit their own full use of fair share of carbon budget to ensure the world stays on track for the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal, resulting in quicker action for mitigation.
A carbon budget is the maximum amount of greenhouse gases emitted for a certain global warming level of 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to climate science.
A proposed compensation mechanism has been suggested by the researchers, which considers historical responsibility for causing and averting climate breakdown.
This mechanism represents an ambitious scenario where all countries eradicate carbon emissions to achieve net zero by 2050. This scenario would limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
“The study is based on the idea that the atmosphere is a commons – a natural wealth for everyone to access equitably and sustainably. We obtained remaining global carbon budgets for 1.5 degrees Celsius and 2 degrees Celsius from the IPCC and distributed fair shares across 168 countries, based on population,” said ecological economist and one of the researchers Andrew Fanning, reports Indian Express.
“We compared each country’s fair share against how much CO2 that country has released historically from 1960, together with a business-as-usual scenario and an ambitious scenario where it decarbonises from current levels to net zero by 2050. The results are striking,” he stated.
Even under ambitious scenarios that limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the Global North would overshoot its collective share of the carbon budget by a factor of three, appropriating half of the Global South’s fair share in the process. “This is unjust,” the researchers said.
According to research, a few low-emitting countries, particularly India, would give up most of their emissions to counterbalance the high-emitting countries and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
US, Germany, Russia, UK, and Japan are among the top over-emitters, and would be liable to pay $131 trillion (Over 2/3 of total compensation).
Low-emitting countries are owed the largest climate debt of $2.6 trillion per year by the US.
India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria and China, the five low-emitting countries, are entitled to get compensation of $102 trillion, according to the study.
In 2015, nations pledged to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels (1850-1900) to prevent severe, harmful, and possibly permanent outcomes from climate change.
The increase in Earth’s temperature by 1.15 degrees Celsius is linked to the CO2 emissions released into the atmosphere since the start of the industrial revolution.
The carbon budget for 1.5 and 2-degree Celsius may run out by 2030 and 2044 (2039-2049) respectively, according to projections.
India, with over 17 per cent of the world’s population, has emitted just 4 per cent of the planet’s greenhouse gases from 1850 to 2019.
Last year, the United Nations Environment Programme reported that India’s per capita greenhouse gas emissions are only 2.4 tCO2e (tonne carbon dioxide equivalent), which is much lower than the global average of 6.3 tCO2e.
The US has the highest per capita emissions globally at 14 tCO2e, followed by Russia at 13 tCO2e and China at 9.7 tCO2e, while Brazil, Indonesia, and the European Union are around 7.5-7.2 tCO2e each.
Research on carbon inequalities shows that some countries are overshooting their fair share of the remaining carbon budget and hold disproportionate responsibility for climate breakdown.