Contraction and Convergence
The catalyst for effective action on emissions will be a global treaty that requires all nations to play a proportionate part in cutting global carbon emissions over an agreed period until the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is stabilised at a precautionary level. Such a treaty must relate carbon targets to the latest scientific understanding, not politically convenient ratios of past emissions.
Frustration at UN climate negotiations and the Kyoto Protocol's inadequate carbon targets have prompted alternative frameworks for cutting global carbon emissions (some are explored elsewhere on the website) which do not figure on the current UN agenda.
'Contraction & Convergence' predates the Kyoto Protocol, which was agreed in 1997. C&C was then considered too radical, but it is now increasingly regarded as the only formula that has a real chance of reconciling the interests of the biggest carbon polluting nations with the rest of the world. Wider public understanding of C&C is therefore essential.
C&C was developed twenty years ago by Aubrey Meyer, who has tirelessly championed it through the Global Commons Institute, ever since. www.gci.org.uk
Meyer has won many awards for his work, among them from United Nations Environment Programme, the Schumacher Institute and the Royal Institute of British Architects. In 2008, a cross party group of British MPs nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Like most great ideas, C&C combines rigour with simplicity. By linking emissions to population and a global trade in per capita carbon entitlements, it provides a 'carbon reduction score' which all nations can perform together on equal terms.
We have made a short video summary to explain the principles of C&C.
Summary of C&C
1 The amount of CO2 that Earth’s atmosphere can contain without causing uncontrollable climate change is finite and can be quantified. CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels must therefore be cut before this limit is reached.
2 No matter where they live, or how rich they are, each person has an equal right to a healthy atmosphere. Everyone is therefore entitled to an equal share of a finite global carbon budget that is burned over an agreed period of time. This links future national carbon budgets to population.
3 Global CO2 emissions must be be reduced within a defined overall timeframe, but since the cumulative carbon emissions and current per capita carbon emissions of western nations are higher than those of developing and emerging countries, C&C requires them to rapidly reduce or contract their fossil fuel emissions. At the same time, C&C enables countries whose per capita emissions below the global per capita average to maintain, or even temporarily increase CO2 emissions until they converge on the falling global average. From that moment on, all nations will cut emissions in step until everyone reaches the sustainable long-term per capita target which will be far less than current rates.
C&C uses a market mechanism to cut emissions. Since industrialised nations will be unable to de-carbonise fast enough to stay within their shrinking annual quotas, they will be able to buy unused per capita entitlements from carbon-frugal (mainly developing) nations. This trade will create incentives for all nations to avoid fossil fuels. It also means the date for convergence of carbon entitlements (as opposed to actual emissions) will become the key negotiation at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; the earlier this is, the more carbon entitlements developing nations will be able to sell.
For a fuller briefing and definition of C&C, see http://www.gci.org.uk/briefings.html
For an impressive list of endorsements of C&C: http://www.gci.org.uk/endorsements.html
"Contraction and Convergence: The Global Solution to Climate Change" (Schumacher Briefings) by Aubrey Meyer (Dec 2000)
Contraction & Convergence and C&C are trademarked by Aubrey Meyer to protect the integrity of the definition.