Who Should Abate Carbon Emissions?
An International Viewpoint
The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro acknowledged the need for international cooperation in responding to the threat of climate change posed by the rapidly increasing concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. There are, however, substantial differences of opinion both about the main issues and about the framework for resolving them. Industrial countries typically focus on the potential problems posed by the growth of population in developing countries and on the environmental pressure from carbon emissions that this could create over the next half century. Abatement efforts, they feel, should be initiated in the developing countries. On the other hand developing countries view the carbon emission problem as one that originates historically and currently in the industrial countries and that requires their immediate action. Indeed the large majority of all carbon emissions, about 73%, originate currently and historically in the OECD countries and in the ex-Soviet Union; the developing countries have almost four-fifths of the world's population yet contribute at most 30% of all carbon emissions.1
Carbon dioxide emissions are a by-product of animal life and of economic activity that involves burning fossil fuels. The rapid increase in the concentra-
Reprinted from Economics Letters, vol. 44, 1994, pp. 443–49, Chichilnisky et al.,“Who Should Abate Carbon Emissions?”