Select Committee on Environmental Audit Minutes of Evidence

Annex 1


  The Global Commons Institute [GCI] was founded in 1990.[1] This was in response to the mainstreaming of global climate change as a political issue. Realising the enormity of the climate crisis, we devised a founding statement on the principle of "Equity and Survival".[2]

  In November 1990, the United Nations began to create the Framework on Climate Convention UNFCCC]. GCI contributed to this and in June 1992 the Convention was agreed at the Earth Summit in Rio.[3] Its objective was defined as stabilizing the rising greenhouse gas [GHG] concentration of the global atmosphere at a non-dangerous level. [See Annex 2 paragraph 2] Its principles of equity and precaution were established in international law. [See Annex 2 paragraph 2] Climate scientists had showed that a deep overall contraction of GHG emissions from human sources is prerequisite to achieving the objective of the UNFCCC. In 1995 negotiations to achieve this contraction began administered by the specially created UNFCCC secretariat.

  Between 1992 and 1995 and at the request of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC], GCI contributed analysis highlighting the worsening asymmetry, or "Expansion and Divergence" [E&D] of global economic development.[4] It became clear the global majority most damaged by climate changes were already impoverished by the economic structures of those who were also now causing the damaging GHG emissions. [See paragraphs 6.32-6.42]

  To create a sustainable basis on which to resolve this inequity, GCI also developed the "Contraction and Convergence" (C&C) model of future emissions.[5,6,7] In 1995 the model was introduced by the Indian Government [See paragraph Annex 4 paragraph 1] and it was subsequently adopted and tabled by the Africa Group of Nations in August 1997. [See Annex 4 paragraph 3]

  Negotiations for the Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC ran from 1995 until 1997. In December 1997 and shortly before they withdrew from these negotiations, the USA stated, "C&C contains elements for the next agreement that we may ultimately all seek to engage in."[8]

  Since then C&C has been widely referenced in the debate about achieving the objective of the UNFCCC. In 2000 C&C was the first recommendation of the UK Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution in its proposals to government.[9] In December 2003 C&C was adopted by the German Government's Advisory Council on Global Change in its recommendations.[10] In 2003 the secretariat of the UNFCCC said the objective of the UNFCCC, "inevitably requires "Contraction and Convergence"."[11] The Latin America Division of the World Bank in Washington DC said, "C&C leaves a lasting, positive and visionary impression with us."[12] In 2004 the Archbishop of Canterbury took the position that, "C&C thinking appears utopian only if we refuse to contemplate the alternatives honestly."[13] In 2002, the UK Government accepted GCI authorship of the definition statement of C&C, recognising the need, "to protect the integrity of the argument."[14]

  This statement follows and is available in thirteen languages.[15] It has been acknowledged by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee and in part in the UN's forthcoming "Millennium Assessment." In 2005, the UK Government will host the next G-8 summit. The Government has already committed this event to dealing strategically with the problems of Africa and Climate Change. Numerous civil society and faith groups are now actively lobbying the Government to have C&C adopted as the constitutional basis for avoiding dangerous future climate change.

  1.  "Contraction and Convergence" (C&C) is the science-based, global climate-policy framework, proposed to the United Nations since 1990 by the Global Commons Institute (GCI).

  2.  The objective of safe and stable greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere and the principles of precaution and equity, as already agreed in the "United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change" (UNFCCC), provide the formal calculating basis of the C&C framework that proposes:

    —  A full-term contraction budget for global emissions consistent with stabilising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) at a pre-agreed concentration maximum deemed to be safe, following IPCC WG1 carbon cycle modelling. (See Image Three—GCI sees higher than 450 parts per million by volume [ppmv] CO2 equivalent as "not-safe").

    —  The international sharing of this budget as "entitlements' results from a negotiable rate of linear convergence to equal shares per person globally by an agreed date within the timeline of the full-term contraction/concentration agreement. (GCI suggests [a] between the years 2020 and 2050, or around a third of the way into a 100 year budget, for example, for convergence to complete (see Image Four) and [b] that a population base-year in the C&C schedule is agreed).

    —  Negotiations for this at the UNFCCC should occur principally between regions of the world, leaving negotiations between countries primarily within their respective regions, such as the European Union, the Africa Union, the US, etc (See Image Two).

    —  The inter-regional, inter-national and intra-national tradability of these entitlements in an appropriate currency such as International Energy Backed Currency Units [EBCUs][16] should be encouraged.

    —  Scientific understanding of the relationship between an emissions-free economy and concentrations develops, so rates of C&C can evolve under periodic revision.

  3.  Presently, the global community continues to generate dangerous climate change faster than it organises to avoid it. The international diplomatic challenge is to reverse this. The purpose of C&C is to make this possible. It enables scenarios for safe climate to be calculated and shared by negotiation so that policies and measures can be internationally organised at rates that avoid dangerous global climate change.

  4.  GHG emissions have so far been closely correlated with economic performance (See Image Five). To date, this growth of economies and emissions has been mostly in the industrialised countries, creating recently a global pattern of increasingly uneconomic expansion and divergence [E&D], environmental imbalance and international insecurity (See Image Six).

  5.  The C&C answer to this is full-term and constitutional, rather than short-term and stochastic. It addresses inertial argument about "historic responsibilities' for rising concentrations recognising this as a development opportunity cost to newly industrialising countries. C&C enables an international pre-distribution of these tradable and therefore valuable future entitlements to emit GHGs to result from a rate of convergence that is deliberately accelerated relative to the global rate of contraction agreed.

  6.  The UK's Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution[17] and the German Advisory Council on Global Change[18] both make their recommendations to governments in terms of formal C&C. Many individual and institutional statements supporting C&C are now on record.[19, 20] The Africa Group of Nations formally proposed it to the UNFCCC in 1997.[21] It was agreed in principle at COP-3 Kyoto 1997. [22] C&C conforms to the requirements of the Byrd Hagel Resolution of the US Senate of that year[23] and the European Parliament passed a resolution in favour of C&C in 1998.[24]

  7.  This synthesis of C&C can redress the increasingly dangerous trend imbalances of global climate Change. Built on global rights, resource conservation and sustainable systems, a stable C&C system is now needed to guide the economy to a safe and equitable future for all. It builds on the gains and promises of the UN Convention[25] and establishes an approach that is compelling enough to galvanise urgent international support and action, with or without the Kyoto Protocol entering into force.






















[21] [appendix c p16]










  The charts in image five are stacked one above the other on the same horizontal time axis [1800-2200]. This helps to compare some of what is known about existing rates of system change with an underlying assumption in favour of a C&C arrangement being put in place.

  A new feature shown is the rate of economic damages from increasingly "unnatural disasters' (measured as "uninsured economic losses' by Munich Re) now rising at 7% per annum, twice the rate of global growth. Another is the devastating and worsening economic asymmetry of "Expansion and Divergence" (E&D). This shows a persistent pattern of increasingly dysfunctional economic growth. One third of population have 94% of global purchasing power and cause 90% of GHG pollution; ["debitors']. The other two thirds, live on less than 40% of the average global per capita income, have 6% of global purchasing power and a 10% share of GHG pollution; ["creditors'].

  To escape poverty, it is creditors who embody the greatest impulse for future economic growth and claim on future GHG emissions. But this group also has the greatest vulnerability to damages from climate changes.

  Most institutions now acknowledge that atmospheric GHG stabilization, "inevitably requires Contraction and Convergence". However, some responses to C&C, see it merely as "an outcome" of continued economic growth with only tentative acknowledgement of the damages and little comprehension of E&D.

  While C&C is not primarily about "re"-distribution, it is about a "pre"-distribution of future tradable and valuable permits to emit GHGs. Its purpose is to resolve the devastating economic and ecological imbalance of climate change. GCI's recommendation to policy-makers at the United Nations is for the adoption of C&C globally for ecological and economic recovery as soon as possible.

  A 3% per annum exponent in the path integral of growth is starkly asymmetric and unsustainable. Adhering to economic prognosis based on this is a measure of an increasingly dangerous economic "growth illusion".

  When climate damages are added, it is already clear that the growth is uneconomic. When damages are subtracted from this growth, it is clear that the growth is increasingly negative.

  Asymmetric and damaging growth is a recipe for conflict. The bottom-line is that there is no sustainable energy source that can realistically support this "Expansion and Divergence".

  "Contraction and Convergence" can help cope with the limits-to-growth and structure and stabilise the transition to an equilibrium-state based on resource conservation, global rights, renewable energy and ecological recovery.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2005
Prepared 29 March 2005