Principles of initial allocation of carbon emission rights

Principles of initial allocation of carbon emission rights

  • Posted by admin
  • March 21, 2022

1. The principle of fairness

Equity is one of the first principles to be considered in the carbon dioxide allocation mechanism. The international community’s disputes over carbon emission measurement indicators also mainly stem from the dispute over the principle of fairness, which involves not only how much carbon dioxide each country can emit, but also how much carbon dioxide emissions each country should reduce on the existing basis. As a result, many indicators for measuring fairness have emerged, including national total emissions indicators, national cumulative emissions indicators, per capita emissions indicators, per capita cumulative emissions indicators, carbon emission intensity indicators, carbon composite indicators, and industry indicators. Each indicator reflects the principle of fairness from different perspectives, and is also accepted by countries with different interest orientations. The essence of the principle of fairness should be to make the distribution subject have equal rights, and the distribution result will help stimulate the enthusiasm of each subject to prevent and control pollution. Specifically, scholars and experts express their opinions on the principle of fairness from the following three aspects.

The first aspect is the fairness of the initial allocation of carbon emission rights. Wang Weizhong (2002) believed that fair carbon emission rights should reflect the equal rights of human beings to survive, develop and utilize natural resources, and the principle of per capita emission is the best measure. Some scholars believe that fairness must be based on differences, but not on differences itself, including the “principle of equal opportunity”, “the polluter bears the principle”, the “principle of symmetric obligations and rights” and the “principle of common but differentiated responsibilities”.

Chen Wenying et al. (2005) believe that the concept of effective emissions in Brazil’s proposal provides a basis for carbon emissions allocation. Effective emissions both start from historical responsibility and consider fairness, which is a fairer principle for the initial allocation of carbon emissions.

Pan Jiahua and Zheng Yan (2009) believe that the initial allocation of carbon emission rights among countries in the world should consider two aspects: on the one hand, there is human development, which includes not only basic living needs such as clothing, food, housing, and transportation, but also education, politics, and society. The human development of poorer countries is also manifested in meeting basic survival needs, while more developed countries have focused on starting from a higher level of demand. Human development is inseparable from the demand for material and energy, which requires the country to establish a corresponding industrial development system, and the development of the industry needs to be supported by fossil energy, resulting in the emission of carbon dioxide. From this point of view, the allocation of carbon emission rights must proceed from the needs of human development, that is, the concept of interpersonal fairness. Interpersonal equity means that human beings have the same development rights and interests, and everyone has the right to enjoy the right to carbon emission, a global public resource, so they should enjoy equal carbon emission rights. Indicators for measuring interpersonal equity include equal per capita carbon emissions and equal per capita cumulative carbon emissions. On the other hand, the country’s development rights and development space. The allocation of carbon emission rights is also closely related to the economic interests of countries. As an important input factor for economic development, it supports different industrial systems in various countries. Due to the differences in development stages and industrial structures of different countries, the demand for carbon emission rights is also different. From the perspective of international fairness, each country should be guaranteed the same development rights and interests. Developed countries used to rely on fossil energy to become industrialized powerhouses. Now developing countries are at this stage. There are clear differences in the process of industrialization, but industry still uses the most fossil energy. Therefore, carbon emission rights should be allocated based on the development stage of different countries. The indicators for measuring international fairness include total national carbon emissions and national cumulative carbon emissions.

Ren Guoyu et al. pointed out that due to its fairness, the historical cumulative carbon emissions per capita should receive further attention in future research on historical responsibility sharing for global climate change. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences proposed the initial allocation plan of carbon emission rights for the carbon budget plan from the perspective of fairness to meet the needs of human development: the first step is to determine the carbon budget target for global development; the second step is to allocate carbon budget targets based on the base year population of each country; the third step is to adjust the carbon budget of each country based on natural factors such as climate, geography, and resource endowment; the fourth step is to consider the transfer of carbon budgets.

Song Yuzhu et al. (2006) expounded the principle of fairness from the perspective of distribution among enterprises, arguing that the principle of fairness in the distribution of carbon emission rights among various manufacturers cannot be based solely on the number of labor and employment accommodated by each unit, must also consider the development scale of the enterprise and the total amount of economic profits and taxes.

In the “Ninth Five-Year Plan” and “Tenth Five-Year Plan” scientific and technological research reports, Tsinghua University proposed the equal distribution principle of per capita cumulative emissions considering historical responsibility and the “two convergence” distribution method. The essence of the principle of convergence is to ensure the development power of each country. It is believed that in the short term, developing countries can allow per capita carbon emissions to increase and then decrease due to development needs, while developed countries need to monotonically decrease. During the transition period, the per capita carbon emissions of developing countries may exceed that of some developed countries. When the economy develops to a certain level, they will implement absolute emission reductions, and they will converge with developed countries by the target year.

The second aspect is the fairness of the allocation of carbon emission reductions. Chinese scholar Hu Angang (2008) analyzed it from two perspectives. The first angle is to use the Human Development Index (HDI) as the emission reduction principle, and divide the HDI into four levels. According to this standard, countries in the world are divided into four groups: high HDI group (>0.8), upper and medium HDI group (0.65-0.8), lower and medium HDi group (0.5-0.65), and low HDI group (<0.5), that is, “one earth, four worlds”. This method replaces the original two-group principle of developed and developing countries with the four-group principle, and takes into account the development needs of human beings more comprehensively. The lower the HD rating, the more it should ensure that the carbon emission rights for the basic survival of the people of the country are met. The second point of view is the principle of emission reduction of major polluting countries. From the perspective of fairness, whoever pollutes pays. For large polluting countries, the higher the proportion of their carbon emissions in the global carbon emissions, the more they should be required to reduce carbon emissions and be assigned less carbon emission rights.

Su Liyang et al. (2009) believe that, starting from the sovereign equality of countries, carbon emission reduction should adopt the principle of sovereignty. Both developed and developing countries will undertake the same emission reduction obligations due to their equal sovereignty, which will lead to issues such as historical responsibility, ability to pay, and basic human needs in international emission reduction negotiations. That is, we often say the principle of responsibility, the polluter pays principle, the principle of ability to pay, the principle of basic needs or the principle of egalitarianism and other fairness principles.

The third aspect is the fairness underlying the carbon transfer. On the one hand, it is the carbon transfer brought about by international investment; on the other hand, it is the carbon transfer brought about by the flow of international products.

With the integration of the world economy and the global flow of production factors, the impact of opening to the outside world on environmental pollution has also attracted people’s attention. Scholars have two views on whether FDI can create a “pollution haven”: one view is that foreign direct investment puts high-polluting industries in countries with looser environmental regulations, leading to more and more serious environmental pollution in these countries, thus avoiding strict environmental regulations. Another view is that this phenomenon is not obvious. From the perspective of China, after entering the 21st century, heavy industry has developed rapidly, urbanization and modernization have accelerated, international manufacturing has shifted to China on a large scale, energy-intensive industries have grown rapidly, and fossil energy has been rapidly consumed, causing China to emit a lot of carbon dioxide. Someone once pointed out that from 1997 to 2003, 7%-14% of China’s energy consumption was in its exports to the United States. Almost all of China’s exports to the United States were high-carbon products, and the United States thus avoided 3% to 6% of its emissions.

2. The principle of efficiency

The principle of efficiency is also one of the important principles in the allocation of carbon emissions. Starting from the meaning of efficiency, it includes three aspects: the first is environmental efficiency. Proposed by the World Committee on Sustainable Development (WBCD) at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, higher environmental efficiency means that the amount of economic activity can be maintained or continued to expand without increasing the environmental load, and then can improve the living and welfare level of residents, and realize the sustainable development of human society and the environment. The second is energy efficiency. Energy efficiency refers to getting more output and a better quality of life with the same or less energy. Energy efficiency includes economic energy efficiency and physical energy efficiency, economic energy efficiency includes energy consumption per unit of output value and energy cost efficiency, and physical energy efficiency includes thermal efficiency and energy consumption per unit product or service. The third is eco-efficiency. Eco-efficiency refers to the ratio of added value to added environmental impact, and its essence is to require the harmonious development of the environment and the economy.

As an important resource, carbon emission rights can be used to monitor the meaning of efficiency. Scholars have put forward many views on the efficiency principle of the initial allocation of carbon emission rights.

Wang Weizhong and others (2006) believe that efficiency is the optimization principle of resource allocation, and under the limitation of limited environmental emission space, the world’s largest economic output can be obtained as much as possible. The GDP carbon emission coefficient is the best indicator to measure the benefit principle, which represents the carbon dioxide emissions per unit of CDP output.

Zhao Wenhui et al. (2007) believed that the efficiency of the initial distribution of carbon emission rights refers to the maximization of regional net wealth. That is, the benefit from the production of the product minus the production cost of consumption, the cost of pollution reduction and the damage caused by the emission of pollutants caused by production.

Song Yuzhu et al. (2006) expounded the principle of efficiency from the perspective of distribution among enterprises, and believed that efficiency requires the distribution of emission rights to maximize regional economic benefits on the premise of ensuring that the regional industrial ecological chain is not destroyed.

Wang Limei (2010) looked at the principle of efficient allocation from the perspective of pollution treatment costs, and believed that the allocation of initial pollution rights should be based on the restoration cost of regional environmental capacity resources.

In addition to this, some other basic principles have also been developed.