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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Science Policy

A Human Development Framework for CO2 Reductions
Published: Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Author: Luís Costa et al.

by Luís Costa, Diego Rybski, Jürgen P. Kropp

Although developing countries are called to participate in CO2 emission reduction efforts to avoid dangerous climate change, the implications of proposed reduction schemes in human development standards of developing countries remain a matter of debate. We show the existence of a positive and time-dependent correlation between the Human Development Index (HDI) and per capita CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion. Employing this empirical relation, extrapolating the HDI, and using three population scenarios, the cumulative CO2 emissions necessary for developing countries to achieve particular HDI thresholds are assessed following a Development As Usual approach (DAU). If current demographic and development trends are maintained, we estimate that by 2050 around 85% of the world’s population will live in countries with high HDI (above 0.8). In particular, 300 Gt of cumulative CO2 emissions between 2000 and 2050 are estimated to be necessary for the development of 104 developing countries in the year 2000. This value represents between 20 % to 30 % of previously calculated CO2 budgets limiting global warming to 2°C. These constraints and results are incorporated into a CO2 reduction framework involving four domains of climate action for individual countries. The framework reserves a fair emission path for developing countries to proceed with their development by indexing country-dependent reduction rates proportional to the HDI in order to preserve the 2°C target after a particular development threshold is reached. For example, in each time step of five years, countries with an HDI of 0.85 would need to reduce their per capita emissions by approx. 17% and countries with an HDI of 0.9 by 33 %. Under this approach, global cumulative emissions by 2050 are estimated to range from 850 up to 1100 Gt of CO2. These values are within the uncertainty range of emissions to limit global temperatures to 2°C.
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