Negotiations about a new international climate change agreement are focusing too much on trying to share the burden of cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new report published today (11 December 2014) by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy at London School of Economics and Political Science.

Published on the penultimate day of the 20th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Lima, Peru, the report finds that seven different burden-sharing approaches to determining national pledges for reducing greenhouse gas emissions largely produce the same outcomes for individual countries, but concludes they are likely to be divisive and lead to a lack of ambition.

The report was produced to inform the ‘intended nationally determined contributions’ which countries are expected to put forward by spring 2015 ahead of an international agreement at the United Nations climate change summit in Paris in December.

The authors of the report, Alina Averchenkova, Nicholas Stern and Dimitri Zenghelis, recommend that countries recognise that measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions have multiple benefits, including the reduction of local air pollution and traffic congestion, and that national pledges should be based on realising opportunities instead of ‘burden-sharing’.

These new approaches to ‘intended nationally determined contributions’ would be based on the principle of ‘equitable access to sustainable development’, rather than on the ‘right to emit’.

The report states: “While the outcomes of most of these approaches in terms of emissions would look little different from those resulting from ‘burden-sharing’, the outcomes in terms of economic development would be meaningfully different, and would encourage greater ambition and more collaboration to improve the affordability of, and increase the opportunities from, decarbonisation.”

It states: “Countries are now seeking to reach a new international agreement on climate change, to be signed in Paris in December 2015. A key element of the international negotiations since the Kyoto Protocol, has been equity, but discussions have focused on narrow and unsatisfactory approaches based on ‘burden-sharing’ and ‘atmospheric rights’. These approaches mainly revolve around the assignment of the ‘right to emit’ or, as it is alternatively framed, the ‘costs and burdens’ of climate change action.”

The report adds: “Various proposals have been put forward that differ in terms of the principles and formulas applied in determining how the costs and burdens should be shared between countries. These range from historical cumulative emissions to relative capabilities based on GDP levels. Much of this debate, however, has proven divisive and often resulted in the search for a minimum acceptable level of individual action.”


  1. The ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy ( is hosted by the University of Leeds and the London School of Economics and Political Science. It is funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council ( The Centre’s mission is to advance public and private action on climate change through rigorous, innovative research.
  2. The Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment ( was launched at the London School of Economics and Political Science in October 2008. It is funded by The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment (


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