Case Studies


“We need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with what the science requires. All countries must play a part, based on common but differentiated responsibilities” 

- Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
7 August 2009 (United Nations) 

To achieve the emissions reduction goals necessary to avert the worst effects of climate change, all countries need to take some form of firm and cooperative action. Their actions and targets will not be the same; different countries have different responsibilities depending on their economies, emissions profiles, and ability to develop cleaner technologies. A majority of new emissions will come from developing countries, but developing countries resist the pressure to cut back on their emissions and argue that developed countries that have already had their chance to grow and increase their emissions should not keep them behind. If developing countries had to limit their growth, they would be unable to tackle the challenges such as poverty and hunger in their nations. All countries will be responsible for reducing their emissions, but with different targets. In this section we examine three countries that fall within three different, broad categories: Category 1, high emissions and low growth (developed); Category 2, high emissions and high growth (medium-income); and Category 3, low emissions and medium growth (typically low-income). Not all countries in the same country will have the same reduction targets, but they will need to use similar methods to meet their obligations to combat climate change. 

Category 1 countries have the highest share of required emissions reductions, but the reductions that they need to make to meet the CO2 concentration target of 350 ppm by 2100 might be greater than physically or politically feasible. Therefore we recommend that a funding plan be put into place for Category 1 countries to offset the difference between their actual reductions and their target reductions by investing in renewable energy technologies or carbon sequestration projects around the world: these case studies look at sequestration potential within each country, but these countries will need to offset their emissions by investing in other projects such as reforestation in Africa, Amazonia, and other regions. We looked at the United States and the European Union because they include the major Type 1 countries and analyzed the possibilities available to them to reduce emissions and sequester carbon. These countries have more potential for reductions than others because they can focus on eliminating inefficiencies, a cost-effective measure, and begin using greener and more energy efficient technologies sooner.

Category 2 countries, the larger and most prosperous of developing countries, will have the highest growth in the coming century and as such are expected to account for the highest growth in CO2 emissions. They claim that it would be unfair for them to pledge low targets as they are trying to develop and reach a prosperity level akin to that of developed countries, and they claim that richer (Category 1) countries should act first. Type 1 countries, however, may not cooperate if developing nations do not set their own targets; the U.S. already failed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol because it claimed that those nations should have tight obligations as well (Davenport, 2006). Category 2 countries therefore will need to work hard to create target years for emissions peaks and work to meet their targets by industrializing in a less-carbon intensive manner – while their rate of growth may necessitate a growing need for fossil fuels, they should also increase their portfolio of renewable energies. We surveyed China as an example of a major Category 2 country.

Category 3 countries are countries with low emissions and high growth – they will become important players, but not as soon as Category 1 and Category 2 countries. They are the countries that will need funding from Category 1 and 2 countries to take advantage of sequestration opportunities based on their geographies as well as anti-deforestation and afforestry programs that the countries would not be able to fund alone. We looked at a country that straddles the border between Category 2 and Category 3, Brazil, which is notable in several ways: its energy portfolio is heavily weighted towards renewable energies such as hydro-power, the majority of its emissions come from deforestation (a major problem for Category 3 countries), and it is pushing for ambitious climate targets.