Since it was agreed in 1995, the objective of the UN Climate Treaty has been to achieve safe and stable concentration of greenhouse gas (GHG) in the global atmosphere. The aim of ‘Contraction and Convergence’ (C&C) is to help achievement of that objective.
If the atmospheric concentrations of GHG are like the ‘level of a bath’ into which water is flowing, human GHG from the ‘flow from the tap’ of our emissions of GHG are the main feeder to that raised level. These emissions have come mainly in the form of carbon dioxide resulting from the burning of oil coal and gas.
Technically, atmosphere concentrations of GHG are some fraction of the flow of these emissions, accumulated over time. So far the record shows that for any two tonnes of carbon emitted one tonne is retained permanently in the atmosphere as rising concentrations.
In the 200 years since industrialisation, both emissions and concentrations are now rising faster and higher than at any time in many thousands of years in the preceding human history.
However, now to achieve the objective of the UN Climate Treaty, or to stop this bath from over-flowing, the ‘emissions tap’ must be completely turned off.
To this purpose C&C proposes: -
 The future emissions flow is the global emissions ‘Contraction Budget’ as a whole ‘event’ and,
 Since this process is shared internationally between nations that have widely different emissions histories, ‘Convergence’ to equal per capita emissions-entitlements globally is the ‘constitutional structure’ embedded in that contraction-event.
Thus C&C makes possible a global negotiation where both sizing and sharing the overall emissions contraction-event that makes achievement of the Treaty’s objective possible. Without this structure, negotiations have so far been like picking numbers out of a hat.
In the last two years, the ‘Carbon Budget Analysis Tool’ (CBAT) has been developing. It is an animation that is easy to use to investigate these choices in a more rational way: -
Sizing and shaping the contraction budget is primarily a scientifically advised ‘risk judgement’. Determining the rate of convergence within that contraction is primarily a political compromise.
Scientists now say the contraction-event must weigh 250 Billion Tonnes Carbon: -
C&C has attracted much support over the years since it was introduced: -
CBAT development is on-going, but support so far is encouraging: -
Our greatest challenge is one of hearts and minds. Change can happen very fast once the shift has taken taken place in perception and desire. Think how fast mobile phone communcations has been adopted worldwide, despite its relatively high cost and impact on daily living cost for individuals worldwide. It is essential that environmental communications manage to shift people's perception such that the proposed change is something they WANT TO HAVE. In order to manifest this shift SIMPLICITY is essential, and FAIRNESS very important. In addition to this, the presentation of an outcome that is DESIRABLE will be fundamental.
C & C is SIMPLE and FAIR, and can easily be presented along with supporting explanations of WHY C&C will achieve a DESIRABLE outcome.
Let's all look forward to a brighter a brighter future.
C&C has been adopted as the basic negotiating stance by governments of over half the world's people, including the Brazil, Mexico, EU, Africa, India, China and many others, owing to the three primary requirements it meets. The fundamental intellectual simplicity of the framework allows negotiators the best possibility of agreement where greater complexity generates lower confidence. The efficiency of utterly clear allocation of emission rights under a declining global carbon budget discourages prevarication in negotiation and backsliding in operation.
The equity of contraction to per capita parity of tradable emissions rights is not only an essential component for the negotiation of agreement, it is also essential for durability in operation to avoid the risk of demagogues seeking election on the claim of the treaty's inequity and the promise of reneging on it.
C&C meets these three primary requirements and does so elegantly, unlike any other proposed basis or the international negotiations.
The UN Climate Change Conference in December 2011 unfortunately came to a close with no agreement on global NEA goals. National Emissions Allocations are distributed through a global agreement of quotas of allowed emissions per capita for each country. This was proposed by the Global Commons Institute in 2000, and is conceptually accepted as a methodology by many countries. The NEA- based contraction conversion model applies an emissions cap to each country that declines rapidly over 40 years in order to reach the desired global atmospheric goal of 350 ppmv by 2052 (we're at 400 now). It's a cooperative effort, with developed nations assisting the third world countries in their reduction via the transfer of energy and pollution control technologies. Its strategy is that rapidly developing countries such as China and India must quickly pull back on their increasing emissions, and the UK and USA must simply implement immediate reductions in GHG emissions, period. This proved untenable to Axis 1 countries at Durban in December 2011, and so no global agreement was achieved. There is a consensus on the model, however, so the negotiation must continue and conclude very soon.
...This procedure offers the most equitable way of making sure that everybody gets to enjoy a usable planet.
John Rawls theory of justice, also known as "the veil of ignorance", spelled out a way of quantifying how good (or otherwise) a society is, by making someone imagine that they were going to take part in that society, but what they didn't know was, as which individual. In order to come out looking good, a society would have to treat all its members at least reasonably, making no-one's life unbearable.
Contraction And Convergence builds on this fundamental wisdom.
Everyone has to take responsibility, yet it recognises where we all are starting from. It is not prescriptive in how things should be done, rather sets a framework to get people to the desired (and required) end. As the Carbon Coach so rightly says, a bridge to the future, and probably a more stable and secure one that the other potential bridges.
Both developed and developing nations need to be covered by an international agreement. The agreement needs to curtail the carbon profligacy of rich nations, while allowing poorer nations some space to develop. But ultimately all nations need to respect the global carbon budget for a stable climate. Contraction and convergence provides a framework that meets allows this to happen.
As the developed world has built its lifestyle around over consumption of resources with the attendant emissions it must simultaneously reduce its consumption and the associated emissions while assisting and allowing the developing world to attain a lifestyle that is healthy, hygienic, and sustainable. C&C is the most sensible structure I have seen for achieving this.
We are earthlings entrusted to replenish the earth and all its rich aspects of integral being. We must act now and consistently to ensure no further damage to nature's awesome rhythms. At the root of the task is also
- the restoration of commons,
- money creation as a public utility and
- a dignified means of livelihood for all creatures.
I may have known about Contraction and Convergence before the 2010 film 'Age of Stupid', but that was where it was explained most clearly. The film had a big impact on me, and the concept appeals because it is simple and fair. It isn't a detailed plan for which countries should do, and when, but a framework to start off with. Why do we not hear it being talked about more often?
I don't see the proposed contraction and convergence proposals as a good idea. I think it puts too much pressure on some of the less developed countries and lets the larger developed countries off the hook. The requirements should be set for each country depending on what they are able to accomplish.
1. There is no budget. GHG concentrations are already too high.
2. The climate summit methodology of agreeing targets and budgets was never intended to work and never will. Politicians feel no pressure to agree anything irrespective of worsening impacts.
3. Climate chaos is a symptom and can be solved only at source, not by symptom-focus deals.
4. The language of contraction is tasty for antigrowth Greens but poison to implacably growth-seeking politicians.
5. Change is about global multi-issue system change, not technocratic mathematics. Requires imagination and promotion of a radical strategy of growth by solving problems previously caused by growth.
GHG concentrations are already too high, hence there is no positive number budget to be allocated. The 20 years old political mechanism of agreeing international targets and budgets has never begun to work and never will. Change means system change via radical cross-issue policy shifts to make civilisation restorative and carbon negative.
The language of contraction is attractive to antigrowth greens but poison to inherently growth-seeking politicians. Civil society must imagine, design and propose actions that reprogramme civilisation as a growth strategy. That means growth from solving problems that growth has previously caused.