It took close to 27 million gallons of jet fuel to fly what could be 50,000 people to the Paris climate talks. Releasing what Wired estimates was 575 million pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere, the delegations from 195 “parties” and everyone else interested in influencing and documenting global warming will be meeting for almost two weeks. (Those 575 million pounds are equal to 22 seconds of global emissions.)
Where are we going? To the big topics at the Paris talks.
The diverse economic interests at the talks are mind boggling. While the U.S. is solely in the Umbrella Group, other countries are participating in the dialogue through several alliances.
In addition to their negotiating alliances, nations have made individual promises. The New Yorker’s John Cassidy calls it a “potluck dinner.” You take what you can to the table. Among the individual pledges we have the U.S. delegation saying that by 2025, it will have reduced greenhouse gases 28 percent from their 2005 level while the European Union has committed to a 40 percent reduction by 2030 from its 1990 level. Out of 196 parties, 184 have made pledges that cover 98.4 percent of territorial emissions.
One basic question is what to leave with. There seems to be considerable support for an agreement on emission goals and financial commitments. But it will be tough deciding what to call it. Some possibilities are treaty (which U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he does not want) or an accord or a protocol. Blurring the harshness of mandatory national commitments, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres hopes for “bindingness.”
The to-do list is expensive. In the mitigation column, we have diminishing deforestation and transforming transport and energy systems. And, in an “after” column, countries have added the expense of managing the impact of climate change.
But the really big question is who pays. Do the wealthier nations owe it to those who have less? Composed of estimates from developing nations, Carbon Brief has a finance tracker with estimates from many of the attendees.
These are the totals:
Our Bottom Line: Externalities
If an economist had to choose one word for discussing the environment, it would be externalities. As with all negative externalities, uninvolved bystanders are experiencing the cost of someone else’s behavior.
We can use before and after supply and demand graphs to show how negative externalities can be diminished.
Below is a “before” graph showing no emissions cost for the supply side.
But here we have “after” where supply has decreased because it has been forced to absorb some cost of the negative externality it creates. Only when cost rises will the supply side have the incentive to diminish emissions.