English Español

Compensation for atmospheric appropriation

Research on carbon inequalities shows that some countries are overshooting their fair share of the remaining carbon budget and hold disproportionate responsibility for climate breakdown. Scholars argue that overshooting countries owe compensation or reparations to undershooting countries for atmospheric appropriation and climate-related damages. Here we develop a procedure to quantify the level of compensation owed in a ‘net zero’ scenario where all countries decarbonize by 2050, using carbon prices from IPCC scenarios that limit global warming to 1.5 °C and tracking cumulative emissions from 1960 across 168 countries. We find that even in this ambitious scenario, the global North would overshoot its collective equality-based share of the 1.5 °C carbon budget by a factor of three, appropriating half of the global South’s share in the process. We calculate that compensation of US$192 trillion would be owed to the undershooting countries of the global South for the appropriation of their atmospheric fair shares by 2050, with an average disbursement to those countries of US$940 per capita per year. We also examine countries’ overshoot of equality-based shares of 350 ppm and 2 °C carbon budgets and quantify the level of compensation owed using earlier and later starting years (1850 and 1992) for comparison.

Read article in Nature