Putting numbers on states’ climate obligations

PhD researcher Violetta Ritz argues that an improved legal methodology is needed to ensure that states’ greenhouse gas emissions mitigation obligations are specified in line with best available science and the equity principle in recently published article.

New research from Kent’s Global Challenges Doctoral Centre has found that a tool used by the Climate Action Tracker in its ‘meta-equity-assessment’ of states’ emissions is apt for legal use.
Published by Cambridge University Press as First View online on 18 February 2022 in the world leading journal for environmental law according to Journal Citation Reports, the study found that the PRIMAP Equity tool, embedded in the Potsdam Real-time Integrated Model for the probabilistic Assessment of emission Paths, offers the best available approach to distributing a global carbon budget among states in line with equity criteria recognized by the IPCC.

In endeavouring to turn what has been perceived by many as a black box into a clean box, PhD researcher Violetta Ritz, supervised by Dr Frank Grundig and Dr Luis Eslava (Kent Law School), tested publicly available ‘meta-equity-assessments’ of states’ emissions as to their aptness for legal use. The PRIMAP Equity tool, which her research finds to be the best available tool, was developed by Climate Analytics and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and is used by the Climate Action Tracker, a database that rates government climate action against the Paris temperature goal.

Violetta Ritz said: ‘This research shows that the statistical methods available allow to identify numerical thresholds for states’ emissions that are apt for legal use. This has important implications for litigation worldwide through which the argument is being advanced with increasing vehemence that states’ acts contributing to climate change can amount to a breach of their legal obligations. The biggest challenge ahead is to tackle the question as to which global carbon budget states are required to stick to in the first place.’

The article titled ‘Towards a Legal Methodology for Specifying States’ Mitigation Obligations in Line with the Equity Principle and Best Available Science’ is published in Transnational Environmental Law. 

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