CapGlobalCarbon is a proposal for non-governmental actors to create a new global system to (a) make sure the necessary reductions in total global carbon emissions are achieved and (b) do so in a way that reduces poverty and inequality and stimulates the energy transition. The system would operate as a back-up to the inter-governmental negotiations. This idea has been developed by members of the international think tank Feasta.
The framework on which CapGlobalCarbon is based, Cap & Share, was mentioned* in the 2022 report of the IPCC’s Working Group II as an example of a policy mechanism that is rooted in the precautionary principle, reflecting the need to guarantee that significant emissions reduction will take place.
Our global climate is on course for disaster. This is because the atmosphere is being treated as a dumping-ground for greenhouse gas emissions. And there is no global regulator for keeping the vast majority of the World’s remaining fossil fuels in the ground.
In order to minimise the risks of irreversible climate change, CapGlobalCarbon (CGC) aims to ensure that the aggregate global emissions from fossil fuels steadily decrease to zero. This would be achieved by a progressively tightening cap on fossil fuel extraction. Furthermore, revenues from the auction of extraction permits would benefit the lowest consumers of fossil fuels. This compensation could substantially alleviate poverty, reduce global inequality and support climate justice. By steadily and predictably reducing the global dependence on fossil fuels the process proposed by CapGlobalCarbon would also hasten a smooth transition to a zero-carbon economy.
This system would act as a back-up to the UNFCCC negotiations, ensuring that the global community finally achieves effective action on climate change.
How is CapGlobalCarbon a solution?
To prevent catastrophic climate change, it is essential that an effective regulator of the aggregate global total fossil fuels is established.
- Non-governmental organisations and groups of global citizens establish an independent Climate Commons Trust to act on behalf of humanity as a whole. The Trust could initially function in a single country or in two countries, one from the Global North and one from the Global South, or in a partnership between blocs of Global North and Global South countries.
- Based on the advice of climate scientists, and in the context of overall global emissions, the Trust decides the total amount of fossil carbon from coal, oil and gas that can safely be extracted or imported into the participating countries each year, with the quantity being reduced each year.
- To ensure that total extraction or imports do not exceed that annual amount that can be safely extracted, the Trust introduces a licence scheme to control the introduction of coal, oil or gas into the participating countries
- The licence scheme is enforced by each participating nation-state government banning the introduction (production and import) into that country of fossil fuels not covered by the licence.
- The licences are auctioned by the Trust and bought by fossil fuel extraction companies.
- Having paid market price for the licences the fossil fuel extraction companies pass on the cost to their customers.
- The net proceeds from the auction are distributed directly to the people living in the countries involved in the programme – and eventually throughout the world – in equal shares or used for their benefit. In both cases low fossil fuel users’ share will more than compensate for the increase in fuel prices, making them better off. The scheme thus contributes significantly to social justice by reducing inequality, and should therefore attract wide support.
- The scheme would operate as a guard rail to help ensure that catastrophic climate change is avoided.
CapGlobalCarbon, Poverty and Justice
- CGC provides an effective way of tackling the injustices of human caused climate change – the fact that those who have contributed least to the problem are more likely to be those who suffer most from the consequences.
- CGC also provides a way of tackling the negative health impacts of fossil fuel use, including the effects of marine acidification, and pollution of air, water and soil.
- The share in CGC is fiscally progressive benefitting the lowest fossil fuel consumers most. It will therefore help to redress the effects of severe current and historic power asymmetries between the Global North and South.
- CGC will also effectively ensure that the richer areas of the world subsidise the energy transition of the poorer areas.
The next steps
As the negotiations in Paris failed to introduce an effective legally binding system to regulate the aggregate global total of carbon emissions, we assert that the initiative to do this has to come from the global non-governmental sector, from an organised movement of citizens working together across the globe.
What institutional arrangements are needed and who should take responsibility for establishing an effective mechanism? Our proposal is to establish an independent Climate Commons Trust which would eventually regulate the aggregate global total of carbon emissions in accordance with climate science. It would do this by means of a Cap and Share scheme, which could be scaled up from regional or national levels to a global level.
To get this project off the ground will require a critical mass of individuals and non-governmental organisations to initiate and develop the basic proposal on behalf of humanity as a whole including future generations. The current crisis offers us the opportunity to realise our potential as the Earth’s first conscious/aware species, to ensure that our collective actions match our knowledge and understanding. Exceptional times call for exceptional measures. CapGlobalCarbon is something we together can make happen. But we are under no illusions about the scale of the ambition or the size of the task. The proposed Trust needs to be legally constituted. It must be required to act for the benefit of the whole of humanity including future generations. It must be required to operate on the best available climate science. It must be adequately resourced. For all of this to happen, it will need to gain widespread support.
See the Thoughts about CapGlobalCarbon section for the thinking behind CapGlobalCarbon, ideas on implementation and arguments for different parties (nation-states, citizens, companies) to be in favour of a global cap on carbon.
CapGlobalCarbon is a proposal by members of the The Foundation for the economics of sustainability (Feasta), an international think-tank based in Ireland. We are looking for other individuals and organisations to help implement it. Implementation will require a new organisation with large resources and influential champions as well as widespread support. Anyone interested in contributing in any way please contact us at email@example.com.
* ‘Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability’, 2022, IPCC Working Group III, Chapter 1, p68by