Cover Image
close this bookThe Global Greenhouse Regime. Who Pays? (UNU, 1993, 382 p.)
close this folderPart I Measuring responsibility
close this folder4 Who pays (to solve the problem and how much)?
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentIndices of allocation: a brief review
View the documentAccountability
View the documentEquity and efficiency
View the documentConclusion
View the documentReferences

Accountability

In this book, we are coming to these issues from a somewhat different direction. Rather than decide on what the ideal allocation of emissions ought to be, we first seek ways that the present and historical patterns of emissions can be used in international negotiations to determine who should pay for any needed mitigation efforts and then, in later chapters, ways that the best mitigation efforts can be chosen. Thus, rather than concerning ourselves directly with allocation, we address accountability. In the long run, of course, consistent application of accountability should lead to a desired allocation by the simple process of nations attempting to reduce their accountability, a sort of 'invisible hand'. In the interim, however, rather than putting an onus on those countries that have exceeded their allocations, a focus on accountability simply asks that nations should accept responsibility for the emissions they have made, no matter how small or large. The result can be the same, but the moral implications are different.

To make practical the concept of individual rights over time, in this book, we link accountability at any one time to the amount of atmospheric assimilative capacity that has been 'borrowed' from the natural environment, individuals' natural debt as presented in Chapter 2 (Smith 1989b, 1991). The borrowed capacity at any one time is the greenhouse gases remaining in the atmosphere from past emissions (above natural levels). This is less than what was actually emitted, since various natural and human-influenced sinks have absorbed the different gases in amounts depending on the time since emissions. The longer ago the gases were released, the less remains today. We argue that an appropriate indicator of international accountability is the amount of assimilative capacity borrowed to date, the natural debt.