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Executive Summary

What's Fair?: An Equity Framework for Global Climate Change

By Eileen Claussen

The problem of global climate change has become one of the most significant policy issues of the decade and will remain so for many years to come. The Kyoto Protocol, negotiated in December 1997, has raised concerns from all sectors about the economic, environmental, and social impacts of a changing climate and the impacts of policies aimed at its mitigation. Central to many of these concerns are questions of fairness and equity. "What's Fair?" develops an intellectual framework for these issues.

Within the context of climate change, fairness has two facets: First, who should bear the burden of reducing the emissions that cause climate change? Second, who should be compensated for the environmental or economic damages that may occur as a result of either climate change itself or of efforts aimed at its mitigation? Both aspects should be explored at the local, regional, and global levels. For example:

What is fair globally? Given the historical emission levels of industrialized countries, who should pay for the reductions? Should we be concerned with total or per capita contributions, or both? Can we design a system of equity of obligation that achieves a higher living standard for all while meeting our environmental goals?

What is fair for consumers and households? What are the impacts of climate change and mitigation policies on particular regions and communities? If there are revenues resulting from mitigation policies, how should such revenues be distributed? What is the equity trade-off between current costs and future benefits?

What is fair for industry and labor? Is it fair for industries that have already made significant improvements in reducing their emission levels to bear the same burden as those who can achieve significant reductions at a lower cost? What transition policy can be designed to lessen the employment impact on regions or communities that will be hardest hit by climate mitigation policies?

The U.S. cannot address global warming until these issues are resolved. "What's Fair?" establishes the framework for politically sensitive policy change.

About the author

Eileen Claussen is currently a partner in the firm of Alcalde and Fay. She is the former Assistant Secretary of State for Ocean and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. In that capacity she was responsible for developing and implementing policy on behalf of the United States on major international issues, including climate change, ozone depletion, chemicals, natural resource issues, and the sustainable development efforts of the multilateral development banks and the United Nations.

Prior to joining the Department of State, Ms. Claussen served for three years as a Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Global Environmental Affairs at the National Security Council. During this time, she also served as Chairman of the United Nations Multilateral Protocol Fund. From 1987 to 1993, Ms. Claussen was Director of Atmospheric Programs at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Ms. Claussen is the recipient of a number of prestigious awards including the Department of State's Career Achievement award and the Fitzhugh Green Award for Outstanding Contributions to International Environmental Protection. She received her Master of Arts degree from the University of Virginia, and her Bachelor of Arts degree from George Washington University.

Download "What's Fair?: An Equity Framework for Global Climate Change" (18 pp. / 60 kb)