Frequently Asked Questions

what is the purpose of this website?

Since the IPCC only provides global but not national CO2 budgets, it is difficult for the general public and the media to hold their governments to account. This website aims to solve this problem by providing easy-to-understand national CO2 budgets based on the best scientific knowledge and a simple fairness principle.

what does the Paris Agreement mean with “well below 2 degrees”?

The Paris Agreement has been negotiated by close to 200 countries. In order to reach consensus the countries sometimes resort to “constructive ambiguity”. The goal to limit global warming to “well below two degrees” is a case in point. It is open to interpretation. 

We decided to interpret the goal as 1.8 degrees. 

This choice made some calculations necessary because the IPCC does not provide a global CO2 budget for 1.8 degrees but for 1.77 and 1.87 degrees only. Since there is a linear relationship between global warming and CO2 emissions, it is however easy to calculate a global budget for 1.8 degrees based on the other two budgets.

how did you calculate each country’s CO2 budget?

Since the Paris Agreement has been adopted in December 2015 we take the 1st of January 2016 as the starting date. On this day the global budgets for the different temperature goals and probabilities are shared out to individual countries based on their share of world population. Like this, every human alive on this day is treated in exactly the same way.

In the following years we deduct from the national CO2 budgets the actual emissions of any given country to see how much remains.

Then we calculate how many years a country could maintain its current emissions until the budget is depleted. However, it is unrealistic that a country maintains its emissions at the current level and then reduces them suddenly to zero. Therefore, we assume that a country reduces its emissions in a linear way. For this we multiply the number of years by 2 to calculate when a country needs to reach net-zero emissions and become climate neutral.

This approach has the following effect: Countries with high per capita emissions need to become climate neutral faster than countries with low per capita emissions.

what is the difference between "CO2-neutral" and "climate neutral"?

"CO2-neutral" means that a country emits no net CO2. Existing emissions and CO2 sinks offset each other. China, for example, wants to become CO2-neutral by the year 2060.

"Greenhouse gas neutral" includes not only CO2 but also the other greenhouse gases such as methane, nitrous oxide, etc. The EU, for example, wants to become greenhouse gas neutral by the year 2050.

"Climate neutral" would mean that a country is not responsible for any impact on the climate at all. This would also include the emission of dust particles etc. Many scientists therefore consider climate neutrality impossible.

what data do you use and how do you compute it?
  1. Global carbon budget

We use the CO2 budgets provided by the IPCC (see table on page 108). However, these budgets start on the 1st of January 2018. Due to this we add to these budgets the global emissions in the years 2017 and 2016.

  1.   World population

Here we use data from the UN World Population Prospects 2019. Since these figures are given for the 1st of July of every year we take the average of the years 2015 and 2016 to get the population on 1st of January 2016.

  1.   Emissions from fossil fuel use and cement production

Here we use the data from the Global Carbon Project (GCP). In 2020 this data is available until 2018. So for the year 2019 we assume that emissions remained on the level of 2018.

  1.   Emissions from Land Use Change

Here we use the data from the "Bookkeeping of Land Use Emissions" model or short BLUE. This dataset provides emissions data for individual countries and years. As of 2020 this data was also available up to the year 2018. So for 2019 we again used the numbers of 2018.

  1.   Emissions from international aviation and shipping (aka bunkers)

The GCP provides this data but on a global level only. To calculate which share every country is responsible for we allocate these emissions based on a country’s share of global GDP.

  1.   Global GDP

Here we use data from the World Bank (nominal GDP per country in current dollars).

 

Note, the various datasets don’t all contain data for the same territories and countries. This led to several small adjustments:

  • Several territories such as French Guyana did not get their share of emissions from international aviation and shipping.
  • Kosovo and Serbia have been treated as separate entities.
  • Taiwan and China have been treated as separate entities.
the Paris Agreement says that developed countries should be „taking the lead“, when it comes to reducing emissions. has this been factored into the budgets of these countries?

No, it hasn’t. We agree that developed countries with high historical emissions should be “taking the lead”. However, the Paris Agreement does not specify what that means in practical terms. Therefore, we did not include this.

are these budgets legally binding?

Courts in various countries are currently trying to answer this question. In the Netherlands, the government has been obliged by the Supreme Court to adhere at least to the minimum requirements of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (see Urgenda ruling). Now young people from Portugal are trying to extend this to other countries. They have sued 33 member countries of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) for their climate policies. This concerns all EU countries, Great Britain, Switzerland, Norway, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine (see here). Further, Greta Thunberg and other young people have filed a complaint with the UN against Argentina, Brazil, Germany, France and Turkey. These countries violated the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (see here). And finally, in Germany there is a constitutional complaint by Luisa Neubauer and others against the German government, arguing that German climate policy violates the German constitution (see here).

With all these complaints there are two hurdles to overcome: On the one hand, the respective court must dare to make a decision at all. The climate policy of a country must therefore be "litigable". And secondly, the court must dare to define minimum climate targets - for example, on the basis of a CO2 budget. The yardstick here is the Urgenda ruling. This affirms that Dutch climate policy is litigable and then defines a minimum target on the basis of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). However, this is not a matter of course. In one case in the USA  the judges decided that the respective climate policies were not litigable (see here) and in one case in Germany the judges didn't dare to set a minimum climate target (see here).

Reading tips: The London School of Economics and the law firm Norton Rose Fulbright publish an annual report on the state of climate lawsuits worldwide (see here and here). There is a database of all climate laws and law suits (see here) and the International Bar Association has published a guide to climate claims (see here).

are there different ways of calculating national carbon budgets?

Yes, there are many because sharing out the global CO2 budget among very different countries is not a scientific question but a political question and a question of fairness.

Here several principles can be identified:

  • Responsibility

Countries who have contributed a lot to the current stock of CO2 in the atmosphere through high historical emissions get a smaller budget. Here the problem is: From which year does one start counting emissions? If one starts in 1850 with the start of the industrial revolution many developed countries have already overdrawn their budget.

  • Capability

Countries with high per capita income need to do more and hence they get a smaller budget.

  • Equality

Every person on Earth has the same right to pollute. Here again the question is: When does one start counting?

  • Grandfathering

Countries with high emissions get a bigger budget since it is their “historical right” to pollute the atmosphere on a certain level.

 

So how does the #showyourbudgets approach compare to these principles?

  • Responsibility

Our start date (1st of January 2016) is late. However, one can argue that only with the Paris Agreement all countries have a legal obligation to reduce their emissions.

  • Capability

In our approach countries with high per capita emissions need to become climate neutral faster than countries with low per capita emissions. Since high per capita emissions usually correlate with a high per capita income the most “capable” countries need to become climate neutral first.

  • Equality

In our approach, for every person alive on the 1st of January 2016 his or her country gets the same share of the global CO2 budget.

  • Grandfathering

Our approach does not include an element of grandfathering after the 1st of January 2016. However, it also ignores the emissions before that date.

 

Note: The German Advisory Council on the Environment which advises the German government uses the same approach as we do in its latest report

Further reading: A good overview of the literature about the “comparability of effort” can be found on the website of the Climate Action Tracker (CAT). And then there is the Climate Equity Reference Calculator where one can choose different parameters.

why does country X only have one, two or three budgets instead of four?

Some countries have already used up the more ambitious budgets. This happens when the per capita emissions are well above the global average.

will this website be updated?

Yes, we will update this website on a yearly basis when new emissions data is available.

what can I do with these graphics?

These graphics are licensed under CC BY 4.0. So they can be used for any purpose as long as credit is given to #showyourbudgets.

who created this website and how can I contact you?

This website has been created by:

  • Project management: Christian Mihatsch, a German climate journalist (see weltinnenpolitik.net)
  • Technical implementation: Jesper Brøndum Pedersen, CTO of BlueVisuals, a Danish-Thai software company specialised in data visualisation
  • Graphic design: Jules Weigel, CEO of karo3.de, a German web design company
  • Scientific advice: Stefan Rahmstorf, Professor of Physics of the Ocean at Potsdam University and Head of Earth System Analysis at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)

#showyourbudgets has a media partnership with klimareporter.de.

The team can be contacted at info@showyourbudgets.org (English and German only).

We are also on Twitter with the handle @showyourbudgets.

what are the full citations for the data you used?

1. Global carbon budget

Filename: https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/sites/2/2019/05/SR15_Chapter2_Low_Res.pdf

Citation: Rogelj, J., D. Shindell, K. Jiang, S. Fifita, P. Forster, V. Ginzburg, C. Handa, H. Kheshgi, S. Kobayashi, E. Kriegler, L. Mundaca, R. Séférian, and M.V.Vilariño, 2018: Mitigation Pathways Compatible with 1.5°C in the Context of Sustainable Development. In: Global Warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, H.-O. Pörtner, D. Roberts, J. Skea, P.R. Shukla, A. Pirani, W. Moufouma-Okia, C. Péan, R. Pidcock, S. Connors, J.B.R. Matthews, Y. Chen, X. Zhou, M.I. Gomis, E. Lonnoy, T. Maycock, M. Tignor, and T. Waterfield (eds.)].

 

2. World population

Filename: WPP2019_POP_F01_1_TOTAL_POPULATION_BOTH_SEXES

Citation: United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2019). World Population Prospects 2019, Online Edition. Rev. 1.

 

3. Emissions from fossil fuel use and cement production

Filename: National_Carbon_Emissions_2019v1.0.xlsx

Citation: Friedlingstein, P., Jones, M. W., O'Sullivan, M., Andrew, R. M., Hauck, J., Peters, G. P., Peters, W., Pongratz, J., Sitch, S., Le Quéré, C., Bakker, D. C. E., Canadell, J. G., Ciais, P., Jackson, R. B., Anthoni, P., Barbero, L., Bastos, A., Bastrikov, V., Becker, M., Bopp, L., Buitenhuis, E., Chandra, N., Chevallier, F., Chini, L. P., Currie, K. I., Feely, R. A., Gehlen, M., Gilfillan, D., Gkritzalis, T., Goll, D. S., Gruber, N., Gutekunst, S., Harris, I., Haverd, V., Houghton, R. A., Hurtt, G., Ilyina, T., Jain, A. K., Joetzjer, E., Kaplan, J. O., Kato, E., Klein Goldewijk, K., Korsbakken, J. I., Landschützer, P., Lauvset, S. K., Lefèvre, N., Lenton, A., Lienert, S., Lombardozzi, D., Marland, G., McGuire, P. C., Melton, J. R., Metzl, N., Munro, D. R., Nabel, J. E. M. S., Nakaoka, S.-I., Neill, C., Omar, A. M., Ono, T., Peregon, A., Pierrot, D., Poulter, B., Rehder, G., Resplandy, L., Robertson, E., Rödenbeck, C., Séférian, R., Schwinger, J., Smith, N., Tans, P. P., Tian, H., Tilbrook, B., Tubiello, F. N., van der Werf, G. R., Wiltshire, A. J., and Zaehle, S.: Global Carbon Budget 2019, Earth Syst. Sci. Data, 11, 1783–1838, https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-11-1783-2019, 2019.

 

4. Emissions from Land Use Change

Filename: Country_ELUC_11102019_peatAdded_BLUEonly

Citation: Hansis, E., Davis, S. J., and Pongratz, J.: Relevance of methodological choices for accounting of land use change carbon fluxes, Global Biogeochem. Cy., 29, 1230–1246, https://doi.org/10.1002/2014GB004997, 2015. (Update 2019)

 

5. Global GDP

Filename: API_NY.GDP.MKTP.CD_DS2_en_excel_v2_988354

Citation: The World Bank: Dataset name: NY.GDP.MKTP.CD, Data source: World Bank national accounts data and OECD National Accounts data files