Monash University

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The ability to achieve equit in climate change

posted on 2017-02-21, 23:20 authored by Ekanayake, Primal
Historical C02 emissions are linked to fossil fuel energy use, which in turn is linked to development and wealth in countries. However, the severity of climatic impacts due to emissions is spatially variable and need not correspond to the level of contribution toward climate change or the subsequent developmental benefits accrued from fossil fuel energy consumption. This gives rise to disparities in the capacity to respond to climate change. It is necessary to consider resolutions to these inequities for a widely acceptable solution to climate change. The purpose of this thesis is to develop an emission distribution that can limit the average global temperature rise below 2°C (RCP2.6) and minimize inequities in the capacity to respond to climate change. As such, the emission distribution aims to enable rapid development in poor countries in order to improve standards of living via greater energy access. Furthermore, the emission distribution aims for all countries to approach equal per capita emissions by 2050, which was deemed to be an equitable outcome. The emission distribution allocates each country with three distinct emission pathways that can enable the global targets of RCP2.6 to be achieved. Each of these emission pathways was found to enable the vast majority of countries to approach equal per capita emissions. Furthermore, the emission distribution was found to enable poor countries to gain wealth via carbon trading mechanisms such as emissions trading schemes. Although the latter could improve energy access (a pre-requisite to development) in poor countries, it was shown that achieving energy equity needs to consider the availability and ability to exploit energy resources at a country level. The emission distribution was found not to account for the effects on the capacity to respond to climate change from disparities in the severity of future impacts at a country level. So, the emission distribution was deemed to underestimate the developmental needs of some countries. Lastly, various barriers to participation in an international agreement at a country level, and preferences in the emission pathway to approach equal per capita emissions by 2050 were found to limit the ability to achieve an equitable outcome via the emission distribution and achieve the global targets of RCP2.6. This thesis highlighted the need to consider equity for an international agreement to stabilize climate change. It also highlighted how considering equity holistically helps to better understand the links and complexities between emissions, energy, human development and the capacity to respond to climate change.


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Principal supervisor

Damon Honnery

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


Master of Engineering Science (Research)

Degree Type



Faculty of Engineering

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