Analyses | 25 May 2005

Convergence and per capita carbon emissions

In a new Working Paper in International Economics, Professor Warwick McKibbin and Alison Stegman write that assumptions about carbon emissions per person lie behind many future climate projections as well as being the basis of a number of policy proposals. 

Warwick McKibbin

  • Warwick McKibbin

In a new Working Paper in International Economics, Professor Warwick McKibbin and Alison Stegman write that assumptions about carbon emissions per person lie behind many future climate projections as well as being the basis of a number of policy proposals. 

Warwick McKibbin

  • Warwick McKibbin
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Executive Summary

This paper examines the historical behavior of emissions per capita and explores whether there is any evidence of convergence of emissions per capita across countries over time or convergence in the determinant of these emissions. We find no evidence of convergence in any of these ratios - a critical determinant of carbon emissions is natural endowments of fossil fuels per country which are not easily changed . Given this evidence, it is likely that future climate projections that are based on an assumption of convergence of either emissions per capita, emission intensities of energy or energy intensities of GDP are not very useful given they are not based on historical experience.