Climate change poses the greatest threat that humanity has ever faced

"If there are to be problems, may they come during my life-time so that I can resolve them and give my children the chance of a good life"
Kenyan Proverb

Climate change poses the greatest threat that humanity has ever faced. Yet global carbon emissions from human activity continue to rise, despite repeated warnings from scientists that they must start to fall within the next decade and years of negotiations at the UN.

There are two key questions:

1) Can global carbon emissions be cut fast enough to prevent runaway global warming without an international deal that binds all nations to meet targets based on scientific data rather than short-term national and economic interests?

2) Do you, on behalf of your business or organization - and your family - believe that the world is on course to avoid runaway climate change?

If your answer was 'no' to either, please make time to learn about Contraction & Convergence (C&C).


C&C is a science-based, equitable framework for cutting human-induced carbon emissions. It was developed in the early 1990’s by a small group led by Aubrey Meyer, a musician and composer turned environmentalist, who has campaigned for it ever since. C&C offers a rational formula for stabilizing atmospheric greenhouse gases at a 'safe' concentration (to be set by science) by an agreed date.

Its unit of account is CO2, not dollars, so it sets a finite global carbon budget for future emissions that factors in the latest data on the capacity of natural carbon sinks to absorb CO2. It then allocates national carbon budgets on the basis that each person has an equal claim on the global atmosphere and is therefore entitled to an equal share of the finite carbon budget over a given period of time. This is simply 'logical', rather than 'ideological', and in a way that any seven-year old would understand as being fair.

C&C's finite global carbon budget starts by steadily reducing carbon entitlements for countries with high per capita emissions whilst increasing entitlements to carbon-frugal nations, until all countries entitlements converge on the falling global per capita average arising under the budget by a date agreed [for example by 2030].

After 'convergence', emissions entitlements for all nations will reduce in step until they all reach a sustainable target amount [e.g. 500 kilos of CO2 per person per annum] again, by whatever date is agreed [e.g. by 2060].

If climate science requirest, the long-term concentration target can be revised downwards and the full-term 'C&C event'. Financial incentives to avoid fossil fuels will be created by a parallel trade in per capita carbon entitlements. These become increasingly valuable as they become scarcer and this way, carbon-frugal countries can sell their unused per capita entitlements to the carbon-intensive countries that may struggle to stay within their falling national entitlements. This trade will generate the kind of income that will enable developing countries to grow sustainable economies and help make climate change and poverty history.

C&C's carbon market offers 'built-in' financial compensation to developing nations for the 'historic emissions' of industrialized nations, since the earlier the date negotiated for the international convergence of per capita carbon entitlements, the more carbon rights industrialized nations will have to buy from developing nations in the early stages.


The story of C&C

In 1989, Aubrey Meyer promised his tearful four-year old daughter that he would 'stop the planet from dying'. Already confronted with the evidence of climate change becoming dangerous, he decided to abandon a successful career as an orchestral viola player and composer in order to keep his word to her.

Six years later at the UN, he launched the framework he developed for cutting and sharing a finite future global carbon budget in relation to a universal per capita entitlement. He called it Contraction & Convergence (C&C) and has campaigned for it with minimal funding but to great effect, ever since. His daughter is now 25 and still believes her dad will save the world.

For many years, the western governments and mainstream environmental NGOs that backed the Kyoto Protocol dismissed Meyer as 'unqualified' and worked to keep C&C off the agenda. Perhaps they realized that its logic and inherent fairness would expose the hopeless guesswork and inequity behind Kyoto.

However, the lack of attention given to C&C by the mainstream media (perhaps a consequence of briefings from pro-Kyoto government advisors and NGOs) kept C&C off the public agenda.

Today, as the Kyoto Protocol expires in failure, the wishful thinking apparent at COP-16 in Cancun underlines the need to re-boot and strengthen the UNFCCC. C&C provides the mechanism for doing this and leading scientists, economists, medics and environmentalists now affirm that C&C is the only credible basis for an effective climate deal.

Meyer's own story – crudely Galileo meets David and Goliath - proves that reason and single-minded determination can move mountains.

Political support for C&C

Since the mainstream press and TV have failed to give C&C the attention it is due, few members of the public are familiar with it. The more people who understand C&C, the greater the chance that its logic and transparent equity will break the spiral of mistrust between rich and poor countries that has caused stalemate at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The Governments that created the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change [UNFCCC] in 1992 acknowledged that the climate-deal must be rooted in science and equity.

In 1997, the US administration asked Aubrey Meyer to travel to India and China to see if their negotiators were seriously interested in C&C and at COP-3 in Kyoto in December 1997, C&C was proposed by India, backed by many African countries and supported by the USA, when Jonathan Pershing (then as now the lead US negotiator) made the following comment: -

“It does seem to us that the proposals by for example India and perhaps by others who speak to Contraction & Convergence are elements for the future, elements perhaps for a next agreement that we may ultimately all seek to engage in…” 

As the Kyoto Protocol struggled to achieve ratification, in 2004 the UNFCCC Executive stated: -

"Achieving the objective of the UNFCCC inevitably requires contraction and convergence."

These arguments remain valid as C&C is the only proposal that does not breach the terms of the Byrd-Hagel Resolution, which was passed by the US Senate in 1997. This prevents the US from signing any climate deal that does not engage all nations on the same terms and also require all nations to control their emissions. Today, the Kyoto Protocol is seen as a failure because the US never ratified it and its signatories have refused to renew it. Many people therefore now regard C&C as the only formula that has any hope of reconciling the differences between the western nations, emerging giants such as China and India and the rest of the world.

The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution made C&C a key recommendation in its 2001 report on climate change. The UK government of the day rejected this without explanation, but in March 2009, Lord Turner (chair, Independent Climate Change Committee) confirmed that current UK carbon reduction targets under the Climate Act are based on C&C whilst also stating that: -

"If, for reasons of urgency the contraction of global carbon emissions has to be accelerated, then for reasons of equity, the date for convergence of per capita carbon entitlements must be accelerated relative to that."

In 2008, Professor Ross Garnaut made C&C a key recommendation in the Garnaut Review on climate change for the Australian government

In the same year, a cross party group of MPs (including Chris Huhne, now the UK's coalition minister for Energy and Climate Change) nominated Meyer for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to establish C&C.

The 2009 UCL/Lancet Commission report, "Managing the Health Effects of Climate Change" made C&C a key recommendation, noting that poverty was the greatest single cause of global ill health and that C&C's carbon trade would help to alleviate this

The report of the 2009 Global Humanitarian Forum in Geneva also made C&C a key recommendation, concluding that a global climate deal that was not based on C&C would not be worth having.

For further endorsements by leading scientists, economists, academics, faith leaders, environmentalists and the text of an open letter from Colin Challen to Chris Huhne signed by more than 200 opinion formers, visit www.gci.org.uk/endorsements.html


Venus is the second planet from the Sun, orbiting it every 224.7 Earth days. It has no natural satellite. It is named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty. After the Moon, it is the brightest natural object in the night sky, reaching an apparent magnitude of −4.6, bright enough to cast shadows. Because Venus is an inferior planet from Earth, it never appears to venture far from the Sun: its elongation reaches a maximum of 47.8°.

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