activism climate change

Chris Huhne urged to adopt Contraction and Convergence

A letter has been delivered to Chris Huhne, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, challenging him to adopt contraction and convergence. The approach featured in the Lib Dem manifesto, with a promise to build on the small steps taken, and push it forward in the UN climate change talks as the only fair way of sharing out the burden of carbon cuts.

Led by Colin Challen, former MP and chair of the all party climate change parliamentary group, dozens of scientists and experts have signed the letter. It calls for the UK to formally adopt Contraction and Convergence as a guiding principle in future negotiations. Signatories include Lord Martin Rees and Sir John Houghton, former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

“The Labour government used Contraction and Convergence methodology in various guises,” says Colin Challen, “for example in calculating the carbon emission reductions that appeared in the Climate Change Act. But it fought shy of taking the framework forward into international negotiations on the grounds that some other a countries might resist it. Now that the international negotiations have reached a plateau which is likely to lead to a temperature increase well above two degrees, it is high time we adopted an approach which clearly sets out an equitable path to tackling climate change.”

Chris Huhne has previously praised the “morally compelling logic” of Contraction and Convergence, which assumes that everyone has an equal right to emit CO2, and works out allowances according to population size. His new role is an important opportunity to create a fairer basis for carbon reductions, where rich countries would contract their emissions while allowing poorer countries to raise theirs until everyone converges on an equal and sustainable level.


  1. It sounds fair and an exciting challenge, but I can’t see it happening any time soon.

    I read once that “equal shares” would require the UK using no more pe capita energy than it did in the eighteenth century (sorry, no source).

    Most Westerners (indeed most of the planet’s population) are in complete denial; so I can’t see the rich democracies being prepared to take some extremely powerful medicine on behalf of the planet.

    We may need a “Plan B”.

    1. That would depend on how the energy is generated – greenhouse emissions are the important factor, rather than energy use itself. We will need to use less energy, no doubt about it, but it wouldn’t necessarily be the 18th century if we invest in renewable technology.

      You’re right, we may need a plan B, but we need to try plan A first! And Contraction and Convergence is the best strategy we have right now.

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