Delivering the two degree global climate change target using a flexible ratchet framework

Hannah Ritchie*, David S. Reay

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Global climate negotiations have been characterized by a divide between developed and developing nations – a split which has served as a persistent barrier to international agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change process. Notable progress in bridging this division was achieved at the 21st Conference of the Parties meeting in Paris through the introduction of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). However, the collective ambition of submitted INDCs falls short of a global 2°C target, requiring an effective ratchet mechanism to review and increase national commitments. Inequitable distribution of additional responsibilities risks re-opening historic divisions between parties. This article presents a flexible ratchet framework which shares mitigation commitments on the basis of per capita equity in line with emerging requirements for a 2°C target. The framework has been designed through convergence between developed and developing nations; developed nation targets are based on an agreed standardized percentage reduction wherever emissions are above per capita equity; developing nations are required to peak emissions at or below per capita equity levels by an agreed convergence date. The proposed framework has the flexibility to be integrated with current INDCs and to evolve in line with shifting estimates of climate sensitivity. Policy relevance The outcome of the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) negotiations in Paris offered mixed results in terms of level of ambition and submitted national commitments. A global agreement to keep average global temperature rise below two degrees was maintained; however, current pledged Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) are projected to result in an average warming of close to three degrees. The implementation of a global ratchet mechanism to scale-up national commitments will remain key to closing this ambition gap to reach this two degree target. How this upscaling of responsibility is shared between parties will be a defining discussion point within future negotiations. This study presents a standardized, equity-based framework for how this ratchet mechanism can be implemented – a framework designed to be flexible for evolution in line with better understanding of climate sensitivity, and adaptable for integrations with current INDC proposals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalClimate Policy
Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2017


  • Climate change mitigation
  • climate policy frameworks
  • climate targets
  • development and climate
  • equity
  • international negotiations


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