A quick guide to these scores, and to their interpretation

The goal of this system is to enable a coherent and productive discussion of fair shares, in the context of a global effort to stabilize the climate system. That is, the Pledge Scorecard, and the Equity Reference Calculator upon which it is based, are designed to provide specificity and transparency to the UNFCCC equity principles of “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.”

More precisely, a nation’s mitigation obligation is defined as its fair share of the total global effort needed to close the gap between the current emissions pathway and a selected global mitigation pathway. Fair shares are based on the common but differentiated responsibility and capacity of all countries to contribute to the general global effort to stabilize the climate system.

Critically, the Scorecard and Calculator are designed to not be prescriptive, but rather to allow users (in their “Equity Settings” panels) to choose their own definitions of responsibility and capacity, which are then combined into a responsibility and capacity index that is used to divide both mitigation costs and adaptation costs between countries.

Then, as a guide to thought, the Scorecard and Calculator  offer quick ratings – scores – of national mitigation pledges. These scores represent a straightforward comparison of that pledge to the nation’s equity-based mitigation obligation – its “fair share” – in the context of a specific global mitigation pathway and a specific set of “Equity Settings.” These scores are designed to – above all – be meaningful in comparison to each other.

To be very clear, the point of this exercise is not to generate a specific formulaic solution to the allocation problem. Nor do we believe that Parties will soon negotiate and adopt a specific effort-sharing formula. Still, we very much believe that it is essential to have a transparent and well-constructed “equity reference framework” in our quiver, as a tool for building understanding and consensus and as a benchmark against which expectations can be set, pledges can be assessed and compared, and on which negotiations can be focused.

Quick overview of the scoring system

The scores are expressed in tons per-capita, in a given year. For example, if we calculate a country’s 2020 mitigation obligation to be 9 tons per-capita, and if it pledges to mitigate 8 tons per-capita, then its score is -1.

  • If a pledge exactly matches the national mitigation obligation, as projected for the pledge year, the score is 0.
  • If a pledge is smaller than the national mitigation obligation, the score is negative. This is the usual case.
  • If a mitigation pledge exceeds the projected mitigation obligation, the score is positive. This is unfortunately a rare case, but it does occur.
  • In other rare cases, a country specifies a pledge that would have its emissions rising above its business-as-usual projection. In these cases, unsurprisingly, scores are very negative.

Level of Global Ambition

The single most important determinant of a score is the level of global mitigation ambition against which it is evaluated. This is selected under Level of Global Ambition on the Scorecard’s left panel. The three available global mitigation pathways have been very carefully specified, and are calibrated to the global carbon budgets the IPCC released as part of its Fifth Assessment Report. For a very detailed discussion of these pathways, see the Three salient global mitigation pathways, assessed in light of the IPCC carbon budgets.

Pledge details and a warning – finance pledges are not yet available

The Pledge Scorecard system assesses the national pledges that countries have submitted to UNFCCC Secretariat. (The official Annex 1 submissions and non-Annex 1 submissions are available on the UNFCCC website, and helpful compilations are available from the Climate Action Tracker and Climate Interactive websites. We rely upon these roll-ups and do not attempt to collect additional information about pledges. In a few cases, we adjust our pledge database to take account of important, but not yet widely reported, changes in national pledges.

To this point, almost all mitigation pledges are given for the year 2020. Some countries have submitted both an “unconditional” pledge, which they intend to meet unilaterally, and a more ambitious “conditional” pledge, which is contingent on other countries raising their own mitigation ambition and/or providing financial and technological support.

For countries with high responsibility and capacity, typical settings of the equity parameters give mitigation obligations that exceed what would be cost-effectively achievable entirely within their own borders. These countries would presumably supplement their domestic mitigation actions with international actions (i.e., financial and technological support). To be absolutely clear about this, a nation’s action is taken to be the sum of its domestic action and its support for international action. It is this sum which we consider when we ask if a nation is doing its fair share.

Unfortunately, no nations have yet made international pledges that are explicit enough to score. To the extent that international support has been tabled, it has been undermined by grave uncertainties – for example about what is in fact new and additional, and about which fraction is earmarked for adaptation support. For this reason, countries with high responsibility and capacity tend to score poorly, and they will continue to do so until their support for international action is made explicit enough to score. Hopefully, this will be soon.

For more on all this, see Some Caveats.

Some illustrative examples (by way of a quick tour)

Note: National pledges are subject to change. Thus, the screenshots used below may fall a bit out of date. We’ll try, though, to keep this document current as the Pledge Scorecard and Equity Reference Calculator evolve.

First up, here’s the “Equity Settings” panel.


The Equity Settings panel. Click http://www.gdrights.org/scorecard/ for a live version.

Note the need to select a global mitigation pathway, and thus a level of global ambition. This choice is very important, and will have a great impact on the scores. Also note that while we provide an “initial settings” button, it’s use is entirely optional; no pathway is selected by default.

Note also the need to choose settings for responsibility and capacity. There are key choices to be made here. Should responsibility and capacity be held in a 50 / 50 balance, or should one alone be taken to define the responsibility and capacity index? And how should the level of national development be taken into account? Should the development threshold be set to $2,500 a year, or to $7,500? If the latter, should a luxury threshold be used to make the system more progressive? If you’ve decided to include historical responsibility in your calculations, from what year should you begin reckoning this responsibility?

The following walk-through suggests particular actions you can take if you working online, with a live version of the Calculator or Scorecard. However, this document may also simply be read.

First, choose the “Weak 2°C” pathway. We’ll start this guide with it, if only because it’s the most familiar of the global mitigation pathways. (It’s essentially equivalent to the 2°C pathway in the UNEP “Emissions GAP” reports).

When it comes to responsibility and capacity , we’ll use the same middle-of-the-road settings that we use as our “initial” settings: a 50/50 mix of responsibility and capacity, a development threshold of $7,500 with no additional progressivity, and a historical responsibility start year of 1990. Other settings are equally justifiable , but these will do for the purposes of this guide.  

Click “Save and continue” to proceed to the Scorecard itself. Then select “United States” from the “Country or Region” pulldown. This is what you see:


Climate Equity Pledge Scorecard: United States, Weak 2°C pathway, “standard” equity settings. Click here for a live version.

Note that you’re in the Pledge Scorecard’s “Basic view.” Note also that the United States’ pledge is treated as unconditional (though it hardly matters, because the US has made only one pledge). And note that it’s been judged to be entirely inadequate.

Look at the horizontal “scorebar,” and read the Scorecard carefully. The pledge shortfall is most prominently shown, and both the US’s fair share and its pledge are explicitly marked out, relative to the US’s projected (BAU) emissions.

Note that the pledge is not being evaluated against 1990 domestic emissions (though this information is available in the “Detailed view”), but rather by comparing the pledge (in tonnes per-capita) to the national fair share of the global mitigation requirement. If you’re playing with a live version of the system, try the Strong 2°C and G8 pathways and note how significantly they affect the scores.

Again, as discussed above, we have no explicit pledge for international support. Thus, the score here reflects a domestic mitigation reduction pledge alone. When the United States’ international support pledge is also available, its score will presumably increase by a significant amount.

Before going on, click on the Detailed view button for a quick look.

Note how much more information is given in the Detailed view. Note the Warnings at the bottom of the main window. And recall that the equity settings you chose are being used in the generation of these scores. If you want to change them, just click REVIEW EQUITY SETTINGS and try new settings. And, again, note that it’s difficult to find equity settings that make as much of an impact on the scores as the overall level of ambition.

Now go back to the Basic view. Set the Scorecard to Strong 2°C. Then click the link at the bottom that says “Open in Climate Equity Reference Calculator »”.

The Reference Calculator is the system that underlies the Pledge Scorecard. It supports much more functionality, and just now we’re not going to review much of it. But, still, if you’re just interested in the Scorecard, feel free to skip ahead.


Climate Equity Reference Calculator: United States, Strong 2°C pathway, “standard” equity settings. Click here for a live version.

You’re looking at the Calculator’s “Country Report.” (See the “Table view” pulldown in the upper left corner for the others.) Note that, while this report includes Scorecard-style scores if you’re online, look down the table), the focus here is on a time-series graph that combines the selected country’s historical and projected emissions with its projected fair share of the global mitigation required to meet the selected pathway.

If you just want to compare pledge scores between countries, this is not the place for you. But do note that if you fine-tune your settings in the Calculator (for example, note the left-panel control that allows you to switch from production-side to consumption-side accounting of trade-embodied emissions), you can then use the Open Climate Equity Pledge Scorecard with these settings link at the top of the screen to open a Scorecard that tracks, and continues to track, those exact settings.

Below the graph there’s a link labeled “Show graph key.” Click it and you’ll see a very detailed legend that will help you to understand exactly what you’re looking at here. The red diamond-shaped glyph, for example, which is the United States’ pledge, and the green dotted line, which marks a very rough, illustrative domestic emissions reductions pathway. This line is included as a guide to thought, but the real action here is in the dark blue line, which shows the national mitigation obligation, as given by the chosen mitigation pathway and equity settings. It is in this case, as you will note, very challenging indeed.

But before you assume that this stringency is a consequence of the equity settings, go to the “Global mitigation pathway” pulldown and switch to the G8 pathway. You’ll see this:


Climate Equity Reference Calculator: United States, G8 pathway, “standard” equity settings. Click here for a live version.

The challenge here is far smaller than that implied by the Strong 2°C pathway. Which is, obviously, because the G8 pathway is far less stringent, and far more dangerous. However, there are two key points here that are considerably less obvious.

  • First, the US’s obligation is much smaller even though the equity settings have not in any way changed.  Moreover, and this you can easily prove to yourself by experimenting with this system, all “reasonable” changes in the equity settings imply much smaller changes than those that follow from changes in the level of ambition.
  • Second, if the United States were to add a substantive international support pledge to its domestic mitigation pledge, then its total pledge – the one that matters most – would quite closely  align with its fair-share of the global mitigation obligation.

Now switch to China, while remaining under the G8 pathway:


Climate Equity Reference Calculator: China, G8 pathway, “standard” equity settings. Click here for a live version.

Note that China’s pathway graph looks very different from the United States’.  In this case, China’s mitigation obligation (the dark blue line) is above its illustrative cost-effective reductions (the green dotted line), rather than below. This is because China’s responsibility and capacity to act obligate it to a much smaller share of the global mitigation obligation than the system assumes could cost-effectively be made within its borders. This is generally the case with developing countries, and in this regard China is no exception.

Second, note that China’s 2020 pledges (the red diamond and blue circle) are greater than its fair share of the global effort (the thick blue line), as calculated under the “standard” equity settings. In fact, they are large enough that they constitute the full sum of the action (the dotted green line) that, under our very rough illustrative domestic emissions reductions pathway, needs to take place within China.  This is quite a remarkable result, but it must be kept in perspective.  First, China has considerable capacity, and not all developing countries will be able to act on the same scale.  Second, this is after all the G8 pathway, which is unacceptably dangerous.

Now switch to the Strong 2°C pathway, while remaining in China:


Climate Equity Reference Calculator: China, Strong 2°C pathway, “standard” equity settings. Click here for a live version.

Here China’s pledges have not changed, but the overall picture has, and significantly. And China’s pledges are no longer large enough to constitute the full sum of the action (the dotted green line) that, under our illustrative domestic emissions reductions pathway, needs to take place within its borders. Now, if we as a global community are going to take advantage of all the cost-effective mitigation potential that lies within China’s borders, and if we’re going to do it without requiring China to do more than its fair share, we’re going to have to do it by means of international mechanisms that allow other countries, with much higher levels of responsibility and capacity, to support the effort.

For more on this very difficult area, see On domestic action in a global crisis.

Now return to the G8 pathway, and remind yourself of the difference.  Then scroll down the Country Report table and click on the Climate Equity Pledge Scorecard link in the section that details China’s unconditional pledge. It will return you the Pledge Scorecard.


Climate Equity Pledge Scorecard: China, G8 pathway, “standard” equity settings. Click here for a live version.

Here China’s positive score is clear, and it’s much easier to read the key numbers. And it’s hard to miss the warning — the reason that China’s score is so good is that it’s being calculated under the very weak, very dangerous, G8 pathway. Compare the score that it receives under the Strong 2°C pathway, and you’ll see that it drops from 1.7 tonnes/capita to 0.6 tonnes/capita. Consider this in percentage terms and you’ll see that it’s a very significant drop indeed.

Now switch to the South Africa, while remaining under the G8 pathway.

Like China’s score, South Africa’s is solidly green. This is because, in general, developing countries – even “emerging economies” – are already proposing to do their fair shares. But this is only clear when you run analyses that, like the ones being done here, are straightforwardly rooted in the Framework Convention’s equity principles.

Now switch to the EU 27, while remaining under the G8 pathway.


Climate Equity Pledge Scorecard: EU 27, G8 pathway, “standard” equity settings. Click here for a live version.

Here, the obvious point is that the EU 27, which is often seen as climate leader, scores in the red, and considerably lower than China or South Africa. And even under the G8 pathway – look at that Warning again! – it does not manage a green score.

On the other hand, keep in mind that this score is radically incomplete. The EU 27 has very high responsibility and capacity, and thus it must make a significant contribution to international mitigation support if it is to earn a proper score. Such a contribution has not, however, been tabled. When it is, the EU 27’s score will improve, perhaps significantly.

But is the EU 27 a climate leader? It depends on what countries you compare it to. So let’s look at the EU 27 and the US, side by side, under the G8 pathway.


Climate Equity Pledge Scorecard: EU 27 compared to US, G8 pathway, “standard” equity settings.

Here you see the other side of the story. Which is that, while the EU 27 doesn’t look so good when compared to China or South Africa – two emerging economies that are pledging significant efforts, relative to their responsibility and capacity – a comparison of the EU to the US yields quite a different result.

Now consider the same comparison under the Strong 2°C pathway.


Climate Equity Pledge Scorecard: EU 27 compared to US, Strong 2°C pathway, “standard” equity settings.

This is a very different picture, as you can easily see, and here the EU 27 looks very good indeed.

Now let’s switch to the Weak 2°C pathway, and show the same comparison. This is worth doing not only for the sake of completeness, but also because this is the most familiar of the global mitigation pathways, and arguably the one that will weigh most heavily in the coming negotiations.


Climate Equity Pledge Scorecard: EU 27 compared to US, Weak 2°C pathway, “standard” equity settings.

Finally, note that there are many interesting topics that have not even been mentioned here, and many interesting cases. Singapore comes to mind, as does Mexico, and the Maldives. And Costa Rica. And Russia. And Brazil. And Africa as a whole. And India.

And note that the Calulator and Scorecard include individual European countries, as well as those of the EU 27 as a whole. To see how we have done this, see The disaggregation of the EU pledges. This disaggregation was not trivial, but it was necessary, for the nations within the European bubble are still very much entities of their own, and it’s good to be able tocompare, say,  the German and US pledges. Or the German and the Polish pledges.

Finally, we note that this entire guide has focused on mitigation, which is only half of the problem.  The Calculator itself, however, does not ignore adaptation. Take a look at its controls, and note that they allow the user to estimate the total size of the adaptation effort (as a percentage of Gross World Product), and to then distribute responsibility for that effort between countries.

This distribution, of course, is done on the basis of the responsibility and capacity index.