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"The Case for Intensity Targets"

A man walks past a cement factory’s chimney outside of Jammu, India, Dec. 4, 2009. India pledged to slow the growth of its CO2 emissions over the next decade but will not accept a binding emissions-reduction target.
AP Photo

"The Case for Intensity Targets"

Discussion Paper 05-02, Resources for the Future

January 2005

Author: William A. Pizer

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: Harvard Project on Climate Agreements


Both China, the nation with the largest emissions of greenhouse gases, and India, the fifth-largest emitter, announced in the week before the Fifteenth Conference of the Parties (COP) in Copenhagen that they would offer for the purposes of negotiation "intensity targets" at the COP. (Carbon intensity is the amount of CO2 emitted per unit of GDP.) Neither country had offered any potentially internationally-binding target prior to these. China offered a reduction target of 40–45 percent by 2020, over the 2005 intensity. India, a few days later, announced a "voluntary" target of 20–25 percent over the same period. High on the list of topics discussed in Copenhagen will be the relative value of intensity targets versus absolute emissions-reduction-targets, which most industrialized countries, including, also very recently, the United States (17 percent over 2005—provisionally until Congress enacts domestic climate legislation) have offered.

William Pizer, in this 2005 Discussion Paper published by Resources for the Future, anticipates this important debate. Dr. Pizer is a Harvard Project author and a former Pre-Doctoral Fellow of the affiliated Harvard Environmental Economics Program. He is now Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy and Environment, United States Department of the Treasury.

The Harvard Project does not advocate any specific policy approach to global climate change policy, and the paper in no manner represents the views of Dr. Pizer's current employer.  


For more information about this publication please contact the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements Coordinator at 617-496-8054.

Full text of this publication is available at:

For Academic Citation:

Pizer, William. "The Case for Intensity Targets." Discussion Paper 05-02, Resources for the Future, January 2005.

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