Anthropogenic C[O.sub.2] emission and climate change in the Congo basin countries.

AuthorNkengfack, Hilaire
  1. Introduction

    Within the framework of the fight against climate change proned by the Kyoto Protocol, the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that held in Paris in November 2015 ended with the main recommendation of lowering of the level of global warming to 1.5 [degrees] Celsius in the long run (1). Even if it is generally admitted that sub-Saharan Africa contributes only 3 to 4% of the world's greenhouse gases emissions (Boutin, 2014), it is also true that they are quite as exposed, if not more exposed as; the principal polluters of the planet (China, the United States of America, European Union, Brazil, and Russia) to the detrimental consequences of this externality. In fact, because of the world public good (2) property of the environment on the one hand, and the transferable nature of air pollution on the other, these countries must seek an equitable balance between the quest for economic growth and safeguarding of environmental quality. More specifically, the Congo Basin is the 2nd largest forest area in the world after the Amazonian forest whose potential role in the regulation of climate is undeniable.

    This study aims at identifying the determinants of greenhouse gas emissions in the Congo Basin countries. Climate change refers to a durable modification of the statistical parameters of the climate of the planet (Stern, 2006). These modifications can be the result of natural factors, not easily controllable, and/or of anthropogenic factors; which are due to human actions. According to Sir David King, former Principal Scientific Adviser of the British Government, cited in Stern's report (2006), "climate change constitutes the most serious problem with which we are confronted, even more, serious than the threat of terrorism". This report talks about the close relationship which exists between the world economic outcomes and man's actions which contribute to the climate change on the one hand, and on the other hand between these results and the role of technological change in the reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases, as well as variations that exist between these actions and their consequences.

    The majority of African governments wish to achieve economic emergence. This achievement is based on the progressive realization of several major projects referred to as "structuring" in various sectors of the economy. This increased economic activity is expected to raise the level of greenhouse gases (GHG) released in the atmosphere, notably carbon dioxide which represents about 82% of global GHG emissions (IPCC, 2007). According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007), to moderate the increasing threat associated with global warming, it is imperative to reduce by three times the world level of GHG relative to the levels in 2000.

    The purpose of this study is therefore to determine the main anthropogenic factors behind the generation of carbon dioxide in the Congo Basin countries. These factors could amplify or moderate carbon dioxide emissions, given the significant endowment of these countries in forest resources.

    The remainder of the paper is organised as follows. Section 2 reviews the literature connected to the topic. Section 3 presents some stylized facts. Section 4 presents the data and empirical methodology. Section 5 reports and discusses the main findings. Section 6 concludes the paper and provides implications.

  2. Literature review

    We first present a theoretical review of the literature, followed by an empirical review.

    2.1. Theoretical literature review

    It is unanimously admitted that the primary goal of economic growth is to improve the living conditions and human welfare. However, some of its effects such as an increase in pollution raise the question of its long-term sustainability. To address this dilemma, the opposite positions of economists converge today towards the adoption of a model of "sustainable development" (Brundtland Report, 1987) (3). In fact, within the framework of the United Nations' world conference on the environment and development held in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, a close relationship between environmental quality and the development process was clearly established, such that no development strategy can be conceived without suitable management of natural resources. However, the conditions for the application of such an ideal model are the subject of controversies where traditional cleavages of economics reappear.

    On the one hand, liberal theorists consider that it is possible to find substitute resources to those which are being exhausted in future. It is thus necessary to reveal innovations through technical progress, which will take over the resources that are disappearing and to support the substitutability of natural capital for example by another which is produced physical capital (Solow, 1974; Hartwick, 1977). This school of thought preaches "weak sustainability" and promotes the evaluation in monetary terms of environmental resources. In this line, certain researchers questioned themselves on the possibility of a "decoupling" between growth and the environment, i.e. the possibility of a separation between the creation of wealth and environmental pollution. According to the OECD (2008), "decoupling" broadly refers to the act of "breaking the link between environmental ills and economic goods". Studies on this notion which intuitively start with the environmental Kuznets curve (EKC) date from the early 2000s (Laurent, 2011) and make it possible to carry out the ecological transition of an economy.

    On the other hand, unlike the neo-classical school of thought, the "ecological" school contests this "productivist" design of sustainable development because of the irreplaceable nature of certain resources and the irreversibility of their disappearance. This school of thought recommends a growth model based on the replacement of nonrenewable resources by renewable resources to preserve natural capital. To evaluate the impact of human activities on the environment, it is necessary to calculate the ecological footprint, or the number of hectares enabling the production of resources used by this population and assimilate the waste it produces. The ecological footprint is calculated regarding the manner of living of the studied population. This school of thought thus militates for "strong sustainability" and supports the maintenance of a critical stock of natural capital. In fact, in this hypotheses defended by Daly (1990) and Pearce (1992), the stock of per capita natural resources should not drop. Daly holds that natural and artificial capital are complements and not substitutes. Jackson (2010) precisely makes restrictions in his study "Prosperity without growth: the transition towards a sustainable economy" on the idea of a possible "decoupling", i.e. of separation of the economy and the environment, thus confirming the fact that natural capital and artificial capital are complementary. At the limit, we can talk of "decoupling" if the growth rate of pressure on the environment (for example carbon dioxide emissions) becomes lower than that of growth in GDP. Specifically, it would be more correct to talk of "absolute decoupling" if the GDP grows when the pressure on the environment (increase in the volume of carbon dioxide emissions) remains constant or decreases; and of "relative decoupling" when the GDP increases more than proportionally to the increase in the pressure on the environment. Attempts have been made to empirically verify all these theoretical positions and empirical models implemented whose results are quite as debatable as the theoretical positions.

    2.2. Empirical literature review

    This study is based on the theoretical assertion of a possibility of decoupling according to Jackson (2010), i.e. of a "decoupling" which can either be "absolute" or "relative" between economic growth (GDP) and environmental quality, measured by the level of C[O.sub.2] emissions. We thus admit that economic growth will always require a certain level of emission of greenhouse gases, "zero pollution" being a non-existing concept in economics. As concerns climate, whatever the nature of the development programs implemented, it could easily be disturbed or even be completely destroyed by the negative effects of climate change (Odingo, 2008). The four scientific evaluations carried out by the IPCC hold that: global warming is not only a reality but also an unambiguous reality (IPCC, 2007) (4). Consequently, it is not possible to separate climate change from the process of economic development and vice versa. It will only be possible to take it into account.

    The majority of the empirical studies on economic growth and environmental quality establish a "decoupling" which can either be nonlinear or linear. For the nonlinear relationship, existing studies investigated the environmental Kuznets curve (EKC) between growth and the environment since the studies of Grossman and Krueger (1991, 1995). In 1955, Simon Kuznets studied the effects of economic growth on income inequality in the United States. The results of this study enable him to establish a nonlinear relationship (concave curve) in the form of an inverted U-shaped curve between the two variables. This suggests that income increases with inequalities until a certain threshold. After this threshold, any increase in income could generate a reduction of inequalities. At the beginning of the 90s, this reasoning is transposed to the relationship between economic growth and environmental quality. Thus, adopting a similar approach, Grossman and Krueger (1991, 1995) detect a U-shaped curve or EKC between economic growth and several indicators of pollution in the context of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Similarly, Shafik and Bandyopadhyay (1992) in the World Bank report on development in the world; and Panayotou (1993) for the...

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