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Winner Spotlight: Jan Kunnas of the Global Plan Contest


Jan Kunnas, creator of the Settle the Carbon Debt and Release the Power of Example! proposal, first participated in the Climate CoLab contest in 2013, and this year found new inspiration by turning to his academic research. Settle the Carbon Debt and Release the Power of Example! encourages a unilateral approach to climate mitigation efforts, and provides historical examples of how this kind of leadership  can spur widespread action.  Jan’s proposal in the 2014 Global Plan contest granted him a Judge’s Choice Winner title. 

   2014 Judge’s Choice Winner, Jan Kunnas of Settle the Carbon    Debt and Release the Power of Example!

Here is Jan’s story:

I am an environmental/ economic historian doing research on the environmental consequences on economic growth. My proposal is built upon my PhD research on the divergent paths of carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide emissions and on my later research on the responsibility for climate change including the question of how to price historic emissions of carbon dioxide, the so called carbon debt.

The Climate CoLab competition inspired me to combine these two separate, although connected, areas of research. From the later part came my suggestion for a debt settlement: Considering the mutual indebtedness, developed countries carbon debts vs. developing countries conventional monetary debts, developing countries joining a global climate treaty should get their debt canceled. This would pave the way for all other proposals in the contest by solving old grudges. From my research on other environmental problems comes my conviction that if anything general can be learnt from history, that is the power of example. Unilateral measures to curb climate change could provide an example for later comers to follow.

I would like to share the following graph from my own research on the relation between sulphur dioxide emissions and GDP in Finland, 1860 – 2003, showing how fast the emissions of sulphur dioxide declined in Finland since 1980 once it followed the initial example of Sweden. I am convinced that a similar development is possible to achieve regarding emissions of greenhouse gases once a tipping point is reached.

Relation between sulphur dioxide emissions and GDP in Finland, 1860 – 2003

Jan Kunnas & Timo Myllyntaus, “Anxiety and Technological Change – Explaining the Inverted U-curve of Sulphur Dioxide Emissions in late 20th century Finland.” Ecological Economics, Vol 69, No. 7, 2010, pp. 1587–1593. 

What was the best thing that came out of being a part of the Climate CoLab?  

So far, the best part of Climate CoLab has been the initial push to develop the idea further and some inspiring discussions had with other participants in the competition. I hope that the success in this competition can raise enough interest in my proposal to make the debt settlement a reality, and inspire people around the world that everyone can make a difference by showing example for others to follow.

Check out Jan’s winning proposal here.

Meet Jan at the Climate CoLab’s Crowds & Climate Conference, Nov 6-7 at MIT and learn more about his winning proposal!

And check out other Spotlights of Climate CoLab winners, Fellows and Advisors here: