Adaptation
Building resilience
to climate change
 
Mitigation
Moving towards
low carbon societies
 
REDD+
Reducing Emissions
from Deforestation
and forest Degradation
Finance
New finance models
for the green economy
 
 
 

Introduction

Trends

Scientist olding CO2Climate change mitigation refers to technological change and substitution that reduce resource inputs and emissions per unit of output. Although several social, economic and technological policies would produce an emission reduction, with respect to Climate Change, mitigation means implementing policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance sinks.

GHG emissions, largely carbon dioxide (CO2) from the combustion of fossil fuels, have risen dramatically since the pre-industrial times. Globally, energy related CO2 emissions have risen 145-fold since 1850—from 200 million tons to 29 billion tons a year—and are projected to rise another 54 percent by 2030.

Most of the world’s emissions come from a relatively small number of countries. The 25 largest emitters, with 75 percent of the world’s population and 90 percent of the global gross domestic product (GDP), account for approximately 85 percent of global GHG emissions. The top six emitters—the United States, China, the European Union (EU), Russia, India, and Japan— accounted for more than 60 percent of global emissions in 2005. (If emissions from land use change and forestry are also taken into account, Brazil, Indonesia and other countries with high rates of deforestation rank among the top emitters.)

Energy generation is the single most important activity resulting in GHG emissions, in particular because most of it is produced from fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal, the latter being mainly used to generate electricity. Coal, particularly brown coal (also called lignite), is the energy source with the highest GHG emissions per energy unit. Burning coal generates 70 per cent more CO2 than natural gas for every unit of energy. At the same time, coal is cheap and is the most widely available fossil fuel. According to the World Coal Institute, it is present in almost every country, with commercial mining in over 50. It is also the fossil fuel with the longest predicted availability. At current production levels coal will be available for at least 155 more years (compared with 41 years for oil and 65 for gas).

Economics

SavingsThe benefits of strong and early action to curb green house gas emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change far outweigh the economic cost of not acting. Hundreds of millions of people around the world could suffer hunger, water shortages and coastal flooding as the world warms.
Our actions now and over the coming decades could create risks of major disruption to economic depression of the first half of the 20th century. And it will be difficult or impossible to reverse these changes. Therefore, prompt and strong action is clearly warranted.

Effectively understanding the potential costs and benefits of mitigating climate change allows policy-makers to develop policies that achieve the greatest emissions abatement for the resources expended, secure greater participation and compliance, and maximize the environmental effectiveness of the mitigation effort.

The world does not need to choose between averting climate change and promoting growth and development. Changes in energy technologies and in the structure of economies have created opportunities to decouple growth from greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, ignoring climate change will eventually damage economic growth.

The costs of stabilising climate change are significant but this could be lowered if there are major gains in efficiency, or if the strong co-benefits, for example from reduced air pollution, are measured. Costs will be higher if innovations in low-carbon technologies are slower than expected, or if policy-makers fail to make the most economic instruments that allow emissions to be reduced whenever, wherever and however it is cheapest to do so.

Because climate change is a global problem, the response to it must be international. It must be based on a shared vision of long-term goals and agreements on frameworks that will accelerate action over the next decade, and it must build on mutually reinforcing approaches at national, regional and international level.

Responses

A wide variety of policies and instruments are available to governments to create the incentives for mitigation action. An illustrative list of policies, measures and instruments that have shown to be environmentally effective in a range of energy related areas are summarized in the below table in an effort to promote their dissemination and ultimately support energy policy-making.

Sectors

Measures and Instruments

Energy efficiency

Standards and labels for appliances and other equipment have the potential to reduce electricity consumption and resultant GHG emissions in developing countries by 10-20 percent over the next 20 years.  Click here to learn about the Top Runner Programme in Japan.

Energy audit aims to identify ways to save energy by inspection, survey and analysis of energy flows for energy conservation in a building, process, or system. Click here to learn about the Energy Audit Programme in Finland.

Renewable sources of energy

Feed-in tariffs are payments per kilowatt-hour for electricity generated by a renewable resource.  This permit the interconnection of renewable sources of electricity with the electric-utility network and at the same time specify how much the renewable generator (homeowners, farmers, cooperatives, etc) is paid for their electricity and over how long a period. Click here to learn about the Renewable Energy Sources Act in Germany.

Building codes require new and existing buildings undergoing major renovations to meet minimum energy efficiency requirements and distributed (renewable) energy generation technologies.  Click here to learn about Barcelona Solar Thermal Ordinance.

Portfolio Standard requires electric utilities and other retail electric providers to supply a specified minimum percentage (or absolute amount) of customer load with eligible sources of renewable electricity.  Click here to learn about Texas’s Renewable Energy Mandate.

Transport

Road charging refers to the collection of measures used to alter market prices by influencing the purchase or use of a vehicle. Typically measures applied to road transport are fuel pricing and taxation, vehicle license/registration fees, annual circulation taxes, tolls and road charges and parking charges.  Click here to learn about the London Congestion Charge.

The bus rapid transit (BRT) is gaining attention as a substitute for light trail transit and as an improvement over conventional bus service. In addition to reducing transport emissions, public transport like BRT carries the social benefit of increasing the mobility of people without access to cars.Click here to learn more about the bus rapid transit system in Colombia.

International action

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol provide a basis for international cooperation, along with a range of partnerships and other approaches. The major feature of the Protocol is that it sets binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions .These amount to an average of five percent against 1990 levels over the five-year period 2008-2012.