IPCC: Mitigation of Climate Change Summary

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its Working Group III report on Friday in Bangkok titled “Mitigation of Climate Change”, which focuses on scientific, technological, environmental, economic and social aspects of mitigating climate change.

The report builds on the two previous IPCC reports released this year which confirmed that climate change is “very likely” the result of human activity, and that global warming is already adversely affecting human, animal and plant life.

The Working Group III study identifies the most effective technologies and policies to combat climate change through the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the cost of implementing the recommended changes.

Here are the report’s key points, at a glance:

1.         GHG Emission Trends

Global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions increased 70% between 1970 and 2004 (24% between 1990 and 2004). Carbon dioxide emissions accounted for 77% of total anthropogenic GHG emissions in 2004, mostly from the energy supply sector. Emissions will continue to increase by 25-90% to the year 2030, with approximately 75% of the projected increase from developing nations.

2.        Mitigation in the short and medium term

Mitigation of global GHG emissions is necessary to offset the growth of emissions or reduce emissions below current levels. A number of currently available mitigation technologies have been identified by sector:

Energy Supply – improved supply and distribution efficiency; fuel switching from coal to gas; nuclear power; renewable heat and power (hydropower, solar, wind, geothermal and bioenergy); combined heat and power; early applications of Carbon Capture and Storage

Transport – more fuel efficient vehicles; hybrid vehicles; cleaner diesel vehicles; biofuels; modal shifts from road transport to rail and public transport systems; non-motorized transport (cycling, walking); land-use and transport planning

Buildings – efficient lighting and daylighting; more efficient electrical appliances and heating and cooling devices; improved cook stoves, improved insulation ; passive and active solar design for heating and cooling; alternative refrigeration fluids, recovery and recycle of fluorinated gases

Industry – more efficient end-use electrical equipment; heat and power recovery; material recycling and substitution; control of non-carbon dioxide gas emissions; also a wide array of process-specific technologies

Agriculture – improved crop and grazing land management to increase soil carbon storage; restoration of cultivated peaty soils and degraded lands; improved rice cultivation techniques and livestock and manure management to reduce methane emissions; improved nitrogen fertilizer application techniques to reduce nitrous oxide emissions; dedicated energy crops to replace fossil fuel use; improved energy efficiency

Forestry/forests – afforestation; reforestation; forest management; reduced deforestation; harvested wood product management; use of forestry products for bioenergy to replace fossil fuel use

Waste – landfill methane recovery; waste incineration with energy recovery; composting of organic waste; controlled waste water treatment; recycling and waste minimization

Estimated global costs in the year 2030 have been calculated for least-cost trajectories for a range of stabilization levels from 445-710 CO2 parts per million.

Benefits that may offset mitigation costs include increased energy security, increased agricultural production and reduced pressure on natural ecosystems.

3.        Mitigation in the long term (after 2030)

Mitigation efforts over the next 20-30 years will determine humanity’s ability to achieve lower stabilization levels and avoid the worst affects of climate change.

Lower stabilization levels are best achieved through a system of appropriate and effective incentives for the development, acquisition, deployment and diffusion of technologies and for addressing related barriers.

Economic costs of more rapid emission reductions now need to be balanced against the corresponding medium-term and long-term climate risks of delay.

4.        Policies, measures and instruments to mitigate climate change

National strategies can create incentives for action, and can be evaluated using four main criteria: environmental effectiveness, cost effectiveness, distributional effects (including equity) and institutional feasibility.

The following strategies have been demonstrated as environmentally effective:

Energy Supply

  • reduction of fossil fuel subsidies
  • taxes or carbon charges on fossil fuels
  • feed-in tariffs for renewable energy technologies
  • renewable energy obligations
  • producer subsidies

Transport

  • mandatory fuel economy, biofuel blending and CO2 standards for road transport
  • taxes on vehicle purchase, registration, use and motor fuels, road and parking pricing
  • influence mobility needs through land use regulations and infrastructure planning
  • investment in attractive public transport facilities and non-motorized forms of transport

Buildings

  • appliance standards and labeling
  • building codes and certification
  • demand-side management programs
  • public sector leadership programs, including procurement
  • incentives for energy service companies

Industry

  • provision of benchmark information
  • performance standards
  • subsidies, tax credits
  •  tradable permits
  •  voluntary agreements

Agriculture

  •  improved land management
  •  maintenance of soil carbon content
  •  efficient use of fertilizers and irrigation

Forestry/forests

  •  increase forest area (at the national and international levels)
  •  reduce deforestation
  •  maintain and manage forests
  •  land use regulation and enforcement

Waste Management

  •  improved waste and wastewater management
  •  renewable energy incentives or obligations
  •  waste management regulations

Government support through financial contributions, tax credits, standard setting and market creation is important for effective technology development, innovation and deployment. Transfer of technology to developing countries depends on enabling conditions and financing.

5.        Sustainable development and climate change mitigation

Implementation of sustainable development policies can make a major contribution to climate change mitigation. However, there will be multiple barriers and resources will need to be allocated to assist adaptation.

Decisions concerning macroeconomic policy, agricultural policy, multilateral development bank lending, insurance practices, electricity market reform, energy security and forest conservation can potentially significantly reduce emissions.

Making development more sustainable can enhance both mitigative and adaptive capacity to substantially reduce emissions and vulnerability to climate change.

IPCC AR4 Working Group 3:  http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg3/en/contents.html

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