Working Group III: Mitigation

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1.3 Integrating the Various Perspectives

Extending discussions of how nations might respond to the mitigation challenge so that they include issues of cost-effectiveness and efficiency, distribution narrowly defined, equity more broadly defined, and sustainability, adds enormous complexity to the problem of uncovering how best to respond to the threat of climate change. Indeed, recognizing that these multiple domains are relevant complicates the task assigned to policymakers and international negotiators by opening their deliberations to issues that lie beyond the boundaries of the climate change problem, per se. Their recognition thereby underlines the importance of integrating scientific thought across a wide range of new policy-relevant contexts, but not simply because of some abstract academic or narrow parochial interest advanced by a small set of researchers or nations. Cost-effectiveness, equity, and sustainability have all been identified as critical issues by the drafters of the UNFCCC, and they are an integral part of the charge given to the drafters of the TAR. Integration across the domains of cost-effectiveness, equity, and sustainability is therefore profoundly relevant to policy deliberations according to the letter as well as the spirit of the UNFCCC itself.

The literature being brought to bear on climate change mitigation increasingly shows that policies lying beyond simply reducing GHG emissions from a specified baseline to minimize costs can be extremely effective in abating the emission of GHGs. Therefore, a portfolio approach to policy and analysis would be more effective than exclusive reliance on a narrow set of policy instruments or analytical tools. Besides the flexibility that an expanded range of policy instruments and analytical tools can provide to policymakers for achieving climate objectives, the explicit inclusion of additional policy objectives also increases the likelihood of “buy-in” to climate policies by more participants. In particular, it will expand the range of no regrets2 options. Finally, it could assist in tailoring policies to short-, medium-, and long-term goals.

In order to be effective, however, a portfolio approach requires weighing the costs and impacts of the broader set of policies according to a longer list of objectives. Climate deliberations need to consider the climate ramifications of policies designed primarily to address a wide range of issues including DES, as well as the likely impacts of climate policies on the achievement of these objectives. As part of this process the opportunity costs and impacts of each instrument are measured against the multiple criteria defined by these multiple objectives. Furthermore, the number of decision makers or stakeholders to be considered is increased beyond national policymakers and international negotiators to include state, local, community, and household agents, as well as non-government organizations (NGOs).

The term “ancillary benefits” is often used in the literature for the ancillary, or secondary, effects of climate change mitigation policies on problems other than GHG emissions, such as reductions in local and regional air pollution, associated with the reduction of fossil fuels, and indirect effects on issues such as transportation, agriculture, land use practices, biodiversity preservation, employment, and fuel security. Sometimes these are referred to as “ancillary impacts”, to reflect the fact that in some cases the benefits may be negative3. The concept of “mitigative capacity” is also introduced as a possible way to integrate results derived from the application of the three perspectives in the future. The determinants of the capacity to mitigate climate change include the availability of technological and policy options, and access to resources to underwrite undertaking those options. These determinants are the focus of much of the TAR. The list of determinants is, however, longer than this. Mitigative capacity also depends upon nation-specific characteristics that facilitate the pursuit of sustainable development – e.g., the distribution of resources, the relative empowerment of various segments of the population, the credibility of empowered decision makers, the degree to which climate objectives complement other objectives, access to credible information and analyses, the will to act on that information, the ability to spread risk intra- and inter-generationally, and so on. Given that the determinants of mitigative capacity are essentially the same as those of the analogous concept of adaptive capacity introduced in the WGII Report, this approach may provide an integrated framework for assessing both sets of options.

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