IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change Development paths as well as climate policies determine GHG emissions

For much of the last century, the dominant path to industrialization was characterized by high concurrent GHG emissions. The IPCC Third Assessment Report concluded that committing to alternative development paths can result in very different future GHG emissions. Development paths leading to lower emissions will require major policy changes in areas other than climate change. The development pathway pursued is an important determinant of mitigation costs and can be as important as the emissions target in determining overall costs (Hourcade et al., 2001) These findings were based on an extensive analysis of model-based emissions scenarios (Morita and Lee, 1998), a survey of more qualitative studies (Robinson and Herbert, 2001), and a comparison of stabilization scenarios (Morita et al., 2000) based on the IPCC SRES scenarios (Nakicenovic et al., 2000).

Developing countries do not have to follow the example of developed countries in terms of energy use (UNCSD, 2006), since the early stages of infrastructure development offer opportunities to satisfy their populations’ needs in different ways. Many factors that determine a country’s or region’s development pathway, and, closely related, its energy and GHG emissions are subject to human intervention. Such factors include economic structure, technology, geographical distribution of activities, consumption patterns, urban design and transport infrastructure, demography, institutional arrangements and trade patterns. The later choices with respect to these factors are made, the fewer opportunities there will be to change development paths, because of lock-in effects (e.g., Arthur, 1989). For detailed discussion, see Section 2.7.1 and Section 3.1.3. An assessment of mitigation options should not be limited to technology, although this is certainly a key factor, but should also cover the broader policy agenda. Climate change mitigation can be pursued by specific policies, by coordinating such policies with other policies and integrating them into these other policies. Also, climate mitigation objectives can be mainstreamed into general development choices, by taking climate mitigation objectives routinely into consideration in the pursuance of particular development pathways.

Development policies not explicitly targeting GHG emissions can influence these emissions in a major way. For example, six developing countries (Brazil, China, India, Mexico, South Africa, and Turkey) have avoided through development policy decisions approximately 300 million tons a year of carbon emissions over the past three decades. Many of these efforts were motivated by common drivers, such as economic development and poverty alleviation, energy security, and local environmental protection (Chandler et al., 2002).The current state of knowledge does not allow easy quantitative attribution to specific policies with accuracy, given that other factors (as in any country) also influence these emissions. For example, autonomous technological modernization certainly has played a role. Chandler et al. (2002), however, also clearly identify policies that have made a definite contribution. In Brazil, these included production and use of ethanol and sugarcane bagasse, development of the natural gas industrial market, use of alternative energy sources for power generation and a set of demand-side programmes promoting conservation and efficiency in the electricity and transportation sectors (See also Box 12.1).

In China, growth in GHG emissions has been slowed to almost half the economic growth rate over the past two decades through economic reform, energy efficiency improvements, switching from coal to natural gas, renewable energy development, afforestation, and slowing population growth. In India, key factors in GHG emission reductions have been economic restructuring, local environmental protection, and technological change, mediated through economic reform, enforcement of clean air laws by the nation’s highest court, renewable energy incentives and development programmes funded by the national government and foreign donors. In Mexico, expanding use of natural gas in place of more carbon-intensive fuels, promoting energy efficiency and fuel substitution by means that included energy pricing mechanisms, and abating some deforestation have played a major role. The policies in South Africa that contribute to lower growth in GHG emissions include restructuring the energy sector, stimulating economic development, increasing access to affordable energy services, managing energy-related environmental impacts, and securing energy supply through diversification. Finally, in Turkey, economic restructuring and price reform resulting from government moves to more market-oriented policies and the expectation of European integration, fuel switching, and energy efficiency measures have contributed to avoided GHG emissions (Chandler et al., 2002).

There are multiple drivers for actions that reduce emissions, and they can produce multiple benefits. The most promising policy approaches are those that capitalize on natural synergies between climate protection and development priorities to simultaneously advance both objectives. Many of these synergies are in energy demand (e.g., efficiency and conservation, education and awareness) and some in energy supply (e.g., renewable options).

Capturing these potential benefits is not always easy, since there are many conflicts and trade-offs. From the perspective of energy security, for example, it can be politically and/or economically attractive to give priority to domestic coal and oil resources over more environmentally friendly imported gas (e.g., SSEB 2006). The adverse economic impact of higher oil prices on oil-importing developing countries is generally more severe than for OECD countries. This is because their economies are more dependent on imported oil and more energy-intensive, and because energy is used less efficiently. On average, oil-importing developing countries use more than twice as much oil to produce a unit of economic output as do OECD countries. Developing countries are also less able to weather the financial turmoil wrought by higher oil-import costs (IEA, 2004a). For a discussion of the role of energy security for development paths, see Section 3.3.6. Some studies have shown that, depending on how priorities are set, some conflict between local atmospheric pollution problems and global climate change issues may arise. This is because some of the most cost-effective, environmentally-friendly power generation technologies for the global environment available in developing countries, such as biomass-fired or even some hydroelectric power plants, may not be sound for the local environment (due to NOx and particulate emissions in the former case, and flooding in the latter). Conversely, abating local air pollution generally is beneficial from a global perspective. Still, there are a few exceptions. Decreasing sulphur and aerosol emissions (with the exception of black carbon) to address local air pollution problems can increase overall radiative forcing, because these aerosols have a negative radiative forcing. Thus, exploring development paths requires careful assessment of both local environmental priorities and global environmental concerns (Schaeffer and Szklo, 2001).

In developed countries too, development choices made today can lead to very different energy futures. In the TAR, Banuri et al, ( 2001) distinguished between strategies decoupling growth from resource flows (e.g., resource light infrastructure, eco-intelligent production systems, ‘appropriate’ technologies and full-cost pricing), and strategies decoupling wellbeing from production (intermediate performance levels, regionalization avoiding long-distance transport, low-resource lifestyles). Technological mitigation options at the sectoral level are mainly discussed in Chapter 4 to 11 which also cover to some extent non-technological options that relate to different development priorities, as far as the literature allows.

The connections between development pathways and international trade are often left unexplored. International trade allows a country to partially ‘de-link’ its domestic economic systems from its domestic ecological systems, as some goods can be produced by other economic systems. In such cases, the impacts of producing goods impact the ecological systems of the exporting country (where production takes place) rather than the ecological system of the importing country (where consumption occurs). One popular way of showing that the impacts of economic activities in many nations affect an area much larger than within their national boundaries is the ecological footprint (see Section 12.1.3). For example, the environmental effects of soya and hardwood production for export as fodder and construction material, respectively, are well-known examples. As a consequence, in discussing the implications of development choices for climate change mitigation, it is not enough to discuss development pathways for individual countries. To fully address global emission reductions, an integrated multi-country perspective is needed (Machado et al., 2001).

Box 12.1: Greenhouse gas emissions avoided by non-climate drivers: a Brazilian example

In the field of energy, experience with policies advancing energy efficiency and renewable energy use confirm that, although developing countries need to increase their energy consumption in order to fuel their social and economic development, it is possible to do so in a cleaner and more sustainable manner. These policy choices can have a significant impact on energy trends, social progress and environmental quality in developing countries (Holliday et al., 2002; Anderson, 2004; Geller et al., 2004). In Brazil, programmes and measures have been undertaken over the past two or three decades in order to mitigate economic and environmental problems. These have included not only improvements in the energy supply and demand side management, but also specific tax incentive policies encouraging the production of cheap, small-engine automobiles (<1000 cc) to allow industry to increase production (and create more jobs while increasing profits) and to make cars more accessible to lower-income sectors of the population. These policies have led to lower carbon dioxide emissions than would otherwise have been the case. Results of these programmes and measures show that, in 2000 alone, some 11% in CO2 emissions from energy use in Brazil have been reduced compared to what would have been emitted that year, had previous policy decisions not been implemented. Interestingly, although these actions were not motivated by a desire to curb global climate change, if the inherent benefits related to carbon emissions are not fully appraised in the near future, there is a chance that such ‘win-win’ policies may not be pursued and may even be discontinued (Anderson, 2004; Szklo et al., 2005).