IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change Development paths can vary by regions and countries because of different priorities and conditions

An understanding of different regional conditions and priorities is essential for mainstreaming climate change policies into sustainable development strategies (See Section 12.2.3). Since regions and countries differ in many dimensions, it is impossible to group them in a way consistent across all dimensions. There is a diversity of regional groupings in the literature using many criteria that are specific to their purpose within the underlying context. (For regional groupings, see Section 2.8).

As noted in Section 12.1.1, the mitigative capacity of a nation is closely related to its underlying development path, which depends on the general pool of resources that may be referred to as response capacity. The response capacity including mitigative capacity of countries varies, amongst other factors, with their ability to pay for abatement costs. Winkler et al. ( 2007) analysed the mitigative capacity of different countries as shaped by two economic factors: namely average abatement cost (or mitigation potential; high cost means low potential); and ability to pay, as approximated by GDP per capita. Ability to pay, measured by GDP per capita, is an important factor in mitigative capacity, since more wealth gives countries greater capacity to reduce emissions. The cost of abatement can act as a barrier in turning mitigative capacity into actual mitigation. Examining these factors together, Winkler et al. (2007) found that the abatement costs are not linearly correlated with level of income. Some countries have high mitigative capacity (income) and are also able to translate this into actual mitigation due to low costs. For others, mitigative capacity is clearly low. Relatively high average abatement costs mean that this capacity can be turned into even less actual mitigation. Interestingly, there are some poorer countries with low abatement costs. Conversely, there are also countries with high mitigative capacity, as approximated by income, but high average abatement costs. However, this group of countries still has higher mitigative capacity, simply by virtue of their higher ability to pay. Low-income countries do not spend on mitigation even if they have low-cost mitigation opportunities, simply because the opportunity cost in terms of basic development needs is too high.

Developed economies: Developed economies are included in Annex I to the UNFCCC and are members of the OECD. CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion accounted for over 80% of their total emissions in 2000 with negligible amounts from land-use change (Table 12.1). These countries are also largely responsible for GHG emissions with high radiative forcing. Their population growth is projected to be low or negative (UNDP, 2004), income and level of human development are in the upper middle and high end of the spectrum (UNDP, 2004), and energy consumption and GHG emissions per capita are above the world average (IEA, 2005). These developed countries are assessed to be least vulnerable when compared to other groups of countries (Adger et al., 2004), with vulnerability scores lower than 15, close to the lower end of the spectrum (Table 12.1). In general, mitigative capacity in these economies is high but cost can be high. As well as marginal cost of mitigation increases with the rate of energy efficiency. Nevertheless, there are large mitigation potentials in these countries. For example, passenger vehicle economy in North America and Australia is well below that in EU and Japan, even lower than some developing countries such as China (An and Sauer, 2004). Barring a few newly industrialized countries, most are highly industrialized with limited scope or need for large-scale expansion of the physical infrastructure, such as public utilities, physical transport infrastructure, and buildings (Pan, 2003).

Table 12.1: Profiles of emissions and human development at different levels of development

 Units Developed/industrialized/Annex I countriesc) Developing/Non-Annex I countriesd) 
OECD EIT Developing Least developed 
Emissions profiles by gases, 2000a)   100 100 100 
CO2 (fossil fuel) 81 41 
CH4 11 16 22 
N210 12 
LUC 33 62 
High GWP gases 
Human development profilesb) 
HDI, 2003   0.892 0.802 0.694 0.518 
Life expectancy at birth years 77.7 68.1 65.0 52.2 
Adult literacy 100.0 99.2 76.6 54.2 
GDPppp/capita, 2003 US$/capita 25915 7930 4359 1328 
Population growth rate (2003-2015) %/yr 0.5 -0.2 1.3 2.3 
GDP/capita growth rate (1990-2003) %/yr 1.8 0.3 2.9 2.0 
Electricity consumption per capita, 2002 kWh/capita 8615 3328 1155 106 
CO2 emissions per capita, 2002 tonnes/capita 11.2 5.9 2.0 0.2 
Vulnerability assessmente) 
Vulnerability scores   10-15 14-22 18->40 


a) Source: Baumert et .al., 2004, p. 6. FF: fossil fuel combustion; High GWP (global warming potential) gases: sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and hydrofluorocartbons (HFCs).

b) Source: UNDP, 2005. HDI range: 0.00<HDI<1.00; PPP: purchasing power parity. PPP normally deflates the income level of the developed nations while inflating those in the developing world as one dollar would have larger purchasing power that it has in the developed world.

c) Annex I countries include both developed OECD and EIT countries. However, a few newly admitted OECD countries are not in Annex I list, including South Korea, Singapore, and Mexico. The group of economies in transition (EIT) countries contains several sub-groups: those that are part of the enlarged EU, central Asian Republics, and other members of the CIS. In UNDP (2005) categorization, the coverage is larger, including Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent Sates (CIS).

d) In emissions profiles, these two subgroups were counted separately while in the UNDP human development profiles, least developed is a subgroup of the

developing world.

e) Source: Adger et al., 2004b. Vulnerability scores range from 10 to 50, with 10 the least vulnerable and 50 the most vulnerable. These scores are derived from a series of proxy variables for vulnerability including food security, ecosystem sensitivity, settlement/infrastructure sensitivity, human health sensitivity, economic capacity, human resource capacity, governance capacity and environmental capacity. See, Baumert et al., 2004, p.17.

Notwithstanding this limited scope or need for infrastructure expansion and economic growth figures often much lower than in many developing countries, the future will look different from today and low-carbon development pathways are possible. Improving energy efficiency, modernizing production and changing consumption patterns would have a large impact on future GHG emissions (Kotov, 2002). Developed countries possess comparative advantages in technological and financial capabilities in mitigation of climate change. Priority mitigation areas for countries in this group may lie in improving energy efficiency, building new and renewable energy, and carbon capture and storage facilities, and fostering a mutually remunerative low-emissions global development path through technological and financial transfer of resources to the developing world.

In many industrialized countries (e.g., Japan and in Europe), implications of energy systems with very low carbon emissions have been explored, often jointly by governments, energy specialists and stakeholders (e.g., Kok et al., 2000). However, a fundamental and broad discussion in society on the implications of development pathways for climate change in general and climate change mitigation in particular in the industrialized countries has not seriously been initiated. Low-emission pathways apply not only to energy choices. For example, in North-America and Europe, UNEP (2002) identifies land-use development, particularly infrastructure expansion, as a key variable determining future environmental stresses, including GHG emissions. Pathways that capitalize on advances in information technologies to provide a diverse range of lifestyle and spatial planning choices will also affect energy use and GHG emissions.

Economies in Transition: With EU enlargement, economies in transition as a single group no longer exist[4]. Nevertheless, Central and Eastern Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States share some common features in socioeconomic development (UNDP, 2005), and in climate change mitigation and sustainable development (IPCC, 2001b; Adger et al., 2004). With respect to social and economic development, countries in this group fall between the developed and developing countries (Table 12.1). In terms of level of human development and vulnerability, for instance, these countries fall behind the developed countries but are well ahead of the developing countries. In certain key areas, however, they are closer to the developed countries in terms of population growth, levels of industrialization, energy consumption, and GHG emissions.. In other areas, including income levels and distribution, institutions and governance, they can show features similar to the developing world. GDP per capita level in some of these EIT countries is as low as that in the lower middle income developing countries (World Bank, 2003), and energy intensity is in general high (IEA, 2003a).

Although the 0.3 % per annum rate of economic growth in the past 15 years has been low, it is expected that in many countries, future rates could be high, which would contribute to an upward trend in GHG emissions. Measures to decouple economic and emissions growth might be especially important for this group through restructuring the economy (Kotov, 2002). Mitigative capacities are high as compared developing economies, but lower than those for developed economies due to a weaker financial basis. These capacities can be further enlarged through institutional reform, such as liberalization of the energy market and political determination to increase energy efficiency.

Developing Economies: Recently, interest at regional level in exploring development pathways which are consistent with lower GHG emissions has increased (Kok and de Coninck, 2004). This appears to be valid primarily for developing countries. Case studies focus on the future in the priority areas of energy supply, food security and fresh water availability in South Africa (Davidson et al., 2003), Senegal (Sokona et al., 2003), Bangladesh (Rahman et al., 2003), Brazil (La Rovere and Romeiro, 2003), China (Jiang et al., 2003) and India (Shukla et al., 2003) A common finding of these studies is that it is possible to develop pathways that combine low GHG emissions with effective responses to pressing regional problems. In the energy sector, energy security and reduced health risks can be effectively combined with low GHG emissions, even without explicit climate policies. Enhancing soil management, avoiding deforestation, and encouraging reforestation and afforestation can increase carbon storage, while also serving the primary goals of food security and ecosystem protection.

Although the developing economies are highly diverse, their general features contrast to those of the industrialized world. Levels of human development and consumption of energy per capita are much lower than those in the developed countries and in the economies in transition (Table 12.1). GHG emissions from land-use change and agriculture are a significant proportion of their total emissions (Ravindranath and Sathaye, 2002; Baumert et al., 2004).

Given the fact that energy consumption and emission per capita are low in the developing world, focus on climate mitigation alone may have large opportunity cost in terms of fiscal and human capitals, and therefore not be compatible with meeting sustainable development goals. With respect to levels of human development, UNDP (2005) projects that by 2015 almost all developing regions will not be able to meet their Millennium Development Goals. With respect to access to clean water, for example, the 2015 MDG goal will be missed by 210 million people who will not have access, with 50% in South Asia, 40% in Sub-Saharan Africa, 7% in East Asia and the Pacific. Non-climate policies for sustainable development goals can be more effective in addressing climate change, such as population control, poverty eradication, pollution reductions, and energy security, as demonstrated in the People’s Republic of China (Winkler et al., 2002b; PRC, 2004). In order to realize the promise of leapfrogging, improvements are needed to the institutional capabilities of the recipient developing country and its energy and environmental policies in order to foster sustainable industrial development (Gallagher, 2006; Lewis and Wiser, 2007).

In aggregate terms, some large developing countries are included in the list of top 25 emitters (Baumert et al., 2004). These few developing countries are projected to increase their emissions at a faster rate than the industrialized world and the rest of developing countries as they are in the stage of rapid industrialization (Pan, 2004b). For these countries, climate change mitigation and sustainable development policies can reinforce one another, however, financial and technological assistance can be help these countries to pursue a low carbon path of development (Ott et al., 2004). Emissions per capita for some developing countries, however, will continue to be lower than the industrialized countries for many decades.

For most other developing countries, adaptation to climate change takes priority over mitigation as they are more vulnerable to climate change and less carbon dependent (Hasselmann et al., 2003). However, both adaptive and mitigative capacities tend to be low (Huq et al., 2003). OPEC countries are unique in a sense that they may be hurt by development paths that reduce the demand for fossil fuels. Diversification of their economy is high on their agenda. Although climate change mitigation can be one consideration in evaluating poverty alleviation options, poverty has to be alleviated regardless of GHG emissions. Improved access to energy can lead to increasing GHG emissions, for example, where kerosene and propane use is more appropriate than biomass renewables. However, in absolute terms this is a minor increase in global GHG emissions (see also Section 12.2.4).

For most Small Island States, the key issue to sustainable development is the adoption of a comprehensive adaptation and vulnerability assessment and implementing framework with several priorities: sea level rise (high percentage of the population located in coastal areas); coastal zone management (including specially coral reefs and mangroves); water supply (including fresh water catchments);: management of upland forest ecosystem; and food and energy security. For some islands, extreme events, such as tropical hurricanes and El Niño and La Niña events, are an important threat.

In summary, different regions and types of countries have different contextual conditions to respond to, and therefore, their attempts to move towards a development path leading to sustainable development while also mitigating climate change, will vary considerably. Policy decisions will be most effective where made while recognizing these contextual conditions and where they relate and adapt to the existing regional and country realities.

  1. ^  EITs are still recognized in international agreements, such as UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol.