IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change Energy supply[7]

Switching to low carbon energy supply sources is the other mitigation category in the energy sector with significant GHG benefits. This can be achieved through either increased reliance on imported or indigenous alternative fuels. Using a higher proportion of low carbon imported fuels will almost always reduce local air pollution. Its direct impact will be to increase payment for fuel imports that may result in worsened balance of payments, unless these are utilized to increase a nation’s exports (Sathaye et al., 1996). The higher fuel imports will increase dependence on international fuel supply that may result in reduced energy security unless diversification of supply mitigates concerns about increased dependence. Economies and societies of low carbon fuel exporting countries would benefit from the higher trade.

Increased reliance on most indigenous low carbon energy sources[8] would also reduce local air pollution, but the local environmental benefits in certain solid bioenergy applications appear to be uncertain (see Section While indigenous low carbon fuels can reduce fuel imports, these have to be balanced against higher capital requirements for investment in fuel extraction, processing and delivery (Sathaye et al., 1996). The development of large hydro sources can displace local populations and put their livelihood in jeopardy, and in reservoirs with large surface area, the resulting methane emissions may reduce their net GHG benefit substantially. For example, although hydroelectric plants have the potential to reduce GHG emissions significantly, a large amount of literature points to important environmental costs (McCully, 2001; Dudhani et al., 2005), highlights the social disruptions and dislocations (Sarkar and Karagoz 1995; Kaygusuz, 2002), and questions the long-term economic benefits of major hydropower development. Increased use of indigenous low-carbon fuels can reduce export of fuels from other countries to the extent the latter are substituted away. These may adversely affect the trade balance of exporting countries (Sathaye et al., 1996).

At the same time, low carbon fuels can have other environmental benefits. For example, a move away from coal to cleaner fuels will reduce ecosystem pressures that often accompany mining operations (Azapagic, 2004). Similarly, a move away from charcoal and fuelwood as a source of energy will have the attendant environmental benefits of reducing the pressures of deforestation (Masera et al., 2000; Najam and Cleveland, 2003). This points towards the need to optimize technology choice decisions not only along the dimension of carbon emissions but also other environmental costs.

Wind power can cause harm to bird populations, and may not be aesthetically appealing. Increased use of biomass is viewed as a renewable alternative, but indoor air pollution from solid fuels has been ranked as the fourth most important health risk factor in least developed countries (see Chapter 4). Trade-offs among pollutants are inevitable in the use of some mitigation options, and need to be resolved in the specific context in which the option is to be implemented.

Several examples of corruption that either increases the price of electricity and/or prevent the proceeds from extracted resources to meet development needs are provided in Section This suggests that corruption may reduce the sustainable development benefits of new mitigation technologies and/or low carbon fuels that require a significant modification of social systems.

  1. ^  Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is an emerging GHG mitigation option that is described in Chapter 4. Its sustainable development impacts would be similar to those described in this section for the siting of power plants.
  2. ^  Low carbon energy sources include hydro, biomass, wind, natural gas and other similar energy carriers.