IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change

Implications of mitigation choices for sustainable development trajectories

There is a growing understanding of the opportunities to choose mitigation options and their implementation in such a way that there will be no conflict with or even benefits for other dimensions of sustainable development; or, where trade-offs are inevitable, to allow rational choices to be made. A summary of the sustainable development implications of the main climate change mitigation options is given in Table TS.19 [12.3].

The sustainable development benefits of mitigation options vary within a sector and between regions (high agreement, much evidence):

  • Generally, mitigation options that improve the productivity of resource use, whether energy, water, or land, yield positive benefits across all three dimensions of sustainable development. Other categories of mitigation options have a more uncertain impact and depend on the wider socio-economic context within which the option is being implemented.
  • Climate-related policies such as energy efficiency and renewable energy are often economically beneficial, improve energy security and reduce local pollutant emissions. Many energy-supply mitigation options can be designed to also achieve sustainable development benefits such as avoided displacement of local populations, job creation and health benefits.
  • Reducing deforestation can have significant biodiversity, soil and water conservation benefits, but may result in a loss of economic welfare for some stakeholders. Appropriately designed forestation and bioenergy plantations can lead to restoration of degraded land, manage water runoff, retain soil carbon and benefit rural economies, but may compete with land for food production and be negative for biodiversity.
  • There are good possibilities for reinforcing sustainable development through mitigation actions in most sectors, but particularly in the waste management, transportation and buildings sectors, notably through decreased energy use and reduced pollution [12.3].

Table TS.19: Sectoral mitigation options and sustainable development (economic, local environmental and social) considerations: synergies and trade-offs [Table 12.4].

Sector and mitigation options Potential SD synergies and conditions for implementation Potential SD trade-offs 
Energy supply and use: Chapters 4-7 

Energy efficiency improvement in all sectors (buildings, transportation, industry, and energy supply) (Chapters 4-7)


- Almost always cost-effective, reduces or eliminates local pollutant emissions and consequent health impacts, improves indoor comfort and reduces indoor noise levels, creates business opportunities and jobs and improves energy security

- Government and industry programmes can help overcome lack of information and principal agent problems

- Programmes can be implemented at all levels of government and industry

- Important to ensure that low-income household energy needs are given due consideration, and that the process and consequences of implementing mitigation options are, or the result is, gender-neutral


- Indoor air pollution and health impacts of improving the thermal efficiency of biomass cooking stoves in developing country rural areas are uncertain


Fuel switching and other options in the transportation and buildings sectors (Chapters 5 and 6)


- CO2 reduction costs may be offset by increased health benefits

- Promotion of public transport and non-motorized transport has large and consistent social benefits

- Switching from solid fuels to modern fuels for cooking and heating indoors can reduce indoor air pollution and increase free time for women in developing countries

- Institutionalizing planning systems for CO2 reduction through coordination between national and local governments is important for drawing up common strategies for sustainable transportation systems


- Diesel engines are generally more fuel-efficient than gasoline engines and thus have lower CO2 emissions, but increase particle emissions.

- Other measures (CNG buses, hybrid diesel-electric buses and taxi renovation) may provide little climate benefit.


Replacing imported fossil fuels with domestic alternative energy sources (DAES) (Chapter 4)


- Important to ensure that DAES is cost-effective

- Reduces local air pollutant emissions.

- Can create new indigenous industries (e.g., Brazil ethanol programme) and hence generate employment


- Balance of trade improvement is traded off against increased capital required for investment

- Fossil fuel-exporting countries may face reduced exports

- Hydropower plants may displace local populations and cause environmental damage to water bodies and biodiversity


Replacing domestic fossil fuel with imported alternative energy sources (IAES) (Chapter 4)


- Almost always reduces local pollutant emissions

- Implementation may be more rapid than DAES

- Important to ensure that IAES is cost-effective

- Economies and societies of energy-exporting countries would benefit


- Could reduce energy security

- Balance of trade may worsen but capital needs may decline


Forestry sector: Chapter 9




- Can reduce wasteland, arrest soil degradation, and manage water runoff

- Can retain soil carbon stocks if soil disturbance at planting and harvesting is minimized

- Can be implemented as agroforestry plantations that enhance food production

- Can generate rural employment and create rural industry

- Clear delineation of property rights would expedite implementation of forestation programmes


- Use of scarce land could compete with agricultural land and diminish food security while increasing food costs

- Monoculture plantations can reduce biodiversity and are more vulnerable to disease

- Conversion of floodplain and wetland could hamper ecological functions


Avoided deforestation


- Can retain biodiversity, water and soil management benefits, and local rainfall patterns

- Reduce local haze and air pollution from forest fires

- If suitably managed, it can bring revenue from ecotourism and from sustainably harvested timber sales

- Successful implementation requires involving local dwellers in land management and/or providing them alternative livelihoods, enforcing laws to prevent migrants from encroaching on forest land.


- Can result in loss of economic welfare for certain stakeholders in forest exploitation (land owners, migrant workers)

- Reduced timber supply may lead to reduced timber exports and increased use of GHG-intensive construction materials

- Can result in deforestation with consequent SD implications elsewhere


Forest Management


- See afforestation


- Fertilizer application can increase N2O production and nitrate runoff degrading local (ground)water quality

- Prevention of fires and pests has short term benefits but can increase fuel stock for later fires unless managed properly


Table TS.19. Continued.

Sector and mitigation options Potential SD synergies and conditions for implementation Potential SD trade-offs 
Bio-energy (chapter 8 en 9) 

Bio-energy production


- Mostly positive when practised with crop residues (shells, husks, bagasse and/or tree trimmings).

- Creates rural employment.

- Planting crops/trees exclusively for bio-energy requires that adequate agricultural land and labour is available to avoid competition with food production


- Can have negative environmental consequences if practised unsustainably - biodiversity loss, water resource competition, increased use of fertilizer and pesticides.

- Potential problem with food security (location-specific) and increased food costs.


Agriculture: Chapter 8


Cropland management (management of nutrients, tillage, residues, and agroforestry; water, rice, and set-aside)


- Improved nutrient management can improve groundwater quality and environmental health of the cultivated ecosystem


- Changes in water policies could lead to clash of interests and threaten social cohesiveness

- Could lead to water overuse


Grazing land management


- Improves livestock productivity, reduces desertification, and provide social security for the poor

- Requires laws and enforcement to ban free grazing



Livestock management


- Mix of traditional rice cultivation and livestock management would enhance incomes even in semi-arid and arid regions



Waste management: Chapter 10


Engineered sanitary

landfilling with landfill gas recovery to capture methane gas


- Can eliminate uncontrolled dumping and open burning of waste, improving health and safety for workers and residents.

- Sites can provide local energy benefits and public spaces for recreation and other social purposes within the urban infrastructure.


- When done unsustainably can cause leaching that leads to soil and groundwater contamination with potentially negative health impacts



processes for waste and wastewater (composting, anaerobic digestion, aerobic and anaerobic wastewater processes)


- Can destroy pathogens and provide useful soil amendments if properly implemented using source-separated organic waste or collected wastewater.

- Can generate employment

- Anaerobic processes can provide energy benefits from CH4 recovery and use.


- A source of odours and water pollution if not properly controlled and monitored.


Incineration and other thermal processes


- Obtain the most energy benefit from waste.


- Expensive relative to controlled landfilling and composting.

- Unsustainable in developing countries if technical infrastructure not present.

- Additional investment for air pollution controls and source separation needed to prevent emissions of heavy metals and other air toxics.


Recycling, re-use, and waste minimization


- Provide local employment as well as reductions in energy and raw materials for recycled products.

- Can be aided by NGO efforts, private capital for recycling industries, enforcement of environmental regulations, and urban planning to segregate waste treatment and disposal activities from community life.


- Uncontrolled waste scavenging results in severe health and safety problems for those who make their living from waste

- Development of local recycling industries requires capital.


Note: Material in this table is drawn from the Chapters 411. Where new material is introduced, it is referenced in the accompanying text below, which describes the SD implications of mitigation options in each sector.