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

12.1.1 The two-way relationship between sustainable development and climate change

The growing literature on the two-way nature of the relationship between climate change and sustainable development is introduced in Chapter 2 (Metwalli et al., 1998; Rayner and Malone, 1998; Munasinghe and Swart, 2000; Schneider et al., 2000; Banuri et al., 2001; Morita et al., 2001; Smit et al., 2001; Beg et al., 2002; Markandya and Halsnaes, 2002; Metz et al., 2002; Najam and Cleveland, 2003; Swart et al., 2003; Wilbanks, 2003). The notion is that policies pursuing sustainable development and climate change mitigation can be mutually reinforcing. Much of this literature, as elaborated upon in Chapters 4 to 11, emphasizes the degree to which climate change mitigation can have effects. Sometimes called ancillary benefits or co-benefits, these effects will contribute to the sustainable development goals of the jurisdiction in question. This amounts to viewing sustainable development through a climate change lens. It leads to a strong focus on integrating sustainable development goals and consequences into the climate mitigation policy framework, and on assessing the scope for such ancillary benefits. For instance, reductions in GHG emissions might reduce the incidence of death and illness due to air pollution and benefit ecosystem integrity, both elements of sustainable development (Beg et al., 2002). The challenge then becomes ensuring that actions taken to address global environmental problems help to address regional and local development (Beg et al., 2002). Section 12.3 summarizes the impacts of climate mitigation actions on economic, social and environmental aspects of sustainable development noted in Chapters 3 to 11, and 13.

A key finding of the Third Assessment Report (TAR; IPCC, 2001b) is that through climate mitigation alone, it will be extremely difficult and expensive to achieve low stabilization targets (450 ppmv CO2) from baseline scenarios that embody high emission development paths (also see Chapter 3). Low emission baseline scenarios, however, may go a long way toward achieving low stabilization levels even before climate policy is included in the scenario (Morita et al., 2001) See Section 3.1.2 for a discussion of the distinction between a baseline and stabilization or mitigation scenario. Achieving low emission baseline scenarios consistent with other principles of sustainable development, that is viewing climate change through a sustainable development lens, would illustrate the significant contribution sustainable development can make to stabilization (Metz et al., 2002; Winkler et al., 2002a; Davidson et al., 2003; Heller and Shukla, 2003; Shukla et al., 2003; Swart et al., 2003; Robinson and Bradley, 2006). Section 12.2 focuses on this critical question of the link between sustainable development and ways to mainstream climate change mitigation into sustainable development actions. This is a central element since this topic is not addressed elsewhere in the Fourth Assessment Report in a similarly comprehensive manner that is accessible to a non-climate readership.

By framing the debate as a sustainable development problem rather than only as climate mitigation, the priority goals of all countries and particularly developing countries are better addressed, while acknowledging that the driving forces for emissions are linked to the underlying development path (IPCC, 2007, Chapter 17 and 18; Yohe, 2001; Metz et al., 2002; Winkler et al., 2002a).

Development paths underpin the baseline and stabilization emissions scenarios discussed in Chapter 3 and are used to estimate emissions, climate change and associated climate change impacts[1]. For a development path[2] to be sustainable over a long period, wealth, resources, and opportunity must be shared so that all citizens have access to minimum standards of security, human rights, and social benefits, such as food, health, education, shelter, and opportunity for self-development (Reed, 1996). This was also emphasized by the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg in 2002 which introduced the Water, Energy, Health, Agriculture, and Biodiversity (WEHAB) framework.

Several strategies and measures that would advance sustainable development would also enhance adaptive and mitigative capacities. Winkler et al. (2006) have suggested that mitigative capacity be defined as “a country’s ability to reduce anthropogenic greenhouse gases or enhance natural sinks.” There is a close connection between mitigative and adaptive capacities and the underlying socio-economic and technological development paths that give rise to those capacities. In important respects, the determinants of these capacities are critical characteristics of such development paths. For instance, mitigative and adaptive capacities arise out of the more general pool of resources called response capacity, which is strongly affected by the nature of the development path in which it exists.

Prior to exploring these issues further, the evolution of the sustainable development concept is discussed in Section 12.1.2, and the growing use of indicators to measure sustainable development progress at the macro and sectoral levels is described in Section 12.1.3. This review concludes that while the use of quantitative indicators is helping to better define sustainable development, few macro sustainable development indicators explicitly take GHG emissions and climate change impacts into consideration.

  1. ^  The climate change and climate change impact scenarios assessed in the Fourth Assessment Report are primarily based on the SRES family of emission scenarios. These
  2. ^  Development paths are defined here as a complex array of technological, economic, social, institutional, cultural, and biophysical characteristics that determines the