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

12.4 Gaps in knowledge and future research needs

As noted in Section 12.1, changing development paths will be critical to addressing mitigation and the scale of effort required is unlikely to be forthcoming from the environmental sector on its own. If climate policy on its own will not solve the climate problem, future research on climate change mitigation and sustainable development will need to focus increasingly on development sectors. A better understanding is needed of how countries might get from current development trajectories onto lower-carbon development paths – how to make development more sustainable.

The global GHG emissions reduction potential of such actions varies from a few tens to million tons of carbon, and empirical research is needed to identify and quantify actions that will yield the most emissions savings.

A fundamental yet important step would be to identify relevant non-climate policies affecting GHG emissions/sinks, including trade, finance, rural and urban development, water, energy, health, agriculture, forestry, insurance, and transport among others. Future research will also need to access and use local knowledge. More case studies would help illustrate the link between sustainable development and climate mitigation in developed, developing and transition countries. A particular challenge in this regard is that such policies will necessarily be context specific and will work only when structured within local and national realities. This means that a lot of the research required is at the local and national levels to identify policy options and choices that might best work within the contexts of specific regions, countries and localities.

This chapter has noted that development-oriented scenarios could be enriched by taking global climate change explicitly into account. Future research might develop and analyse scenarios for development paths at different scales and their implications for reducing or avoiding GHG emissions. This may require broadening and deepening the current set of models to better analyse the GHG implications of non-climate scenarios. This also applies to industrialized countries on their development paths and choices.

This chapter has suggested that the capacity to mitigate is rooted in development paths. Considerable research must be carried out to further investigate how mitigation capacity can be turned into actual mitigation, and its connection with components of the underlying development path. Paradoxically, the reviewed literature suggests that a fundamental discussion on the implications of development pathways for climate change in general and climate change mitigation in particular has been and is being explored more extensively for the developing countries than for the industrialized countries. Although the adaptive and mitigative capacity literature does not claim that building capacity will necessarily lead to improved responses to the climate change risk, little work has been done to explicate the widely noted variation in response to climate change among communities and nations with similar capacities. It is apparent, therefore, that capacity is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for mitigative action. Phenomena such as risk perception, science/policy interactions, and relationships between industry and regulators, for instance, may play some role in determining whether or not capacity is turned into action in response to the climate change risk.

Section 12.1.3 cites several macro-indicators of sustainable development that are being used to track its progress at the national and international level. Few of these take climate change mitigation directly into consideration. Inclusion of this aspect in the use of macro-indicators is identified as an important area of research.

Changing development pathways involves multiple actors, at multiple scales. The roles of different actors and joint actions in changing development pathways need further research, particularly the private sector and civil society (and how they relate to government). A key question revolves around the complex process of decision-making, theories of which need to be applied to sustainable development and mitigation. A particular focus in this area might be identifying patterns of investment and their implications for GHG emissions. Again, much of this research will have to be contextually specific and related to specific local and national contexts.

While future research must focus on multiple sectors, actors and scales, a key area of investigation will remain the role for international agreements. Reconciling the role for international coordination mechanisms with decentralized policy approaches is challenging and requires further evaluation. An area of particular importance in this context is international agreements that are not specific to climate change but whose structure and implementation can affect development paths. These include voluntary international agreements, such as those on the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to specific Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs), such as those on desertification, on biodiversity, to the related provisions of international policy instruments within the World Trade Organization (WTO). All these agreements, including the WTO, now claim sustainable development as their ultimate goal.

Future research will continue to examine the implications of climate change mitigation for sustainable development. Understanding of the sustainable development implications in each of many sectors is growing, but further analysis will be needed for key sectors and where least information is available. Synergies beyond those in air pollution require more attention, including water, soil management; forest management and others. Apart from investigating synergies, the question of trade-offs between sustainable development and mitigation (and also adaptation) requires further analysis.