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

2.1.2 Background

The IPCC’s Third Assessment Report (TAR; IPCC, 2001) included considerations concerning SD and climate change. These issues were addressed particularly by Working Group II and III, as well as the Synthesis report. The TAR included a rather broad treatment of SD (Metz et al., 2002). The report noted three broad classes of analyses or perspectives: efficiency and cost-effectiveness, equity and sustainable development, and global sustainability and societal learning.

Since the TAR, literature on sustainable development and climate change has attempted to further develop approaches that can be used to assess specific development and climate policy options and choices in this context (Beg et al., 2002; Cohen et al., 1998; Munasinghe and Swart, 2000; Schneider, 2001; Banuri et al., 2001; Halsnæs and Verhagen, 2007; Halsnæs, 2002; Halsnæs and Shukla, 2007, Markandya and Halsnæs, 2002a; Metz et al. 2002; Munasinghe and Swart, 2005; Najam and Rahman, 2003; Smit et al., 2001; Swart et al.,. 2003; Wilbanks, 2003). These have included discussions about how distinctions can be made between natural processes and feedbacks, and human and social interactions that influence the natural systems and that can be influenced by policy choices (Barker, 2003). These choices include immediate and very specific climate policy responses as well as more general policies on development pathways and the capacity for climate change adaptation and mitigation. See also Chapter 12 of this report and Chapter 18 of IPCC (2007b) for a more extensive discussion of these issues.

Policies and institutions that focus on development also affect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and vulnerability. Moreover, these same policies and institutions constrain or facilitate mitigation and adaptation. These indirect effects can be positive or negative, and several studies have therefore suggested the integration of climate change adaptation and mitigation perspectives into development policies, since sustainable development requires coping with climate change and thereby will make development more sustainable (Davidson et al., 2003; Munasinghe and Swart, 2005; Halsnæs and Shukla, 2007).

Climate change adaptation and mitigation can also be the focus of policy interventions and SD can be considered as an issue that is indirectly influenced. Such climate policies can tend to focus on sectoral policies, projects and policy instruments, which meet the adaptation and mitigation goals, but are not necessarily strongly linked to all the economic, social, and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. In this case climate change policy implementation in practice can encounter some conflicts between general development goals and the goal of protecting the global environment. Furthermore, climate policies that do not take economic and social considerations into account might not be sustainable in the long run.

In conclusion, one might then distinguish between climate change policies that emerge as an integrated element of general sustainable development policies, and more specific adaptation and mitigation policies that are selected and assessed primarily in their capacity to address climate change. Examples of the first category of policies can be energy efficiency measures, energy access and affordability, water management systems, and food security options, while examples of more specific adaptation and mitigation policies can be flood control, climate information systems, and the introduction of carbon taxes. It is worth noticing that the impacts on sustainable development and climate change adaptation and mitigation of all these policy examples are very context specific, so it cannot in general be concluded whether a policy supports sustainable development and climate change jointly or if there are serious tradeoffs between economic and social perspectives and climate change (see also Chapter 12 of this report and Chapter 18 of IPCC (2007b) for a more extensive discussion).