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

3.1.5 Development pathways and GHG emissions

In the long run, the links between economic development and GHG emissions depend not only on the growth rate (measured in aggregate terms), but also on the nature and structure of this growth. Comparative studies aiming to explain these differences help to determine the main factors that will ultimately influence the amount of GHG emissions, given an assumed overall rate of economic growth (Jung et al., 2000; see also examples discussed in Section 12.2 of Chapter 12).

  • Structural changes in the production system, namely the role of high or low energy-intensive industries and services.
  • Technological patterns in sectors such as energy, transportation, building, waste, agriculture and forestry – the treatment of technology in economic models has received considerable attention and triggered the most difficult debates within the scientific community working in this field (Edmonds and Clarke, 2005; Grubb et al., 2005; Shukla, 2005; Worrell, 2005; Köhler et al., 2006).
  • Geographical distribution of activities encompassing both human settlements and urban structures in a given territory, and its twofold impact on the evolution of land use, and on mobility needs and transportation requirements.
  • Consumption patterns – existing differences between countries are mainly due to inequalities in income distribution, but for a given income per person, parameters such as housing patterns, leisure styles, or the durability and rate of obsolescence of consumption goods will have a critical influence on long-run emission profiles.
  • Trade patterns – the degree of protectionism and the creation of regional blocks can influence access to the best available technologies, inter alia, and constraints on financial flows can limit the capacity of developing countries to build their infrastructure.

These different relationships between development pathways and GHG emissions may (or may not) be captured in models used for long-term world scenarios, by changes in aggregated variables (e.g. per person income) or through more disaggregated economic parameters, such as the structure of expenses devoted to a given need (e.g. heating, transport or food, or the share of energy and transportation in the production function of industrial sectors). This means that alternative configurations of these underlying factors can be combined to give internally consistent socio-economic scenarios with identical rates of economic growth. It would be false to say that current economic models ignore these factors. They are to some extent captured by changes in economic parameters, such as the structure of household expenses devoted to heating, transportation or food; the share of each activity in the total household budget; and the share of energy and transportation costs in total costs in the industrial sector.

These parameters remain important, but the outcome in terms of GHG emissions will also depend on dynamic links between technology, consumption patterns, transportation and urban infrastructure, urban planning, and rural-urban distribution of the population (see also Chapters 2 and 11 for more extensive discussions of some of these issues).