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

Effectiveness of and experience with climate policies, potentials, barriers and opportunities/implementation issues

Because landfill CH4 is the dominant GHG from this sector, a major strategy is the implementation of standards that encourage or mandate landfill CH4 recovery. In developed countries, landfill CH4 recovery has increased as a result of direct regulations requiring landfill gas capture, voluntary measures including GHG-emissions credits trading and financial incentives (including tax credits) for renewable energy or green power. In developing countries, it is anticipated that landfill CH4 recovery will increase during the next two decades as controlled landfilling is phased in as a major waste disposal strategy. JI and the CDM have already proved to be useful mechanisms for external investment from industrialized countries, especially for landfill gas recovery projects where the lack of financing is a major impediment. The benefits are twofold: reduced GHG emissions with energy benefits from landfill CH4 plus upgraded landfill design and operations. Currently (late October 2006), under the CDM, the annual average CERs for the 33 landfill gas recovery projects constitute about 12% of the total. Most of these projects (Figure TS.25) are located in Latin-American countries (72% of landfill gas CERs), dominated by Brazil (9 projects; 48% of CERs) (high agreement, medium evidence) [10.4].

Figure TS.25

Figure TS.25: Distribution of landfill gas CDM projects based on average annual CERs for registered projects late October, 2006 [Figure 10.9].

Note: Includes 11 MtCO2-eq/yr CERs for landfill CH4 out of 91 MtCO2-eq/yr total. Projects <100,000 CERs/yr are located in Israel, Bolivia, Bangladesh and Malaysia.

In the EU, landfill gas recovery is mandated at existing sites, while the landfilling of organic waste is being phased out via the landfill directive (1999/31/EC). This directive requires, by 2016, a 65% reduction relative to 1995 in the mass of biodegradable organic waste that is landfilled annually. As a result, post-consumer waste is being diverted to incineration and to mechanical and biological treatment (MBT) before landfilling to recover recyclables and reduce the organic carbon content. In 2002, EU waste-to-energy plants generated about 40 million GJ of electrical and 110 million GJ of thermal energy, while between 1990 and 2002, landfill CH4 emissions in the EU decreased by almost 30% due to the landfill directive and related national legislation (high agreement, much evidence) [10.4, 10.5].

Integrated and non-climate policies affecting emissions of greenhouse gases: GHG mitigation as the co-benefit of waste policies and regulations; role of sustainable development

GHG mitigation is often not the primary driver, but is itself a co-benefit of policies and measures in the waste sector that address broad environmental objectives, encourage energy recovery from waste, reduce use of virgin materials, restrict choices for ultimate waste disposal, promote waste recycling and re-use and encourage waste minimization. Policies and measures to promote waste minimization, re-use and recycling indirectly reduce GHG emissions from waste. These measures include Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), unit pricing (or PAYT/‘Pay As You Throw’) and landfill taxes. Other measures include separate and efficient collection of recyclables together with both unit pricing and landfill tax systems. Some Asian countries are encouraging ‘circular economy’ or ‘sound material-cycle society’ as a new development strategy whose core concept is the circular (closed) flow of materials and the use of raw materials and energy through multiple phases. Because of limited data, differing baselines and other regional conditions, it is not currently possible to quantify the global effectiveness of these strategies in reducing GHG emissions (medium agreement, medium evidence) [10.5].

In many countries, waste and wastewater management policies are closely integrated with environmental policies and regulations pertaining to air, water and soil quality as well as to renewable energy initiatives. Renewable-energy programmes include requirements for electricity generation from renewable sources, mandates for utilities to purchase power from small renewable providers, renewable energy tax credits, and green power initiatives, which allow consumers to choose renewable providers. In general, the decentralization of electricity generation capacity via renewables can provide strong incentives for electrical generation from landfill CH4 and thermal processes for waste-to-energy (high agreement, much evidence) [10.5].

Although policy instruments in the waste sector consist mainly of regulations, there are also economic measures in a number of countries to encourage particular waste management technologies, recycling and waste minimization. These include incinerator subsidies or tax exemptions for waste-to-energy. Thermal processes can most efficiently exploit the energy value of post-consumer waste, but must include emission controls to limit emissions of secondary air pollutants. Subsidies for the construction of incinerators have been implemented in several countries, usually combined with standards for energy efficiency. Tax exemptions for electricity generated by waste incinerators and for waste disposal with energy recovery have also been adopted (high agreement, much evidence) [10.5].

The co-benefits of effective and sustainable waste and wastewater collection, transport, recycling, treatment and disposal include GHG mitigation, improved public health, conservation of water resources and reductions in the discharge of untreated pollutants to air, soil, surface water and groundwater. Because there are many examples of abandoned waste and wastewater plants in developing countries, it must be stressed that a key aspect of sustainable development is the selection of appropriate technologies that can be sustained within the specific local infrastructure (high agreement, medium evidence) [10.5].