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

Implications of development choices for climate change mitigation

In a heterogeneous world, an understanding of different regional conditions and priorities is essential for mainstreaming climate change policies into sustainable-development strategies. Region- and country-specific case studies demonstrate that different development paths and policies can achieve notable emissions reductions, depending on the capacity to realize sustainability and climate change objectives [12.3].

In industrialized countries, climate change continues to be regarded mainly as a separate, environmental problem to be addressed through specific climate change policies. A fundamental and broad discussion in society on the implications of development pathways for climate change in general and climate change mitigation in particular in the industrialized countries has not been seriously initiated. Priority mitigation areas for countries in this group may be in energy efficiency, renewable energy, CCS, etc. However, low-emission pathways apply not only to energy choices. In some regions, land-use development, particularly infrastructure expansion, is identified as a key variable determining future GHG emissions [12.2.1; 12.3.1].

Economies in transition as a single group no longer exist. Nevertheless, Central and Eastern Europe and the countries of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA) do share some common features in socio-economic development and in climate change mitigation and sustainable development. Measures to decouple economic and emission growth would be especially important for this group [12.2.1; 12.3.1].

Some large developing countries are projected to increase their emissions at a faster rate than the industrialized world and the rest of developing nations as they are in the stage of rapid industrialization. For these countries, climate change mitigation and sustainable-development policies can complement one another; however, additional financial and technological resources would enhance their capacity to pursue a low-carbon path of development [12.2.1; 12.3.1].

For most other developing countries, adaptive and mitigative capacities are low and development aid can help to reduce their vulnerability to climate change. It can also help to reduce their emissions growth while addressing energy-security and energy-access problems. CDM can provide financial resources for such developments. Members of the Organization of the Petroleum-Exporting Countries (OPEC) are unique in the sense that they may be adversely affected by development paths that reduce the demand for fossil fuels. Diversification of their economies is high on their agenda [12.2.1; 12.3.1].

Some general conclusions emerge from the case studies reviewed in this chapter on how changes in development pathways at the sectoral level have (or could) lower emissions (high agreement, medium evidence) [12.2.4]:

  • GHG emissions are influenced by, but not rigidly linked to, economic growth: policy choices can make a difference.
  • Sectors where effective production is far below the maximum feasible production with the same amount of inputs – that is, sectors that are far from their production frontier – have opportunities to adopt ‘win-win-win’ policies, that is, policies that free up resources and bolster growth, meet other sustainable-development goals and also reduce GHG emissions relative to baseline.
  • Sectors where production is close to the optimal given available inputs – i.e., sectors that are closer to the production frontier – also have opportunities to reduce emissions by meeting other sustainable development goals. However, the closer one gets to the production frontier, the more trade-offs are likely to appear.
  • What matters is not only that a ‘good’ choice is made at a certain point in time, but also that the initial policy is sustained for a long time – sometimes several decades – to really have effects.
  • It is often not one policy decision, but an array of decisions that are needed to influence emissions. This raises the issue of coordination between policies in several sectors and at various scales.

Mainstreaming requires that non-climate policies, programmes and/or individual actions take climate change mitigation into consideration, in both developing and developed countries. However, merely piggybacking climate change on to an existing political agenda is unlikely to succeed. The ease or difficulty with which mainstreaming is accomplished will depend on both mitigation technologies or practices, and the underlying development path. Weighing other development benefits against climate benefits will be a key basis for choosing development sectors for mainstreaming. Decisions about macro-economic policy, agricultural policy, multilateral development bank lending, insurance practices, electricity market reform, energy security, and forest conservation, for example, which are often treated as being apart from climate policy, can have profound impacts on emissions, the extent of mitigation required, and the costs and benefits that result. However, in some cases, such as shifting from biomass cooking to liquid petroleum gas (LPG) in rural areas in developing countries, it may be rational to disregard climate change considerations because of the small increase in emissions when compared with its development benefits (see Table TS.18) (high agreement, medium evidence) [12.2.4].

In general terms, there is a high level of agreement on the qualitative findings in this chapter about the linkages between mitigation and sustainable development: the two are linked, and synergies and trade-offs can be identified. However, the literature about the links and more particularly, about how these links can be put into action in order to capture synergies and avoid trade-offs, is as yet sparse. The same applies to good practice guidance for integrating climate change considerations into relevant non-climate policies, including analysis of the roles of different actors. Elaborating possible development paths that nations and regions can pursue – beyond more narrowly conceived GHG emissions scenarios or scenarios that ignore climate change – can provide the context for new analysis of the links, but may require new methodological tools (high agreement, limited evidence) [12.2.4].

Table TS.18: Mainstreaming climate change into development choices – selected examples [Table 12.3].

Selected sectors Non-climate policy instruments and actions that are candidates for mainstreaming Primary decision- makers and actors Global GHG emissions by sector that could be addressed by non-climate policies (% of global GHG emissions)a, d Comments 
Macro economy Implement non-climate taxes/ subsidies and/or other fiscal and regulatory policies that promote SD  State (governments at all levels) 100 Total global GHG emissions Combination of economic, regulatory, and infrastructure non-climate policies could be used to address total global emissions. 
Forestry Adoption of forest conservation and sustainable management practices State (governments at all levels) and civil society (NGOs)  GHG emissions from deforestation Legislation/regulations to halt deforestation, improve forest management, and provide alternative livelihoods can reduce GHG emissions and provide other environmental benefits. 
Electricity Adoption of cost-effective renewables, demand-side management programmes, and reduction of transmission and distribution losses State (regulatory commissions), market (utility companies) and, civil society (NGOs, consumer groups) 20b Electricity sector CO2 emissions (excluding auto producers) Rising share of GHG-intensive electricity generation is a global concern that can be addressed through non-climate policies. 
Petroleum imports Diversifying imported and domestic fuel mix and reducing economy’s energy intensity to improve energy security State and market (fossil fuel industry)  20b CO2 emissions associated with global crude oil and product imports Diversification of energy sources to address oil security concerns could be achieved such that GHG emissions are not increased. 
Rural energy in developing countries Policies to promote rural LPG, kerosene and electricity for cooking  State and market (utilities and petroleum companies), civil society (NGOs) <2c GHG emissions from biomass fuel use, not including aerosols Biomass used for rural cooking causes health impacts due to indoor air pollution, and releases aerosols that add to global warming. Displacing all biomass used for rural cooking in developing countries with LPG would emit 0.70 GtCO2-eq., a relatively modest amount compared with 2004 total global GHG emissions.  
Insurance for building and transport sectors Differentiated premiums, liability insurance exclusions, improved terms for green products State and market (insurance companies)  20 Transport and building sector GHG emissions Escalating damages due to climate change are a source of concern to insurance industry. Insurance industry could address these through the types of policies noted here. 
International finance Country and sector strategies and project lending that reduces emissions State (international) financial institutions) and market (commercial banks) 25b CO2 emissions from developing countries (non-Annex I) International financial institutions can adopt practices so that loans for GHG-intensive projects in developing countries that lock-in future emissions are avoided. 


a) Data from Chapter 1 unless noted otherwise.

b) CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion only; IEA (2006).

c) CO2 emissions only. Authors estimate, see text.

d) Emissions indicate the relative importance of sectors in 2004. Sectoral emissions are not mutually exclusive, may overlap, and hence sum up to more than total global emissions, which are shown in the Macro economy row.