The mitigation of climate change or energy saving is the action that consists of reducing the intensity of the radiative forcing in order to reduce the potential effects of global warming. Mitigation is distinguished from adaptation, which involves acting to minimize the effects of global warming . Very often, mitigation involves reducing gas concentrations of greenhouse, either by reducing their sources or increasing storage.
Governmental and intergovernmental action
Many countries, both developing and developed, are aiming to use cleaner technologies (World Bank, 2010, p. 192). Use of these technologies aids mitigation and could result in substantial reductions in CO2 emissions. Policies include targets for emissions reductions, increased use of renewable energy, and increased energy efficiency. It is often argued that the results of climate change are more damaging in poor nations, where infrastructures are weak and few social services exist. The Commitment to Development Index is one attempt to analyze rich country policies taken to reduce their disproportionate use of the global commons. Countries do well if their greenhouse gas emissions are falling, if their gas taxes are high, if they do not subsidize the fishing industry, if they have a low fossil fuel rate per capita, and if they control imports of illegally cut tropical timber.
The main current international agreement on combating climate change is the Kyoto Protocol. On the 11th of December 1997 it was implemented by the 3rd conference of parties, which was coming together in kyoto, which came into force on 16 February 2005. The Kyoto Protocol is an amendment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Countries that have ratified this protocol have committed to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases, or engage in emissions trading if they maintain or increase emissions of these gases. For Kyoto reporting, governments are obliged to be told on the present state of the countries forests and the related ongoing processes.
Actions to mitigate climate change are sometimes based on the goal of achieving a particular temperature target. One of the targets that has been suggested is to limit the future increase in global mean temperature (global warming) to below 2 °C, relative to the pre-industrial level. The 2 °C target was adopted in 2010 by Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Most countries of the world are Parties to the UNFCCC. The target had been adopted in 1996 by the European Union Council.
Feasibility of 2 °C
Temperatures have increased by 0.8 °C compared to the pre-industrial level, and another 0.5–0.7 °C is already committed. The 2 °C rise is typically associated in climate models with a carbon dioxide equivalent concentration of 400–500 ppm by volume; the current (January 2015) level of carbon dioxide alone is 400 ppm by volume, and rising at 1–3 ppm annually. Hence, to avoid a very likely breach of the 2 °C target, CO2 levels would have to be stabilised very soon; this is generally regarded as unlikely, based on current programs in place to date. The importance of change is illustrated by the fact that world economic energy efficiency is improving at only half the rate of world economic growth.
Views in the literature
There is disagreement among experts over whether or not the 2 °C target can be met. For example, according to Anderson and Bows (2011), “there is little to no chance” of meeting the target. On the other hand, according to Alcamo et al. (2013):
Policies adopted by parties to the UNFCCC are too weak to meet a 2 or 1.5 °C target. However, these targets might still be achievable if more stringent mitigation policies are adopted immediately.
Cost-effective 2 °C scenarios project annual global greenhouse gas emissions to peak before the year 2020, with deep cuts in emissions thereafter, leading to a reduction in 2050 of 41% compared to 1990 levels.
Discussion on other targets
Scientific analysis can provide information on the impacts of climate change and associated policies, such as reducing GHG emissions. However, deciding what policies are best requires value judgements. For example, limiting global warming to 1 °C relative to pre-industrial levels may help to reduce climate change damages more than a 2 °C limit. However, a 1 °C limit may be more costly to achieve than a 2 °C limit.
According to some analysts, the 2 °C “guardrail” is inadequate for the needed degree and timeliness of mitigation. On the other hand, some economic studies suggest more modest mitigation policies. For example, the emissions reductions proposed by Nordhaus (2010) might lead to global warming (in the year 2100) of around 3 °C, relative to pre-industrial levels.
Official long-term target of 1.5 °C
In 2015, two official UNFCCC scientific expert bodies came to the conclusion that, “in some regions and vulnerable ecosystems, high risks are projected even for warming above 1.5°C”. This expert position was, together with the strong diplomatic voice of the poorest countries and the island nations in the Pacific, the driving force leading to the decision of the Paris Conference 2015, to lay down this 1.5 °C long-term target on top of the existing 2 °C goal.
Encouraging use changes
An emissions tax on greenhouse gas emissions requires individual emitters to pay a fee, charge or tax for every tonne of greenhouse gas released into the atmosphere. Most environmentally related taxes with implications for greenhouse gas emissions in OECD countries are levied on energy products and motor vehicles, rather than on CO2 emissions directly.
Emission taxes can be both cost-effective and environmentally effective. Difficulties with emission taxes include their potential unpopularity, and the fact that they cannot guarantee a particular level of emissions reduction. Emissions or energy taxes also often fall disproportionately on lower income classes. In developing countries, institutions may be insufficiently developed for the collection of emissions fees from a wide variety of sources.
According to Mark Z. Jacobson, a program of subsidization balanced against expected flood costs could pay for conversion to 100% renewable power by 2030. Jacobson, and his colleague Mark Delucchi, suggest that the cost to generate and transmit power in 2020 will be less than 4 cents per kilowatt hour (in 2007 dollars) for wind, about 4 cents for wave and hydroelectric, from 4 to 7 cents for geothermal, and 8 cents per kWh for solar, fossil, and nuclear power.
Another indirect method of encouraging uses of renewable energy, and pursue sustainability and environmental protection, is that of prompting investment in this area through legal means, something that is already being done at national level as well as in the field of international investment.
Carbon emissions trading
With the creation of a market for trading carbon dioxide emissions within the Kyoto Protocol, it is likely that London financial markets will be the centre for this potentially highly lucrative business; the New York and Chicago stock markets may have a lower trade volume than expected as long as the US maintains its rejection of the Kyoto.
However, emissions trading may delay the phase-out of fossil fuels.
In the north-east United States, a successful cap and trade program has shown potential for this solution.
The European Union Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS) is the largest multi-national, greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme in the world. It commenced operation on 1 January 2005, and all 28 member states of the European Union participate in the scheme which has created a new market in carbon dioxide allowances estimated at 35 billion Euros (US$43 billion) per year. The Chicago Climate Exchange was the first (voluntary) emissions market, and is soon to be followed by Asia’s first market (Asia Carbon Exchange). A total of 107 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent have been exchanged through projects in 2004, a 38% increase relative to 2003 (78 Mt CO2e).
Twenty three multinational corporations have come together in the G8 Climate Change Roundtable, a business group formed at the January 2005 World Economic Forum. The group includes Ford, Toyota, British Airways, and BP. On 9 June 2005 the Group published a statement stating that there was a need to act on climate change and claiming that market-based solutions can help. It called on governments to establish “clear, transparent, and consistent price signals” through “creation of a long-term policy framework” that would include all major producers of greenhouse gases.
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is a proposed carbon trading scheme being created by nine North-eastern and Mid-Atlantic American states; Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The scheme was due to be developed by April 2005 but has not yet been completed.
Implementation puts into effect climate change mitigation strategies and targets. These can be targets set by international bodies or voluntary action by individuals or institutions. This is the most important, expensive and least appealing aspect of environmental governance.
Implementation requires funding sources but is often beset by disputes over who should provide funds and under what conditions. A lack of funding can be a barrier to successful strategies as there are no formal arrangements to finance climate change development and implementation. Funding is often provided by nations, groups of nations and increasingly NGO and private sources. These funds are often channelled through the Global Environmental Facility (GEF). This is an environmental funding mechanism in the World Bank which is designed to deal with global environmental issues. The GEF was originally designed to tackle four main areas: biological diversity, climate change, international waters and ozone layer depletion, to which land degradation and persistent organic pollutant were added. The GEF funds projects that are agreed to achieve global environmental benefits that are endorsed by governments and screened by one of the GEF’s implementing agencies.
There are numerous issues which result in a current perceived lack of implementation. It has been suggested that the main barriers to implementation are Uncertainty, Fragmentation, Institutional void, Short time horizon of policies and politicians and Missing motives and willingness to start adapting. The relationships between many climatic processes can cause large levels of uncertainty as they are not fully understood and can be a barrier to implementation. When information on climate change is held between the large numbers of actors involved it can be highly dispersed, context specific or difficult to access causing fragmentation to be a barrier. Institutional void is the lack of commonly accepted rules and norms for policy processes to take place, calling into question the legitimacy and efficacy of policy processes. The Short time horizon of policies and politicians often means that climate change policies are not implemented in favour of socially favoured societal issues. Statements are often posed to keep the illusion of political action to prevent or postpone decisions being made. Missing motives and willingness to start adapting is a large barrier as it prevents any implementation. The issues that arise with a system which involves international government cooperation, such as cap and trade, could potentially be improved with a polycentric approach where the rules are enforced by many small sections of authority as opposed to one overall enforcement agency. Concerns about metal requirement and/or availability for essential decarbonization technoloqies such as photovoltaics, nuclear power, and (plug-in hybrid) electric vehicles have also been expressed as obstacles.
Despite a perceived lack of occurrence, evidence of implementation is emerging internationally. Some examples of this are the initiation of NAPA’s and of joint implementation. Many developing nations have made National Adaptation Programs of Action (NAPAs) which are frameworks to prioritize adaption needs. The implementation of many of these is supported by GEF agencies. Many developed countries are implementing ‘first generation’ institutional adaption plans particularly at the state and local government scale. There has also been a push towards joint implementation between countries by the UNFCCC as this has been suggested as a cost-effective way for objectives to be achieved.
Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the United States include energy policies which encourage efficiency through programs like Energy Star, Commercial Building Integration, and the Industrial Technologies Program. On 12 November 1998, Vice President Al Gore symbolically signed the Kyoto Protocol, but he indicated participation by the developing nations was necessary prior its being submitted for ratification by the United States Senate.
In 2007, Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, with White House approval, urged governors and dozens of members of the House of Representatives to block California’s first-in-the-nation limits on greenhouse gases from cars and trucks, according to e-mails obtained by Congress. The US Climate Change Science Program is a group of about twenty federal agencies and US Cabinet Departments, all working together to address global warming.
The Bush administration pressured American scientists to suppress discussion of global warming, according to the testimony of the Union of Concerned Scientists to the Oversight and Government Reform Committee of the US House of Representatives. “High-quality science” was “struggling to get out,” as the Bush administration pressured scientists to tailor their writings on global warming to fit the Bush administration’s skepticism, in some cases at the behest of an ex-oil industry lobbyist. “Nearly half of all respondents perceived or personally experienced pressure to eliminate the words ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming’ or other similar terms from a variety of communications.” Similarly, according to the testimony of senior officers of the Government Accountability Project, the White House attempted to bury the report “National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change,” produced by US scientists pursuant to US law. Some US scientists resigned their jobs rather than give in to White House pressure to underreport global warming.
In the absence of substantial federal action, state governments have adopted emissions-control laws such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in the Northeast and the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 in California.
In order to reconcile economic development with mitigating carbon emissions, developing countries need particular support, both financial and technical. One of the means of achieving this is the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). The World Bank’s Prototype Carbon Fund is a public private partnership that operates within the CDM.
An important point of contention, however, is how overseas development assistance not directly related to climate change mitigation is affected by funds provided to climate change mitigation. One of the outcomes of the UNFCC Copenhagen Climate Conference was the Copenhagen Accord, in which developed countries promised to provide US$30 million between 2010 and 2012 of new and additional resources. Yet it remains unclear what exactly the definition of additional is and the European Commission has requested its member states to define what they understand to be additional, and researchers at the Overseas Development Institute have found four main understandings:
Climate finance classified as aid, but additional to (over and above) the ‘0.7%’ ODA target;
Increase on previous year’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) spent on climate change mitigation;
Rising ODA levels that include climate change finance but where it is limited to a specified percentage; and
Increase in climate finance not connected to ODA.
The main point being that there is a conflict between the OECD states budget deficit cuts, the need to help developing countries adapt to develop sustainably and the need to ensure that funding does not come from cutting aid to other important Millennium Development Goals.
However, none of these initiatives suggest a quantitative cap on the emissions from developing countries. This is considered as a particularly difficult policy proposal as the economic growth of developing countries are proportionally reflected in the growth of greenhouse emissions. Critics of mitigation often argue that, the developing countries’ drive to attain a comparable living standard to the developed countries would doom the attempt at mitigation of global warming. Critics also argue that holding down emissions would shift the human cost of global warming from a general one to one that was borne most heavily by the poorest populations on the planet.
In an attempt to provide more opportunities for developing countries to adapt clean technologies, UNEP and WTO urged the international community to reduce trade barriers and to conclude the Doha trade round “which includes opening trade in environmental goods and services”.
While many of the proposed methods of mitigating global warming require governmental funding, legislation and regulatory action, individuals and businesses can also play a part in the mitigation effort.
Choices in personal actions and business operations
Environmental groups encourage individual action against global warming, often aimed at the consumer. Common recommendations include lowering home heating and cooling usage, burning less gasoline, supporting renewable energy sources, buying local products to reduce transportation, turning off unused devices, and various others.
A geophysicist at Utrecht University has urged similar institutions to hold the vanguard in voluntary mitigation, suggesting the use of communications technologies such as videoconferencing to reduce their dependence on long-haul flights.
Air travel and shipment
In 2008, climate scientist Kevin Anderson raised concern about the growing effect of rapidly increasing global air transport on the climate in a paper, and a presentation, suggesting that reversing this trend is necessary to reduce emissions.
Part of the difficulty is that when aviation emissions are made at high altitude, the climate impacts are much greater than otherwise. Others have been raising the related concerns of the increasing hypermobility of individuals, whether traveling for business or pleasure, involving frequent and often long distance air travel, as well as air shipment of goods.
Business opportunities and risks
On 9 May 2005 Jeff Immelt, the chief executive of General Electric (GE), announced plans to reduce GE’s global warming related emissions by one percent by 2012. “GE said that given its projected growth, those emissions would have risen by 40 percent without such action.”
On 21 June 2005 a group of leading airlines, airports, and aerospace manufacturers pledged to work together to reduce the negative environmental impact of aviation, including limiting the impact of air travel on climate change by improving fuel efficiency and reducing carbon dioxide emissions of new aircraft by fifty percent per seat kilometre by 2020 from 2000 levels. The group aims to develop a common reporting system for carbon dioxide emissions per aircraft by the end of 2005, and pressed for the early inclusion of aviation in the European Union’s carbon emission trading scheme.
Climate change is also a concern for large institutional investors who have a long term time horizon and potentially large exposure to the negative impacts of global warming because of the large geographic footprint of their multi-national holdings. SRI (Socially responsible investing) Funds allow investors to invest in funds that meet high ESG (environmental, social, governance) standards as such funds invest in companies that are aligned with these goals. Proxy firms can be used to draft guidelines for investment managers that take these concerns into account.
In some countries, those affected by climate change may be able to sue major producers. Attempts at litigation have been initiated by entire peoples such as Palau and the Inuit, as well as non-governmental organizations such as the Sierra Club. Although proving that particular weather events are due specifically to global warming may never be possible, methodologies have been developed to show the increased risk of such events caused by global warming.
For a legal action for negligence (or similar) to succeed, “Plaintiffs … must show that, more probably than not, their individual injuries were caused by the risk factor in question, as opposed to any other cause. This has sometimes been translated to a requirement of a relative risk of at least two.” Another route (though with little legal bite) is the World Heritage Convention, if it can be shown that climate change is affecting World Heritage Sites like Mount Everest.
Besides countries suing one another, there are also cases where people in a country have taken legal steps against their own government. Legal action for instance has been taken to try to force the US Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, and against the Export-Import Bank and OPIC for failing to assess environmental impacts (including global warming impacts) under NEPA.
In the Netherlands and Belgium, organisations such as Urgenda and the vzw Klimaatzaak in Belgium have also sued their governments as they believe their governments aren’t meeting the emission reductions they agreed to. Urgenda have already won their case against the Dutch government.
According to a 2004 study commissioned by Friends of the Earth, ExxonMobil, and its predecessors caused 4.7 to 5.3 percent of the world’s man-made carbon dioxide emissions between 1882 and 2002. The group suggested that such studies could form the basis for eventual legal action.
In 2015, Exxon received a subpoena. According to the Washington Post and confirmed by the company, the attorney general of New York, Eric Schneiderman, opened an investigation into the possibility that the company had misled the public and investors about the risks of climate change.
A consumer-led response to climate change
Low carbon investment and ethical banking has been suggested as a tactic to allow consumers to drive a low-carbon transition. Roughly 5% of OECD disposable income is saved, and could alternately be saved in low-carbon investment funds to substantially increase overall low-carbon investment.
Voluntarily funded, low-carbon investment funds have been suggested as a way to provide revenue for adaptation costs in the post-fossil fuel era. It is suggested that voluntary donations can be invested, rather than spent, and long-term returns used to pay for adaptation costs.
Source from Wikipedia