Climate change is one of the most critical challenges facing the world today. In its most recent Assessment Report (AR5), approved by nearly 200 countries in September 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that “It is extremely likely (with 95%-100% certainty) that human influence has been the dominant cause of observed warming since the mid-20th century.” ‘Human influence’ here points primarily to the increase in carbon dioxide emissions and their impact on the Greenhouse Effect.
Climate change mitigation, then, refers to the “human intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases.” (see the IPCC report below). Curbing emissions is an absolute necessity if the worst excesses of climate change are to be avoided. To date emissions have contributed to global warming, rising sea levels, increased ocean acidification, loss of summer ice in the Arctic, extreme weather patterns, increased severity and frequency of droughts and storms, and greater temperature extremes. A business-as-usual scenario would see global temperature increases of around 4% by the end of this century, creating a vastly different habitat for all life on earth.
IPCC Report Climate Change 2014 – Mitigation of Climate Change (Summary for Policy-Makers)
This report assesses literature on the scientific, technological, environmental, economic and social aspects of mitigation of climate change.
The report also assesses mitigation options at different levels of governance and in different economic sectors, and the societal implications of different mitigation policies, but does not recommend any particular option for mitigation. This Summary for Policymakers (SPM) follows the structure of the Working Group III report. The narrative is supported by a series of highlighted conclusions which, taken together, provide a concise summary.
To read the report, please click here.
Parliaments and climate change mitigation
Most greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity stem from the energy sector. Burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas for energy, heat and transportation produces carbon dioxide (the most significant greenhouse gas). Improving energy efficiency and increasing the use of renewable energy can promote sustainable development, allowing people to enjoy essential energy services while consuming less fuel and generating lower emissions.
Parliaments play a pivotal role in building policy and regulatory frameworks that promote renewable energy development and energy efficiency. Beyond that, there exists an increasingly diverse range of financial and fiscal instruments (most notably carbon pricing and carbon emission trading schemes) that help limit the amount of GHGs being pumped into the atmosphere. For more information on relevant policy instruments, please visit the legislating on climate change section.
International action on climate change mitigation has been most notable in the form of the Kyoto agreement and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Curbing carbon emissions will be the central focus of the Paris Conference of the Parties in 2015 (COP21), where a new global, legally binding agreement regulating carbon emissions is to be negotiated.
For more information on the international action framework on climate change, please click here.
Development actors and mitigation
Several initiatives by international development actors address issues related to climate change mitigation. Two of the most notable programmes are the ‘Sustainable Energy for All Initiative’ and the UN REDD programme on deforestation in developing countries.
UNEP – mitigation Portal
Climate change mitigation can mean using new technologies and renewable energies, making older equipment more energy efficient, or changing management practices or consumer behavior. It can be as complex as a plan for a new city, or as a simple as improvements to a cook stove design.
Efforts underway around the world range from high-tech subway systems to bicycling paths and walkways. Protecting natural carbon sinks like forests and oceans, or creating new sinks through silviculture or green agriculture are also elements of mitigation.
UNEP takes a multifaceted approach towards climate change mitigation in its efforts to help countries move towards a low-carbon society.
To visit the Mitigation portal, please click here.