The notion that ‘mitigation is a human intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases’ is simple enough. Far from simple, mitigation actions range across the full diversity of the six sectors (energy supply, transport, buildings, industry, agriculture and forestry, and waste management) covered by the IPCC WGIII Report.
Social, political, economic, geographical, demographic, environmental and technological factors all influence which mitigation actions will work. Trade-offs are often required. Moreover, every sector is composed of subsectors each with particularities of emissions to be reduced or sinks to be enhanced. There is no silver bullet, ‘one size fits all’ best practice in any sector. However, as the technical analysis and case studies in the repository illustrate, constantly evolving methodologies developed by the IPCC, adequate finance, and the prioritisation of robust data are a good place to start.
Elements of successful mitigation
- An underpinning robust methodological is key: for decades now, significant work has been done by international coalitions, especially the IPCC, to refine methods to estimate baselines, calculate the global warming potential of known greenhouse gasses, build models to project climate pathways, and develop methods track and verify reductions over time. These are also being updated constantly. In some respects, this is the easy part. Tailoring interventions to a particular context may be more difficult. Ideally, although robust, harmonised and cross-referenced data sets collected over time exist, in many, indeed most situations, they do not.
- Robust data-collection capacities, storage and processing systems must be prioritised to ensure mitigation actions are being measured, tracked and verified. Financial and economic data help to assess if costs are on track, whether or not beneficiaries are benefiting, and if any adjustments are necessary to achieve greater impact.
- Actions need to be cost-effective. This does not mean inexpensive but rather that the right kinds of incentives and policies are in place to ensure scarce public funds go the distance and that private actors, ranging from project developers and owners through to end-users and households, are being encouraged by smart policies, including financial incentives, to adjust their behaviours to choose more climate-resilient, low- carbon land-management options, food production systems, products and appliances, modes of transport, energy suppliers, etc.
- Flexibility is sometimes necessary. Another aspect of cost effectiveness means that sometimes it is important to recognise that low-cost emission reductions cannot be achieved in every case. In some markets, it is more effective to create mechanisms such as emission trading schemes and carbon markets to ensure more mitigation takes place where it is least expensive. Although somewhat partially successful, lessons from mechanisms created under the Kyoto Protocol need to be integrated into Article 6 outcomes under the Paris Agreement to ensure all countries can meet mitigation targets at the lowest possible cost.