Emissions Mitigation And Developing Countries

Most of the plausible emission scenarios suggest that, even with strong emissions mitigation in developed countries, developing country emissions must fall below business-as-usual projections if atmospheric GHG concentrations are to be stabilized by 2100 (IPCC, 2001a). On this scenario, economic growth, a key driver of emissions, would nonetheless remain the utmost priority of developing nations in the long run. Economic growth has a dual relationship to emissions. Globally, economic growth, energy use, and GHG emissions have remained linked through modern history. In developing countries, particularly those with low per capita energy use, sustained growth will require an absolute increase in the total energy production and consumption. However, growth also raises the demand for environmental quality and, through improved technology, creates new opportunities to produce and use energy more cleanly and efficiently.

The emission scenarios (SRES, 2000) described by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate highlight the potential importance of technology innovation and diffusion in weakening the historical linkages between growth, energy intensity, and carbon output. Certain scenarios project both lower emissions and higher economic growth relative to alternative scenarios with technology choice among the critical underlying variables. Technology patterns, and the organizational and institutional arrangements that encourage and maintain them, emerge as the key determinants of future emissions paths - regardless of the rate of economic growth. Such de-linking of emissions with economic growth has been observed in the past. For instance, the carbon intensity of the gross domestic products (GDPs) of the United States, Japan, and France was similar in 1970. Intensities have declined in all three countries, though at different rates. By 2000, French intensity (following the growth of nuclear electricity and high-speed rail) was 60%; Japanese intensity (judged on the basis of efficiency and structural investments) was 80% of US intensity.

To date, however, the international climate regime has been largely ineffective in delinking economic, energy, and emissions growth, providing neither the incentive nor the means for developing countries to pursue alternative paths. As a result, emissions mitigation is imposed as an external constraint and as a barrier to development; the conflict lies therein.

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