Policy Considerations

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Worldwide concern over climate change and its potential consequences has led to consideration of international actions to address this issue. These actions fall into two broad categories: an adaptive approach, in which people change their lifestyle to adapt to the new climate conditions; and a preventive or "mitigation" approach, in which attempts are made to minimize human-induced global climate change by removing its causes. While it is not our intention here to consider or examine the range of possible policy options, it is important to discuss recent international activities that have resulted in a number of recommendations for emission reductions.

In Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) agreed to call for the "stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system." (UN, 1992). While specific concentration levels and time paths to reach stabilization for greenhouse gases were not stated, analyses of illustrative scenarios for future CO2 concentrations have given some guidance as to what is required to reach CO2 stabilization at various levels (Enting et al., 1994; Wigley et al., 1996). Figure 1.8 shows the calculated allowable emission levels over time which ultimately stabilize atmospheric CO2 at levels ranging from 350 to 750 parts per million

Figure 1.8 CO2 concentration stabilization profiles and associated fossil CO2 emissions. The "S" and "WRE" pathways are defined in Enting et al. (1994) and Wigley et al. (1996).

Figure 1.8 CO2 concentration stabilization profiles and associated fossil CO2 emissions. The "S" and "WRE" pathways are defined in Enting et al. (1994) and Wigley et al. (1996).

(ppmv). These calculations were made with the carbon cycle component of the Integrated Science Assessment Model (updated version of the model in Jain et al., 1996). From this figure it is clear that, regardless of the stabilization target, global CO2 emissions initially can continue to increase, would have to reach a maximum some time in the next century, and eventually must begin a long-term decline that continues through the remainder of the analysis period.

While the reductions in emissions in the stabilization scenarios are projected to lead to measurable decreases in the rate of increase in CO2 concentrations, no specific commitments to achieve this goal were made until the December 1997 meeting of the Conference of Parties to the FCCC in Kyoto, Japan (UN,

Total CO2 Fossil Fuel Emission CO2 Concentration

Total CO2 Fossil Fuel Emission CO2 Concentration

2000 2020 2040 2060 2080 2100 2000 2020 2040 2060 2080 2100

Year Year

Figure 1.9 Global fossil CO2 emissions and concentrations where countries follow the various emissions limitations proposed under the Kyoto Protocol. Global emissions and concentrations under no-limitations in a business-as-usual scenario are also given for comparison. Calculations were made with the ISAM model.

2000 2020 2040 2060 2080 2100 2000 2020 2040 2060 2080 2100

Year Year

Figure 1.9 Global fossil CO2 emissions and concentrations where countries follow the various emissions limitations proposed under the Kyoto Protocol. Global emissions and concentrations under no-limitations in a business-as-usual scenario are also given for comparison. Calculations were made with the ISAM model.

1997). At that meeting, developed nations agreed for the first time to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases by an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels. Emission targets range from a return to baseline year emissions for most Eastern European countries up to an 8% reduction for the European Union. Emission limits for the United States under the Kyoto Protocol consist of a 7% reduction below baseline year emission levels. The baseline year relative to which emission reductions are determined is 1990 for CO2, CH4 and N2O, and the choice of either 1990 or 1995 for HFCs, PFCs and SF6. Mitigation actions can include reductions in any of six greenhouse gases: CO2, CH4, N2O, halo-carbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6).

However, should this protocol enter into force in the US (which is currently responsible for 25% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions), and even if its terms were renewed throughout the remainder of the 21st century, it would not achieve the goal of the UNFCC. As Figure 1.9 clearly shows, the long-term effect of the Kyoto Protocol is small. This is due to the fact that Kyoto only legislates emission controls for developed or industrialized nations. In the past, a move towards industrialization has been accompanied by an enormous increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Although emissions from the developed countries listed in the Kyoto Protocol currently account for the majority of global greenhouse gas emissions, most developing nations are already moving towards industrialization. If their relationship between greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel use and industrialization follow the paths of other developed nations, emissions from currently developing nations are projected to equal emissions from currently developed nations by 2020 and far surpass them by the end of the century. Thus, emissions from developed nations will make up a smaller and smaller part of the climate change problem as we proceed further into the coming century. For this reason, Kyoto controls on currently developed countries are not enough if we want to prevent dangerous climate change impacts. At the same time, countries in the process of industrialization have the right to be allowed to develop into industrialized nations with higher standards of living and greater wealth. The challenge facing the world community today is how to allow nations the right of development while successfully preventing "dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system".

Kyoto is important as the first concrete step in international cooperation. However, stabilizing radiative forcing will require much larger reductions that can only be fully supplied by CO2 emissions (Hoffert et al., 1998) from all nations. The future emphasis on CO2 emission reductions from developed and developing countries highlights the importance of energy and transportation technologies that do not emit CO2 and technologies such as efficiency improvements or carbon capture and sequestration that provide mechanisms by which fossil fuels can continue to play an important role in future global energy systems without concurrent emissions growth.

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