Climate Change 2001:
Working Group III: Mitigation
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Options to Limit or Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions
and Enhance Sinks

7. Significant technical progress relevant to greenhouse gas emissions reduction has been made since the SAR in 1995 and has been faster than anticipated. Advances are taking place in a wide range of technologies at different stages of development, e.g., the market introduction of wind turbines, the rapid elimination of industrial by-product gases such as N2O from adipic acid production and perfluorocarbons from aluminium production, efficient hybrid engine cars, the advancement of fuel cell technology, and the demonstration of underground carbon dioxide storage. Technological options for emissions reduction include improved efficiency of end use devices and energy conversion technologies, shift to low-carbon and renewable biomass fuels, zero-emissions technologies, improved energy management, reduction of industrial by-product and process gas emissions, and carbon removal and storage (Section 3.1, 4.7).

Table SPM.1 summarizes the results from many sectoral studies, largely at the project, national and regional level with some at the global levels, providing estimates of potential greenhouse gas emission reductions in the 2010 to 2020 timeframe. Some key findings are:

The potential emissions reductions found in Table SPM.1 for sectors were aggregated to provide estimates of global potential emissions reductions taking account of potential overlaps between and within sectors and technologies to the extent possible given the information available in the underlying studies. Half of these potential emissions reductions may be achieved by 2020 with direct benefits (energy saved) exceeding direct costs (net capital, operating, and maintenance costs), and the other half at a net direct cost of up to US$100/tCeq (at 1998 prices). These cost estimates are derived using discount rates in the range of 5% to 12%, consistent with public sector discount rates. Private internal rates of return vary greatly, and are often significantly higher, affecting the rate of adoption of these technologies by private entities.

Depending on the emissions scenario this could allow global emissions to be reduced below 2000 levels in 2010–2020 at these net direct costs. Realizing these reductions involve additional implementation costs, which in some cases may be substantial, the possible need for supporting policies (such as those described in Paragraph 18), increased research and development, effective technology transfer and overcoming other barriers (Paragraph 17). These issues, together with costs and benefits not included in this evaluation are discussed in Paragraphs 11, 12 and 13.

The various global, regional, national, sector and project studies assessed in this report have different scopes and assumptions. Studies do not exist for every sector and region. The range of emissions reductions reported in Table SPM.1 reflects the uncertainties (see Box SPM.2) of the underlying studies on which they are based (Sections 3.3-3.8)

8. Forests, agricultural lands, and other terrestrial ecosystems offer significant carbon mitigation potential. Although not necessarily permanent, conservation and sequestration of carbon may allow time for other options to be further developed and implemented. Biological mitigation can occur by three strategies: (a) conservation of existing carbon pools, (b) sequestration by increasing the size of carbon pools, and (c) substitution of sustainably produced biological products, e.g. wood for energy intensive construction products and biomass for fossil fuels (Sections 3.6, 4.3). Conservation of threatened carbon pools may help to avoid emissions, if leakage can be prevented, and can only become sustainable if the socio-economic drivers for deforestation and other losses of carbon pools can be addressed. Sequestration reflects the biological dynamics of growth, often starting slowly, passing through a maximum, and then declining over decades to centuries.

Conservation and sequestration result in higher carbon stocks, but can lead to higher future carbon emissions if these ecosystems are severely disturbed by either natural or direct/indirect human-induced disturbances. Even though natural disturbances are normally followed by re-sequestration, activities to manage such disturbances can play an important role in limiting carbon emissions. Substitution benefits can, in principle, continue indefinitely. Appropriate management of land for crop, timber and sustainable bio-energy production, may increase benefits for climate change mitigation. Taking into account competition for land use and the SAR and SRLULUCF assessments, the estimated global potential of biological mitigation options is in the order of 100GtC (cumulative), although there are substantial uncertainties associated with this estimate, by 2050, equivalent to about 10% to 20% of potential fossil fuel emissions during that period. Realization of this potential depends upon land and water availability as well as the rates of adoption of different land management practices. The largest biological potential for atmospheric carbon mitigation is in subtropical and tropical regions. Cost estimates reported to date of biological mitigation vary significantly from US$0.1/tC to about US$20/tC in several tropical countries and from US$20/tC to US$100/tC in non-tropical countries. Methods of financial analysis and carbon accounting have not been comparable. Moreover, the cost calculations do not cover, in many instances, inter alia, costs for infrastructure, appropriate discounting, monitoring, data collection and implementation costs, opportunity costs of land and maintenance, or other recurring costs, which are often excluded or overlooked. The lower end of the ranges are biased downwards, but understanding and treatment of costs is improving over time. These biological mitigation options may have social, economic and environmental benefits beyond reductions in atmospheric CO2, if implemented appropriately. (e.g., biodiversity, watershed protection, enhancement of sustainable land management and rural employment). However, if implemented inappropriately, they may pose risks of negative impacts (e.g., loss of biodiversity, community disruption and ground-water pollution). Biological mitigation options may reduce or increase non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions (Sections 4.3, 4.4).

Figure SPM.2: Carbon in oil, gas and coal reserves and resources compared with historic fossil fuel carbon emissions 1860–1998, and with cumulative carbon emissions from a range of SRES scenarios and TAR stabilization scenarios up until 2100. Data for reserves and resources are shown in the left hand columns (Section 3.8.2). Unconventional oil and gas includes tar sands, shale oil, other heavy oil, coal bed methane, deep geopressured gas, gas in acquifers, etc. Gas hydrates (clathrates) that amount to an estimated 12,000GtC are not shown. The scenario columns show both SRES reference scenarios as well as scenarios which lead to stabilization of CO2 concentrations at a range of levels. Note that if by 2100 cumulative emissions associated with SRES scenarios are equal to or smaller than those for stabilization scenarios, this does not imply that these scenarios equally lead to stabilization.

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