Climate Change 2001:
Working Group III: Mitigation
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10.3 Local and/or National Sustainable Development Choices and Addressing Climate Change

10.3.1 Introduction

Chapter 1 presented three perspectives on climate change mitigation: cost-effectiveness, equity, and sustainability. The first perspective dominates much of the assessments reviewed in the previous chapters and sections. It is also dominant in the scientific literature on climate change mitigation. As discussed in Sections 1.3 and 1.4, other key perspectives are relevant for mitigation assessment as well: equity and sustainability. This is especially relevant for the assessment of mitigative capacity at local and national levels, and certainly for incorporating climate change mitigation policies into national development agendas.

Decision making related to climate change is a crucial aspect of making decisions about sustainable development, simply because climate change is one of the most important symptoms of “unsustainability”. Climate change could undermine economic activities, social welfare, and equity in an unprecedented manner, in particular both intra- and intergenerational equity is likely to be worsened. Now it is widely recognized that global environmental problems and the ability to meet human needs are linked through a set of physical, chemical, and biological processes that have an impact on global hydrological cycles, affect the boundaries and functioning of ecological systems, and accelerate land degradation and desertification.

Despite the close links, climate change and sustainable development have been pursued as largely separate discourses. The sustainable development research community has not generally considered how the impacts of changing climate may affect efforts to develop more sustainable societies. Conversely, methodological and substantive arguments associated with sustainable development are still absent in climate change discourse. It is difficult to generalize about sustainable development policies and choices. Sustainable development implies and requires diversity, flexibility, and innovation. Policy choices are meant to introduce changes in technological patterns of natural resource use, production and consumption, structural changes in the production systems, spatial distribution of population and economic activities, and behavioural patterns. Moreover, the process of integrating and internalising climate change and sustainable development policies into national development agendas requires new problem-solving strategies and decision-making approaches in which uncertainties need to be managed to produce robust choices.

In this section the dual structure of linkages between sustainable development and climate change is discussed. The existence of positive synergistic effects is reviewed, as is how specific strategies, especially those related to lifestyle options and technology-transfer policies, could reinforce potential synergies. Finally, the emergence of new and innovative decision frameworks, in which extended peer community participation is essential to incorporate into the decision process both the plurality of different legitimate perspectives and the management of irreducible uncertainties in knowledge and ethics, is examined.

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