Climate Change 2001:
Working Group III: Mitigation
Other reports in this collection Synergies, Trade-offs, and No Regrets

The existence of ancillary benefits and synergies in implementing mitigation options has been addressed in a preliminary way in IPCC (1996c). These issues are discussed in detail in Chapters 7, 8 and 9. Some relevant findings are highlighted here. The adoption of more sustainable agricultural practices in Africa (Sokona et al., 1999) illustrates clearly the mutually reinforcing effects of climate change mitigation, environmental protection, and economic benefits. In fact, the introduction or expansion of agroforestry and organic agriculture (i.e., methods that intensify agricultural production while using less input), can improve food security and at the same time reduce GHG emissions. In agroforestry systems, trees are planted to delineate plots of land, and further to fix nitrogen, causing the nutrients lower in the soil to rise up. The trees also prevent soil erosion, supply firewood and animal fodder, and constitute a source of income. Organic farming improves the fertility of the soil through the addition of organic matter. The damage and diseases caused by insects are virtually eliminated through the technique of “growing in corridors” and other holistic methods. Costly inputs are not used at all or are kept to a minimum, and the system is flexible. In addition, these methods restore and maintain carbon levels in the soil. Hence, if practised on a large scale, they could transform soils from carbon sources into carbon sinks.

Energy efficiency improvements and energy conservation are other issues of economic and strategic concern. In developing countries, energy demand (for electricity in particular) continues to grow at a rate that is often hard to keep up with. The adoption of environmentally sound technologies (ESTs) for both energy production and energy consumption would enable these countries to lower the pressure on energy investments, reduce public investments (in some cases by up to one-third (World Bank, 1994)), improve export competitiveness, enlarge energy reserves, and also avoid a large increase in GHG emissions. Thus the alternative energy paths of low-carbon futures in developing countries can be compatible with national objectives. Such paths could prevent energy and/or GDP intensities from following the growth path of the developed world, in which energy demand and GDP elasticity first increased with successive stages of industrialization, but since have sharply decreased.

A large number of similar synergy effects can be found in industry, transportation, and human settlement patterns. For example, more decentralized development patterns based on a stronger role for small- and medium-sized cities can decrease the rural exodus, reduce needs for transportation, and allow the use of modern technologies (biotechnology, solar energy, wind, and small-scale hydropower) to tap the large reserves of natural resources. Building upon the lending experiences of World Bank operations and sector programmes in a number of countries, Warford et al. (1996) provide evidence for the positive linkages between economic policies and the environment. Although environmental concerns, and climate change issues in particular, were not explicitly addressed by macroeconomic and sectoral policies, the country cases analyzed show clear synergies between reform policies and environmental improvements. In some cases when adverse side effects do occur, the remedy is not to reverse the reform policies, but rather to introduce specific complementary measures that address the negative effects.

Finally, it is important to underline that for the elements that constitute policies at different levels to operate in a mutually reinforcing manner, the creation of appropriate communication and information channels should be given special attention. The topic of establishing effective and stable flows of communication among different stakeholders is seldom addressed in connection with climate change mitigation. This is mainly because policies related to climate change tend to treat mitigation options as isolated projects, each falling into a narrow area in which potential synergies may be ignored or misunderstood. As result, environmental policies risk resulting poorly structured interventions, with a limited scope of influence, and an overestimated cost-effectiveness (Eskeland and Xie, 1998). Greater synergies could be achieved if agencies with global and local agendas did business together, through effective linkage mechanisms that allow co-ordination and support in implementing tasks or functions that belong to different subsystems and involve different actors.

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