IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change

12.2 Implications of development choices for climate change mitigation

The roadmap for this section starts with the concept of development paths. National development paths do not result from integrated policy programmes. They emerge from fragmented decisions made by numerous private actors and public agencies within varied institutional frameworks of state, markets, and civil society. Decisions about the development of the most significant sectors that shape emission profiles - energy, industry, transportation and land use - are made by ministries and companies that do not regularly attend to climate risks. The same is true for even more indirect influences on these sectoral pathways, including financial, macro-economic, and trade practices and policies. The focus on development paths places new emphasis on development’s impact on climate and on indirect rather than direct actions that affect climate mitigation. Section 12.2.1 reviews scenario and other literature indicating that in different nations and regions, contingent development paths are plausible and can be associated with widely disparate economic, environmental and social consequences. Section 12.2.2 provides historical evidence that lower emissions pathways are not necessarily associated with lower economic growth.

The second segment of the road map suggests the importance of better understanding in climate policy of how nations organize sectoral and other emissions-determining policies and behaviour. Section 12.2.3 assesses literature that analyze: (1) the particular institutions, organizations, and political cultures that form the installed systems of decision-making and priority-setting from which decisions about key sectors or contexts emerge; and (2) the broader trans-national trends that are reshaping established governance processes. The description of these installed systems and the ways in which they are changing is drawn from an assessment of the social science literature on relationships between states, markets and civil society. Thus, Section 12.2.3 broadens the discourse beyond the economics and technological literature now familiar in climate analysis by incorporating history, political economy, and organization theory. The emphasis moves from government to governance. Rather than focusing on action by governments or states alone, the social science literature suggests more attention on decisions by multiple actors (Rayner and Malone, 1998; Jochem et al., 2001). In some systems, change occurs primarily through actions initiated by either central governments or more federalized local jurisdictions. In others, it proceeds more through initiatives by private organizations that are then complemented by supportive governmental policies.

The final segment of road map relates in Section 12.2.4 to strategies and actions for changing development paths. It builds from the insight that changes in development paths emerge from the interactions of varied, centralized and decentralized public and private decision processes, many of which are not traditionally considered as ‘climate policy’. It emphasizes that national circumstances, including endowments in primary energy resources, and the strengths of institutions matter in determining how development policies ultimately impact GHG emissions. Ensuring that key sectors evolve in a more sustainable manner depends on capability to coordinate decentralized choices and decision processes. The literature emphasizes the importance of partnerships between public, private and civil society in actions that contribute to shifts in the direction of development. However, it does not assume that the lead coordinating agency will always be the state. In different societies with different cultures of social change, the lead agent with a strong motivation, whether political or commercial, to bear the costs of organizing change may emerge from states, markets or civil societies.

In sum, Section 12.2 shows that to expand the focus of effective climate action to include development activities involves less emphasis on the search for ideal and general instruments, and involves much more attention on local and fragmented processes for more marginal changes in key sectoral decisions. When added up over time, these decisions could lead to more sustainable development paths and lower emissions.

Clearly, the reformed focus of a broadened scope for climate action raises many questions that have not been highlighted in the research agenda. These are reflected in the agenda for future research in Section 12.4.