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

7.10 Co-benefits of industrial GHG mitigation

The TAR explained that ‘co-benefits are the benefits from policy options implemented for various reasons at the same time, acknowledging that most policies resulting in GHG mitigation also have other, often at least equally important, rationales’ (IPCC, 2001a). Significant co-benefits arise from reduction of emissions, especially local air pollutants. These are discussed in Section 11.8.1. Here we focus on co-benefits of industrial GHG mitigation options that arise due to reduced emissions and waste (which in turn reduce environmental compliance and waste disposal costs), increased production and product quality, improved maintenance and operating costs, an improved working environment, and other benefits such as decreased liability, improved public image and worker morale, and delaying or reducing capital expenditures (see Table 7.11) (Pye and McKane, 2000; Worrell et al., 2003).

Table 7.11: Co-benefits of greenhouse-gas mitigation or energy-efficiency programmes of selected countries

Category of Co-benefit Examples 
Health Reduced medical/hospital visits, reduced lost working days, reduced acute and chronic respiratory symptoms, reduced asthma attacks, increased life expectancy. 
Emissions Reduction of dust, CO, CO2, NOx and SOx; reduced environmental compliance costs. 
Waste Reduced use of primary materials; reduction of waste water, hazardous waste, waste materials; reduced waste disposal costs; use of waste fuels, heat and gas. 
Production Increased yield; improved product quality or purity; improved equipment performance and capacity utilization; reduced process cycle times; increased production reliability; increased customer satisfaction. 
Operation and maintenance Reduced wear on equipment; increased facility reliability; reduced need for engineering controls; lower cooling requirements; lower labour requirements. 
Working environment Improved lighting, temperature control and air quality; reduced noise levels; reduced need for personal protective equipment; increased worker safety. 
Other Decreased liability; improved public image; delayed or reduced capital expenditures; creation of additional space; improved worker morale. 

Sources: Aunan et al., 2004; Pye and McKane, 2000; Worrell et al., 2003.


A review of forty-one industrial motor system optimization projects implemented between 1995 and 2001 found that twenty-two resulted in reduced maintenance requirements on the motor systems, fourteen showed improvements in productivity in the form of production increases or better product quality, eight reported lower emissions or reduction in purchases of products such as treatment chemicals, six projects forestalled equipment purchases, and others reported increases in production or decreases in product reject rates (Lung et al., 2003). Motor system optimization projects in China are seen as an activity that can reduce operating costs, increase system reliability and contribute to the economic viability of Chinese industrial enterprises faced with increased competition (McKane et al., 2003).

A review of 54 emerging energy-efficient technologies, produced or implemented in the USA, EU, Japan and other industrialized countries for the industrial sector, found that 20 of the technologies had environmental benefits in the areas of ‘reduction of wastes’ and ‘emissions of criteria air pollutants’. The use of such environmentally friendly technologies is often most compelling when it enables the expansion of incremental production capacity without requiring additional environmental permits. In addition, 35 of the technologies had productivity or product quality benefits (Martin et al., 2000).

Quantification of the co-benefits of industrial technologies is often done on a case-by-case basis. One evaluation identified 52 case studies from projects in the USA, the Netherlands, UK, New Zealand, Canada, Norway and Nigeria that monetized non-energy savings. These case studies had an average simple payback time of 4.2 years based on energy savings alone. Addition of the quantified co-benefits reduced the simple payback time to 1.9 years (Worrell et al., 2003). Inclusion of quantified co-benefits in an energy-conservation supply curve for the US iron and steel industry doubled the potential for cost-effective savings (Worrell et al., 2001a; 2003).

Not all co-benefits are easily quantifiable in financial terms (e.g., increased safety or employee satisfaction), there are variations in regulatory regimes vis-à-vis specific emissions and the value of their reduction and there is a lack of time series and plant-level data on co-benefits. Also, there is a need to assess net co-benefits, as negative impacts that may be associated with some technologies, such as increased risk, increased training requirements and production losses during technology installation (Worrell et al., 2003).