Chapter 7: HOW WE GET THERE – MITIGATION PATHWAYS TO A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE
The current set of Nationally Determined Contributions submitted by member states
of the Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate
Change lack sufficient ambition to progressively reduce anthropogenic GHG emissions as
required to transition world economies to net zero‐emissions status during the second
half of the century. Based on achieving but not exceeding the pledges contained in
these NDCs, end‐of‐century average surface temperatures will disrupt climate systems
and weather patterns leading to loss of life and livelihood, infrastructure damage, crop
failures, and damage to natural ecosystems.
The cost of extensive climate change damage to future generations will be immense.
Applying a fraction of this cost to limit emissions and thereby avoid the consequences
of excessive global warming is not only ethical but an exercise in common sense
economics. Carbon is costly and should be priced as such. Free market economies will
adapt to effective carbon pricing by transitioning to more profitable, cost saving, lower
emissions options. Carbon pricing mechanisms, either as carbon taxes or free market
exchange of emissions permits, will be core economic drivers within national programs
to reduce emissions. Carbon pricing must be supplemented with additional incentives
and legislation to improve efficiencies and reduce emissions within the energy supply,
industry, AFOLU, transportation and buildings sectors of national economies.
As a first order of business, the level of ambition to reduce emissions put forward by
most of the nations on Earth must be increased such that projected future atmospheric
GHG concentrations are aligned with the core objective of the Paris Agreement. Most
NDCs are simple statements of intent that facilitate an accounting mechanism to
quantify projected emissions. These statements are meaningless in the absence of
effective national action plans to combat climate change.
National climate change mitigation programs and approaches to curtailing emissions
will vary between countries depending upon the state of economic development
and opportunities within economic sectors. Nations with considerable potential for
reforestation and afforestation may choose to focus on REDD+ programs to achieve
atmospheric carbon dioxide reduction through an expansion of forest biomass.
Advanced, heavily industrialized nations will need to focus on improved efficiencies
of energy and materials use and decarbonization of existing electricity supply, industry,
transportation, and buildings sectors. Established economies will need to emphasize
retrofits while developing countries must decouple economic growth from emissions.