Climate mitigation refers to the policies, activities and technologies that could be used to limit and/or prevent emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere or increase the storage of carbon dioxide in natural systems. Here we highlight some background reading to understand what actions can be taken to limit the impacts of climate and other related global environmental change.
The risk that international mitigation efforts will not be sufficient to avoid serious climate risks has led to an increasing focus on the potential role of geoengineering options. These come in two main varieties: (i) solar radiation management and (ii) CO2 absorption directly from the atmosphere by either technical or enhanced natural processes. The techniques are at a very early stage of development and to differening degrees have the potential to cause significant unintended consequences, raising significant international governance issues.
International Energy Agency documents
International mitigation efforts
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) sets out the international framework governing efforts to prevent dangerous anthropogenic climate change.
Linked to this, the Kyoto Protocol sets binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These amount to an average of five per cent against 1990 levels over the five-year period 2008-2012. The US did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Agreeing a successor to the Kyoto Protocol has been politically difficult and some powerful voices argue that it is not in any case the most effective way to take forward global mitigation efforts when the majority of future greenhouse gas emissions will come from rapidly developing, rather than developed, economies.
Negotiations between a small group of countries at the Copenhagen Summit in 2009 led to the signature of the Copenhagen Accord, which resulted in a number of national pledges of mitigation action. These were formally brought under the UNFCCC at the Cancun Summit at the end of 2010 and included pledges by both developed and developing nations.
International mitigation policies
US climate resources
- NASA provide links to selected resources from US governmental organizations with information about options for climate change mitigation.
- The US Environmental Protection Agency describes US climate policy and actions.
Chinese climate resources
UK mitigation policy and implementation
The UK has passed legislation that introduces the world’s first long-term legally binding framework to tackle climate change. The key element is a legally binding target of at least an 80% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, to be achieved through action in the UK and abroad. Also a reduction in emissions of at least 34% by 2020. Both targets are against a 1990 baseline.