What is climate change mitigation?

CO2 emissions In the context of climate change, mitigation refers to actions or policies that either reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that cause climate change, or that enhance the climate system’s capacity to absorb such gases from the atmosphere (e.g. reforestation). The main gases that contribute to climate change are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). Human activities such as energy generation from burning fossil fuels, deforestation and agriculture emit these gases and increase their concentrations in the atmosphere. These gases have now reached concentrations in the atmosphere not seen for some 800,000 years or more.

Given the fundamental importance of energy in modern economies, CO2 emissions have continued to rise quickly in line with economic activity and population, despite international efforts under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to stabilise the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.  The concentrations of methane and N2O in the atmosphere are also increasing. On top of this, there is also a vast range of other substances that are powerful greenhouse gases, but are presently in the atmosphere at much lower concentrations.

Working Group 1 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded in their fifth Assessment Report (AR5) that limiting climate risks required substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. 

What is the Grantham Institute doing?

The Grantham Institute’s mitigation activities are currently focused on emissions from the energy system and largely, but not entirely, on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the use of fossil fuels.

The Institute’s work has four main themes:

The Institute’s publications and programme of events fully reflect the importance of mitigation and the level of activity at Imperial in this area.

We engage widely with a range of other sectors, notably government, business and international organisations such as the International Energy Agency, both to learn from their experiences and to inform their thinking on the basis of our own research and analysis.  One key channel for doing so has been our role in the AVOID programme funded by DECC, the second phase of which will help inform UK government thinking in the run-up to the Paris 2015 climate conference.