Options and opportunities for early adaptation and mitigation action


As demonstrated in their INDCs, countries are increasingly introducing national policies and related instruments as a contribution to the Paris Agreement and as a way to foster low-emission and climate-resilient development. This rise in the prominence of climate change in national political agendas is supported by increasing the mainstreaming of climate change in national and sectoral development priorities, raising interministerial coordination to new levels and by Parties and non-Party stakeholders coming together for more ambitious climate action now and in the future.

While climate change actions often require a holistic and integrated approach, national climate change strategies and policies are often supported by specific adaptation and mitigation policies, measures and initiatives targeting practically all key sectors and areas of the national economy.

Drawing upon the key results and developments under the TEPs, including the technical expert meetings (TEMs) organized between 2014 and 2016, the LPAA, activities envisaged under the new Global Climate Action Agenda established by the high-level champions and relevant literature, an array of actions, options and opportunities for early mitigation and adaptation action has been identified for the 2016 SPM.

Areas of action covered in the Summary for Policymakers

Building on the 2015 SPM, options and opportunities are presented here in the 2016 SPM for action in adaptation and mitigation and for areas where strong synergies exist between mitigation and adaptation as follows:

Early adaptation action:

• For planning, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation of adaptation; • In the water sector;
• For oceans and costal zones;
• In the area of disaster risk reduction.

Early action that offers significant adaptation and mitigation synergies:

• For agriculture, forestry and land use;
• For human settlements and infrastructure.

Early mitigation action

• For energy;
• For transport;
• For short-lived climate pollutants;
• Through the social and economic value of carbon and carbon pricing.

Areas of action

Planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of adaptation

Adaptation entails four key stages: 1) assessment of impacts, vulnerabilities and adaptation options; 2) adaptation planning; 3) implementation of adaptation actions; and 4) monitoring and evaluation (M&E). There are multiple approaches and guidelines for undertaking the adaptation process and implementing each of its stages, and their appropriateness depends on the nature of climate impacts and national circumstances. However, there are also a number of common challenges as well as a wealth of information about best possible solutions and best practices.

As highlighted in INDCs, countries are moving to full-scale planning and implementation of adaptation and are strengthening and scaling up existing efforts beyond stand-alone projects. Many countries are developing nationwide adaptation plans and strategies, including conducting the process to formulate and implement national adaptation plans (NAPs) and have already integrated adaptation into either their national plans and policies or some of their sectoral plans, while others are in the process of doing so.

Many developing countries are emphasizing that they are and will be undertaking adaptation with domestic support, giving a clear signal that countries are already investing significant resources in adaptation. Many underlined the need for international finance, technology transfer and capacity-building support in line with the Convention and Paris Agreement, as such support will determine the ability of Parties to safeguard developmental gains, fulfil their mitigation actions and use their domestic resources for developmental purposes rather than for adaptation.

Why action now matters

Climate change impacts, including recurring floods and droughts and widespread melting of snow and ice, are already being observed. Any delay in addressing these impacts will increase the vulnerability of people and ecosystems and also increase the adaptation costs at a later stage. Investing now in adaptation will safeguard the economic progress that has already been made and increase the climate resilience of economies on the way to achieving the SDGs.

Moving forward through policy options

Experiences and learning by doing have revealed opportunities for addressing adaptation challenges effectively and for making progress with the adaptation process. Some lessons learned and emerging best practices that present opportunities for enhancing adaptation actions are presented below.

Advancing NAPs to enhance adaptation action. The process to formulate and implement NAPs, established in 2010 to address medium- and long-term adaptation needs, offers countries the opportunity to reduce their vulnerabilities and mainstream their adaptation efforts into development planning processes. In seeking to link adaptation and socioeconomic development, the process to formulate and implement NAPs can offer a vehicle for prioritizing adaptation and providing for a transparent and legitimate national process for enhancing resilience to climate change. For example, as part of its NAP formulation Costa Rica is to establish an institutional framework under which its Adaptation Action Plan will operate and define guidelines and set timelines for the development and implementation of sectoral and territorial adaptation plans.3

The integration of adaptation into relevant development planning and budgeting cycles facilitates the consideration of adaptation needs and implementation of adaptation action. For example, in Ghana the national climate change adaptation strategy has been developed with wider consultations and budgetary considerations. Training and capacity-building programmes for planning and budgeting adaptation actions are also offered, including at the regional and international level.4

As of 30 September 2016, at least 57 developing countries, 39 of them least developed countries (LDCs), had initiated the process to formulate and implement NAPs.5 Burkina Faso, Brazil, Cameroon and Sudan submitted their NAP to the secretariat through NAP Central6 and many others are planning to have their NAPs formulated well before 2020. Such national efforts are often accompanied by specific policies, measures and initiatives in practically all key economic sectors and areas, with water, agriculture, health, ecosystems, forestry and infrastructure being reported as the priority ones.

Linking adaptation to sustainable development and disaster risk reduction. There is clear recognition that adaptation, disaster risk reduction and sustainable development have many synergies and are linked one to another. Pre-2020 adaptation efforts can lay a foundation for a more climate-resilient future, in particular if linked to the broader sustainable development policies and action on enhancing the adaptive capacity of a country, sector, community, etc. Opportunities may be found by finding entry points for adaptation in work related to achieving the SDGs, for example SDG 2 (end hunger) or SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation). Such linkage allows for comprehensive, holistic and development-focused adaptation. Similarly, linking adaptation to disaster risk reduction provides a number of avenues for enhancing societal resilience to natural disasters and climate change. Incorporating adaptation into multi-hazard risk management may be an effective strategy for the efficient integrated management of natural hazards and future climate risk.

Joint national action plan – a way to link adaptation efforts to disaster risk reduction

Noting that many disasters experienced in the Pacific relate to climate and will be further exacerbated by climate change, since 2010, Pacific island countries have taken steps to develop and implement an integrated action plan, or joint national action plan (JNAP), for climate change and disaster risk reduction. By developing JNAPs countries such as Tonga or the Marshall Islands seek to mainstream both disaster risk management and climate risk into national and subnational planning and budgetary processes. A JNAP is developed as part of a suite of national instruments to support a country’s national efforts for sustainable development and resilience (Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, 2013).

Developing monitoring and evaluation frameworks at the onset of adaptation plans and initiatives. M&E frameworks are increasingly being developed to not only take account of the outputs and outcomes of adaptation efforts but also to learn from and extract good and bad practices. In the pre-2020 adaptation process, learning, information-sharing and cross-fertilization will all be critical for enhancing adaptation. For example, the M&E framework of the Republic of Moldova developed under its NAP serves the following purposes: to assess and track progress under the successive NAPs and sectoral adaptation plans and serve as a basis to design future iterations of each plan; to create a set of overarching adaptation goals to which each sector will contribute; to allow for iterative planning and continuous, evidence-based adaptation planning; and to enforce the gradual integration of adaptation priorities into regular development planning.

Solutions through international cooperation

Multilateral and bilateral technical support and investments have increasingly contributed to developing countries’ efforts on adaptation, including the global support programmes funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) that are engaged in helping developing countries and the LDCs to prepare and build capacity for certain activities in the NAP process. Other examples include the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR), a Climate Investment Funds initiative which finances technical assistance and investments to support countries’ efforts to integrate climate risks and resilience into core development planning and implementation. Another initiative, the Global Climate Change Alliance+ (GCCA+) of the European Union (EU) provides technical and financial support to LDCs and small island developing States (SIDS) to integrate climate change into their development policies and budgets, and to implement adaptation projects and programmes. The Africa Adaptation Initiative aims to develop a proposal for enhanced support to Africa on adaptation and on loss and damage, in the context of the UNFCCC process and the Green Climate Fund (GCF).7

International cooperation on adaptation

A2R is a global, United Nations led, multi-stakeholder initiative that seeks to accelerate action on the ground to enhance climate resilience of the most vulnerable by 2020. It provides a platform for governments, international organizations, businesses and civil society to work in partnership to strengthen climate resilience. Collective action will focus on three capacities fundamental to resilience – anticipating, absorbing and reshaping. The initiative supports the scaling up of transformative projects from different United Nations agencies in several areas.

The private sector also has an important role to play; for example, the Global Adaptation and Resilience Investment Working Group, launched by Siguler Guff, will mobilize private sector investment in climate adaptation and resilience. The Working Group is evaluating the potential for a USD 1 billion investment vehicle that could invest in both developed and developing countries around climate adaptation and resilience. The Dutch financial institution ING has committed to allocate at least 20 per cent of the proceeds from the issuance of a five-year EUR 500 million and three-year USD 800 million green bond to fund new projects, including for resilience.

Source: of-the-worlds-most-vulnerable-countries-and-people/.
3Presentation made by Costa Rica at the TEM on adaptation on 24 May 2016. Available here
4Presentation made by Ghana at the TEM on adaptation on 24 May 2016. Available here
6Available here here
7Presentation made by the Africa Adaptation Initiative at the TEM on adaptation on 25 May 2016. Available here.

Areas of action

Water resources

Climate change increases the vulnerability of water resources as already about 80 per cent of the world’s population experience serious threats to water security. Climate change is affecting the availability and accessibility (quantity) and degradation (quality) of water resources, leading to adverse impacts on ecosystems and biodiversity; agriculture and food security; land use and forestry; water supply and sanitation; health; and urban settlements and infrastructure. Impacts on regional water availability and accessibility could lead to regional water crises, resulting in economic destabilization and conflict, which would affect poor and vulnerable people the most.

Why action now matters

Water is the primary medium through which climate change influences Earth’s ecosystem and thus the livelihood and well-being of societies. Higher temperatures and changes in extreme weather conditions are projected to affect the availability and distribution of rainfall, snowmelt, river flows and groundwater, and further degrade water quality. The poor, who are the most vulnerable, are likely to be adversely affected. Impacts on regional water availability and accessibility could lead to regional water crises, resulting in economic destabilization and conflict, which would affect poor and vulnerable people the most.

Parties have recognized water as one of the priority sectors for addressing adaptation. Out of the 137 Parties that included an adaptation component in their intended nationally determined contributions by 4 April 2016, 94 of them referred to adaptation actions in the water sector.

Moving forward through policy options

At the national level, adaptive approaches to water management, including scenario planning, flexible and ‘low regret’ solutions that can contend with uncertainty, can help to strengthen the capacity to adapt to changes. Institutional options for adaptation include supporting integrated water resources management, forming water utility network working teams and developing financial tools for the sustainable management of water.

Adaptation options related to the design and operation of programmes include embracing decision-making tools that take uncertainty into consideration, revising design criteria of water infrastructure to optimize flexibility and robustness, diversifying water resources, reducing demand and improving the design and operation of water-related infrastructure to contend with variations in quality and quantity. It can also be very useful to take an integrated approach to consider industrial uses and agricultural needs as well as assessing the need for water in other practices (Jiménez Cisneros et al., 2014).

Recognizing the transboundary nature of water resources affecting communities from different countries and regions at all levels, an inclusive and structured process to engage stakeholders at the lowest accountable level helps to manage conflict and promote ownership of adaptation interventions. A mix of top-down and bottom-up measures (from the transboundary or international level to the regional, national and local levels) are beneficial in this context. Bilateral frameworks and directives could also provide the necessary political will and help in accessing financial resources (UNFCCC, 2015).

Solutions through international cooperation

There are a number of initiatives that have been launched which help to advance water resilience. For example, the Business Alliance for Water and Climate commits companies to one or more of the following actions: analysing and sharing water-related risks to implement collaborative response strategies; measuring water footprints; and/or reducing impacts on water availability and quality in direct operations and along the company’s value chain.

Countries are also considering water risks and taking them into account in their planning. For example, the Zambezi Basin is developing a strategic plan in the context of a changing climate, studying future risks and implications of climate change scenarios, especially in the light of hydropower and irrigation project design.8 Also, in Spain, the Adapta Initiative was launched to develop tools to incorporate risk and vulnerability in business strategies. Under the initiative, companies such as Endesa, a representative of the energy sector, have assessed the impacts of various scenarios of climate change on hydroelectric plants to help to make more informed decisions.9

International cooperation on water

At COP 21 in Paris, a coalition of countries, river basin organizations, private sector and civil-society organizations – comprising almost 290 water basin organizations - announced the Paris Pact on Water and Climate Change Adaptation to increase the resilience of water systems. The pact includes commitments to implement adaptation plans, strengthen water monitoring systems in river basins, and make new investments in water systems management. The underlying projects represent over USD 20 million in technical assistance and potentially over USD 1 billion in financing. Source: in-the-basins-of-rivers-lakes-and-aquifers.

8Presentation made by the Zambezi River Commission at the TEM on adaptation on 25 May 2016. Available here
9Presentation made by Endesa at the TEM on adaptation on 25 May 2016. Available here

Areas of action

Oceans and coastal zones

Oceans play critical roles in stabilizing the Earth’s climate, having absorbed 93 per cent of the extra energy from the enhanced greenhouse effect. They have also absorbed roughly 30 per cent of anthropogenic CO2 emissions from the atmosphere (Hoegh-Guldberg et al., 2014). In addition, ocean and coastal zones provide social, economic and nutritional benefits, and contribute an estimated USD 3–6 trillion to the global economy (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2011).

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), coastal systems are particularly vulnerable to climate impacts, given the multitude of such impacts, such as sea level rise, heightened ocean temperatures and rising levels of ocean acidity. With rising seas, low-lying areas and coastal systems will be increasingly exposed to flooding, erosion and submergence. Changes in storms and storm surges can further exacerbate these impacts. People and assets located on the coast will increasingly be at risk, especially as populations grow and urbanization increases. With warming and more acidic coastal waters, ecosystems will be greatly affected, with negative impacts on calcifying organisms, leading to coral bleaching and mortality. Coral reefs will be the most vulnerable marine ecosystem to climate impacts, with little scope for adaptation.

Why action now matters

If oceans’ capacity to serve as a carbon sink decreases and their heat-buffering ability weakens, the energy imbalance could be reversed in future years. As temperatures and acidification rise, some adaptation options in the sector may no longer exist, for example as ecosystem functions are lost and marine species, especially calcifying organisms, become extinct. The International Union for Conservation of Nature established that ocean warming may well turn out to be the greatest hidden challenge of our generation because of the ‘truly staggering’ rate of warming that is changing the behaviour of marine species, reducing fishing zones and spreading disease.10

Only healthy natural habitats – particularly coral reefs – can protect people and property from the storm surge, erosion and floods that result from global warming and climate change. For example, the destruction of mangrove forests and coral reefs off the coasts of South-East Asia has reduced protection against tidal waves and flooding. In addition, proactive adaptation planning that engages coastal communities can save lives and infrastructure.

Moving forward through policy options

Ample adaptation options exist to strengthen the adaptive capacity of oceans and coastal systems, and many best practices have emerged. Planning may embrace several approaches, including the protection of people, property and infrastructure, for example through hard measures such as building seawalls and soft measures, including coastal management programmes and enhancement of vegetation. Planning can also include measures for accommodation, which involves changes to activities and infrastructure, and managed retreat, which involves moving away from the coast when no other options exist.

Jurisdictions have been undertaking measures to increase the resilience of their coastal areas for some time. For example, the Netherlands has established its Delta Programme, which focuses on long-term flooding, risks to fresh water and adaptation. It does so through considering uncertainty and advancing institutional arrangements and a multi-governmental approach with various water authorities, provinces and municipalities.11

Solutions through international cooperation

Several initiatives have been launched under the LPAA to increase coastal resilience, including the launch of a coalition to develop early warning systems for more than 50 LDCs and SIDS by 2020 and the EU contribution of EUR 125 million to finance emergency actions for those affected by the El Niño/Southern Oscillation, among others. In addition, the Adaptation of West African Coastal Area initiative has been established to increase the adaptive capacity of those in West Africa, especially with regard to flooding and erosion. It aims to reduce coastal erosion hotspots by 30 per cent by 2020 and 70 per cent by 2025, protect 30 per cent of the population in priority flooding areas by 2020 and 70 per cent by 2025 and have a coastal information monitoring system operating in all participating countries by 2020.12 In 2015, the Delta Coalition of 12 countries was established13 to bring deltas to the forefront of global policy discussions, build partnerships and focus on action. Its aim is to increase the resilience of almost 12 million people living in deltas in these 12 countries.

11Presentation made by the Netherlands at the TEM on adaptation on 24 May 2016. Available here
12UNFCCC Newsroom
13The following countries are part of the Delta Coalition: Bangladesh, Colombia, Egypt, France, Indonesia, Japan, Mozambique, Myanmar, Netherlands, Philippines, Republic of Korea and Viet Nam.

Areas of action

Disaster Risk Reduction

Disaster risk reduction encompasses activities that reduce the damage brought about by natural hazards, such as floods, droughts and cyclones. Disasters have taken a heavy toll in recent years, with over 700,000 losing their lives, 1.4 million injured and 23 million made homeless from disasters in the last decade. Economic losses of more than USD 1.3 trillion have ensued. More than 1.5 billion people have been affected in some way by disasters, and the most vulnerable, including women and children, are being affected the most (United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, 2015).

Why action now matters

New risks that increase the exposure of people and assets to disasters are arising from existing and emerging economic and social processes, and growing faster than existing risks are being reduced. The most effective adaptation and disaster risk reduction actions are those that offer development benefits in the relatively short term, as well as reductions in vulnerability over the longer term. This alone is a strong incentive to act urgently and integrate disaster risk reduction efforts into adaptation action (Field et al, 2012).

Moving forward through policy options

Options to enhance disaster risk management include ‘low regret’ strategies that produce significant development benefits, such as early warning systems, risk communication, sustainable land management, and ecosystem management and restoration. Other options include improvements in water supply, sanitation, health, irrigation and draining systems, ‘climate proofing’ of infrastructure, building code development and enforcement and improved awareness and education (Field et al, 2012).

Effective management of risks typically involves a range of actions that both reduce and transfer risk and respond to events and disasters. They are most effective when they are customized to the local situation and informed by local circumstances. Measures can include both ‘hard’ infrastructure-based responses and ‘soft’ solutions such as ecosystem-based responses and capacity-building (Field et al, 2012).

Integration of climate risks into land planning: the Philippines

The Philippines is integrating climate risks into land planning, developing multi-hazard maps to advance strategic planning and advancing climate information through the development of automatic weather stations. The country is also surfacing farm to market roads to make them more durable in inclement weather, pursuing financing and risk transfer instruments on climate change, among other actions.14

Solutions through international cooperation

Jurisdictions, the private sector and communities are advancing disaster risk reduction in a number of ways. For example, the Group of Seven initiative on climate risk insurance has a goal to increase access to insurance for up to 500 million of the most vulnerable people in developing countries by 2020. In so doing, it aims to stimulate the creation of climate risk insurance markets and the use of insurance-related schemes for those people and assets at risk.15

International cooperation on disaster risk reduction

The United Nations recently adopted the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030, which seeks to reduce disaster risks and losses. The framework has seven targets, including on: reducing disaster mortality, number of affected people, economic losses, damage to critical infrastructure; increasing disaster risk reduction strategies, early warning systems and support.

It has also embraced four priorities for action: understanding disaster risk, strengthening disaster risk governance, investing in disaster risk reduction and enhancing disaster preparedness (United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, 2015). To encourage implementation of the framework, in July 2016, the United Nations Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction launched a new multi-year campaign, the Sendai Seven campaign, named after the framework’s seven targets.16

The Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems (CREWS) is an initiative bringing together the Global Facility for Disaster Risk Reduction from the World Bank, the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Office for Disaster Reduction to strengthen the early warning systems in LDCs and SIDs that lie at the heart of resilience. CREWS aims to mobilize US$ 100 million by 2020 in order to fill the gaps in the exiting bilateral and multilateral cooperation programmes to ensure that all relevant small island developing states and least developed countries are expected to have at least moderate early warning system and risk information capacities. A trust fund hosted by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery will support the development of implementing institutions and organizations and their activities.

14Presentation made by the Philippines at the TEM on adaptation on 24 May 2016. Available here
15UNFCCC Newsroom

Areas of action

Agriculture, Forestry and other land use

Consideration of climate change in agriculture, forestry and other land use (AFOLU) can greatly contribute in achieving adaptation and mitigation objectives. For developing countries, agriculture, including fisheries, forestry and other land use play a pivotal role in economic development, particularly for employment, exports and rural development. While these sectors are highly vulnerable to climate change, they also contribute almost a quarter of anthropogenic GHG emissions largely from deforestation and agriculture emissions from livestock, nutrient management and soil (Smith et al, 2014). Overall, there is a strong interaction between adaptation and mitigation in AFOLU, with carbon storage in a number of terrestrial ecosystems projected to decrease with warming (Settele et al, 2014).

Why action now matters

Climate change will have far-reaching consequences for agriculture, forestry and other land use as it disproportionately affects the poor. Greater number of crop failures and livestock deaths are already imposing economic losses and undermining food security. Adaptation measures are urgently needed if countries want to achieve their sustainable development goals by 2030, in particular goal number 2 related to ending hunger, achieving food security and improving nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture.

Increasing action to reduce the sector’s emissions in the short term is critical for the full realization of the sector’s mitigation potential. Barriers to mitigation action in the agriculture, forestry and other land use sector include: long implementation time frames, a lack of building readiness capacity and inadequate subnational integration and multilevel governance. In addition, many actions are sitespecific or cannot easily be replicated and scaled up across different ecosystems or under different governance structures. Without signals in the next few years that guide policymaking and private sector investments, these barriers may not be fully overcome. Such signals are critical because in India alone, according to the World Bank Annual Report 2015 (World Bank, 2016), climate change can push 45 million people into extreme poverty over the next 15 years. As a solution, it was recommended, in addition to policies addressing these barriers, to use more climate-resilient crops and livestock to counter a predicted drop in agricultural productivity.

Moving forward through policy options

There are many policy options in AFOLU, such as improved agricultural practices through enhanced efficiency and productivity in agriculture and land restoration that can unlock large mitigation potential while in the same time contributing to improved productivity and resilience, and promoting rural development. For mitigation specifically, there are two baskets of interventions for reducing emissions in the AFOLU sector that focus on demand and supply sides. Supply-side options and measures include land use management and planning, sustainable forest management, reduced deforestation, and increasing carbon stocks, including through afforestation. Specifically for agriculture, policy options and measures focus on improved agricultural practices. Such practices encompass conservation agriculture, improved livestock and manure management, more carbon efficient, profitable livestock production systems, and optimal fertilizer use. Demand-side measures, which are under-researched compared to supply-side measure, on the other hand, target demand for products, such as reducing waste in the food supply chain, and dietary changes (Edenhofer et all, 2014).

In terms of specific adaptation options, altering cultivation and sowing times as well as crop cultivars and species have proven to be effective for agriculture (Porter et al, 2014). Efforts should be made to link identified actions with budget provision and assistance for small-scale farmers, fishers and forest-dependent communities (FAO, 2016).

Commitments on reducing emissions in forests and land use change

Many commitments were announced at the Paris Conference, including:

• Paraguay is recovering and protecting 1 million hectares of forests by 2030, working in partnership with the Itaipu Binacional company and with international support, with a potential emissions reductions of 200 million t CO2 eq;

• Indonesia is tackling deforestation and forest degradation through improvements in forest governance, transparency and stakeholder participation.

In addition, as of 30 September 2016, 162 INDCs representing 190 Parties had been communicated to the secretariat. 73 per cent of the INDCs covered the land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) sector, including the implementation of activities for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (REDD plus). Some Parties mentioned actions in the LULUCF sector among the priority areas in the implementation of their INDCs.

Solutions through international cooperation

Several adaptation initiatives were launched in recent years to advance resilience in the sector. For example, the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative a regional programme which aims to reverse land degradation and desertification, boost food security and support local communities to adapt to climate change. The Food Security Climate Resilience Facility, led by the World Food Programme, financially and programmatically supports community-centred action to reinforce and build climate resilience, addressing loss and damage from climate disasters and boost resilience following disasters. The R4 Rural Resilience Initiative, launched by the World Food Programme and Oxfam America, with support from Swiss Re, focuses on increasing food security and climate resilience for vulnerable rural households

International cooperation on fostering resilience of agriculture and ensuring food security

The “4 pour mille” Initiative was launched in recognition that restoring degraded agricultural lands and increasing the soil carbon rate play an important role in addressing the three-fold challenge of food security, adaptation of food systems and people to climate change, and mitigation of humaninduced emissions. The 4/1000 engages stakeholders in shifting towards resilient agriculture through sustainable soil management that generates jobs and incomes, thereby ensuring sustainable development. It also aims to strengthen existing synergies between the three Rio Conventions - the UNFCCC, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and the Convention on Biological Diversity - and the Committee for Food Security (CFS), the Global Soil Partnership (GSP) and the SDGs. The initiative consists of a voluntary action plan under the LPAA, backed up by an ambitious research programme. The official launch of the initiative took place at COP 21.


While new mitigation initiatives are being launched since the release of the 2015 SPM, existing initiatives are increasing their ambition and reach. For example, additional commitments were made under the Bonn Challenge initiative to restore an additional 60 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded land. Under the 20X20 initiative, African and Latin American countries are working to restore 20 million hectares of land by 2020.

International cooperation on REDD-plus

Under the UNFCCC, countries have agreed on a framework for REDD-plus and on a voluntary basis a number of developing countries are submitting data in relation to their REDD+ activities. In order to enhance the capacity of developing countries to measure REDD-plus results and support countries in utilizing REDD-plus mitigation potential, the UNFCCC secretariat regularly organizes independent expert verification of voluntarily submitted REDD-plus data.

At COP21, leaders from Germany, Norway and the UK announced a pledge to provide over USD 5 billion from 2015 to 2020 if forest countries demonstrate measured, reported and verified emissions reductions. They will fund forest countries that come forward with ambitious and high quality proposals and aim to provide increase pay-for-performance finance. They will also scale up support and technical assistance to improve governance, build capacity, address land tenure, strengthen sustainable land use, and promote participation. German, Norway and the UK stand also ready to partner with the private sector to transform supply chains into ones that are deforestation free.


Private sector actors also have established goals in agriculture, forestry and other land use. The Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 (TFA2020), for example, is a public-private partnership that seeks to stop commoditydriven deforestation from all supply chains by 2020. Inspired by the Paris Agreement, private sector actors are encouraging participation in TFA2020 as one of the innovative climate low-carbon initiatives under the We Mean Business Coalition. This Coalition encompasses a total of over 600 companies and investors committed to action, aiming to extend and deepen business engagement in public private collaboration across the key thematic areas of the action agenda, including in agriculture, forestry and other land use. Also, Unilever and Marks &Spencer signed a new pledge for responsible sourcing for major commodities and Mondelez committed USD 400 million to support sustainable cocoa with zero net deforestation in Africa.

Areas of action

Human settlements and infrastructure

With the strong trends towards urbanization and infrastructure development, leading not only to a rise in GHG emissions but also to an increasing number of human and physical assets exposed to the adverse effects of climate change, the built environment provides one of the best opportunities to address climate change impacts in the short and long term through mitigation and adaptation solutions that complement each other.

Buildings alone account for almost a third of global final energy use, thus contributing to 19 per cent of energy- related GHG emissions. The energy use and related emissions could double to triple by mid-century, driven by an increase in demand stemming chiefly from increased urbanization (Lucon et al, 2014). In turn, human settlements are increasingly being affected by climate change disrupting their ecological, social and economic functions. For example, the increase in impervious surfaces in human settlements together with changing precipitation patterns lead to flooding or increased flood risk. The densification of the population and the lack of green space in urban environments compounded with more severe and frequent periods of extreme heat increase the urban heat island effect in cities, leading to poor air quality and exposing a higher percentage of people to climate-related health risks.

Why action now matters

Settlements, in particular buildings and related infrastructure, have long lifespans and small turnover. Reducing emissions and making settlements and infrastructure more resilient can be highly dependent on adequate short-term policy signals, and their absence can lead to locked in carbonintensive trajectories and high vulnerabilities. The new construction that is now occurring all over the world, and especially in developing countries, should be viewed as an opportunity to advance best-practice technologies and concepts. Also, lifestyle and behavioural changes can reduce energy demand significantly – in developed countries by up to 20 per cent in the short term and by up to 50 per cent by mid-century compared with present levels – but this is not easy. Policy and regulatory signals, especially if advanced in the near future, can help to foster such behavioural changes, and help to encourage ‘leapfrogging’ of inefficient practices in buildings. (Edenhofer et al, 2014)

Moving forward through policy options

Many options and opportunities exist for human settlements and infrastructure to enhance mitigation and adaptation. For example, regulatory instruments – such as low-energy building codes and energy performance standards for appliances, public procurement policies, advanced concepts (e.g. passive houses), building retrofits and tax incentives ranging from tax allowances and tax breaks to accelerated depreciation of investments – have proved to be cost-effective in many countries with regard to enhancing energy efficiency and reducing emissions in buildings. As a result of technologies, know-how and policies in the sector, it is feasible for the sector’s final energy use to stabilize or even decline by mid-century. Co-benefits of reduced emissions include energy security, health and environmental improvements thanks to reduced air pollution, alleviation of fuel poverty and reduced energy expenditures.

Resilience of settlements and infrastructure can be enhanced through better land-use planning, building regulations to retrofit or flood proof structures and selective relocation. Buildings can be upgraded to provide more ventilation and passive cooling to help populations that are vulnerable to extreme heat. Investment in engineering prototypes can act as a springboard for ‘climate proofing’ settlements. Simple and low-cost pilot interventions could be used as launching pads for actions that enhance resilience to climate change, especially in rural and low-income settlements (UNFCCC, 2015). Above all, it is key to mainstream adaptation measures into urban planning and land-use management and related legal and regulatory frameworks.

Solutions through international cooperation

Several initiatives exist to drive adaptation and mitigation in human settlements and infrastructure. For example, a record number of cities are now measuring and disclosing environmental data on an annual basis in order to manage emissions, build resilience and protect themselves from the growing impacts of climate change. A total of 533 cities globally representing 621 million citizens reported the actions they are taking on climate to the non-profit CDP (formerly the ‘’Carbon Disclosure Project’’) this year, a rise of 70 per cent from 2015 (CDP, 2016). Other initiatives include the International Finance Corporation supporting the development of green building codes for Colombia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Viet Nam and subsequently developing codes at the city level in these countries or the Building Efficiency Accelerator Platform of UNEP, which seeks to double the rate of energy efficiency improvement by helping local governments to adopt best practices and implement projects.

International cooperation on human settlements and infrastructure

At COP 21, the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction was launched by 16 countries and over 60 organizations. The alliance seek to scale up the implementation and adoption of climate policies by the building sector. It will raise awareness of progress made and new opportunities. It will also forge new partnerships, with partners providing knowledge, funding and implementation support.


Areas of action


The energy supply sector is the largest contributor to global GHG emissions. The annual growth of emissions from the sector has accelerated tremendously in recent years, largely as a result of higher energy demand to fuel economic growth and an increase in the use of coal (Edenhofer et al, 2014).

Why action now matters

While studies show that it is possible to achieve the necessary scale of change in the sector, increasing ambition in the short term, as well as the long term, will be essential (Morgan et al., 2015). Energy transformation takes time. Most power plants have a lifetime of around three decades. A deployment of renewables at scale will require investments in storage systems (Höhne et al., 2013). Many renewable energy technologies also require direct support, such as feed-in tariffs or renewable energy quotas, or indirect support, such as through carbon prices, if their shares are to increase (Edenhofer et al, 2014). The longer we delay, the more we risk carbon lock-in in our current systems and infrastructure, larger-scale and more costly retrofits, ever greater reliance on advancing all technologies at larger scales (including carbon dioxide capture and storage and nuclear) and overall higher costs (Höhne et al., 2013).

Notably, global energy-related CO2 emissions were flat in 2014 while gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 3 per cent during the same time. While it remains to be seen whether this trend continues, it is the first time in at least four decades that we have witnessed a decoupling of emissions and the global economy, without emissions being reduced owing to an economic crisis (IEA, 2015a).

The potential for emission reductions in the energy sector is greater than in any other sector (Höhne et al, 2013). There are several key opportunities for reducing emissions in the sector, namely promoting carbon-free energy sources such as increasing renewable energy and nuclear power, enhancing energy efficiency at all stages of energy production, distribution and consumption, deployment of carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS) and developing other innovative technologies (Edenhofer et al, 2014).

Moving forward through policy options

The 2015 SPM notes several best practices for policy options regarding renewable energy, energy efficiency and CCUS. A summary of recent advancements in these three thematic areas is provided below.

The shift towards renewable energy is being made not only because of the climate benefits but also because of the positive impacts on welfare, trade, jobs and GDP. Best practices for policy options aim at increasing the share of renewable energy in the energy supply mix by facilitating grid access and promoting distributed generation for renewables, establishing renewable energy targets, providing fiscal and financial incentives and putting in place feed-in tariffs.

Recent advancements in renewable energy supply

As of early 2015, 164 countries had renewable energy targets, up from 144 countries in 2014. In addition, 73 countries and 35 states/provinces (in Australia, Canada, China, India and the United States of America) had adopted feed-in policies. Furthermore, 26 countries and 72 states/provinces had established renewable portfolio standards or quota policies and 126 countries had adopted a financial support policy, such as tax reductions, grants, or low-interest loans to level the playing field for renewables (REN21, 2015).

China’s new wind power capacity hit a record high in 2015 amid increasing efforts from the Chinese Government to boost clean energy. In 2015, Morocco officially turned on a massive solar power plant in the Sahara Desert, kicking off the first phase of a planned project to provide renewable energy to more than a million Moroccans. At the subnational level, the State of New York announced in June 2016 its plan to generate half of its power from renewable sources by 2030 and dramatically reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.

There are significant benefits from energy efficiency , including sizable financial returns. Energy efficiency can also support energy security, greater reliability in energy systems and social and environmental benefits (IEA, 2015b). Best practices in policy options for increasing energy efficiency include: the introduction of electrical appliance standards and labelling programmes, provision of tax incentives, energy performance standards for buildings and certification programmes, and the encouragement of energy efficiency in industry. In Viet Nam the introduction of a voluntary labelling scheme prompted one major lamp importer to stop importing low-efficiency lamps and ballasts, and influenced the largest local lighting manufacturer to develop more efficient compact fluorescent lamps and ballasts in advance of the introduction of Minimum Energy Performance Standards. The same local manufacturer also established a light-emitting diode (LED) programme in anticipation of more demanding future regulations (IEA, 2015c).

Energy Management Systems

Energy management systems and ISO 50001 gained further momentum with the launch of the Energy Management Campaign at the seventh meeting of the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) held in June 2016. The campaign aims at driving action to achieve 50001 global certifications by 2020. The CEM estimates that the worldwide implementation of ISO 50001 by large energy-using organizations could achieve cumulative energy savings of 62 exajoules by 2030, cost savings of US$ 600 billion, and 6,500 Megatonne of avoided emissions of carbon dioxide. The projected annual greenhouse gas emissions savings in 2030 are equivalent to removing 215 million passenger vehicles from the road.

There are several best practices regarding advancing carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS), including: financial support and research and development, regulatory and legal frameworks and carbon pricing. In November 2015, the Quest Carbon Capture and Storage project in Alberta, Canada, was launched. This is the world’s first largescale CCUS project that will reduce emissions from oil sands processing.

Solutions through international cooperation

Over the past year, significant action has been carried out globally to advance cooperation in the sector. For example, at the 7th Clean Energy Ministerial (June 2016), the Corporate Sourcing of Renewables Campaign, comprising several governments, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance, RE100, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the World Resources Institute (WRI) and others, committed to building partnerships to increase the number of companies sourcing renewable energy for their operations (Clean Energy Ministerial, undated).

In addition, India and the United States of America signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in June 2016 to advance energy efficiency and clean energy, among other goals. In so doing, they committed to create a US-India Clean Energy Finance initiative to mobilize finance for clean and renewable electricity to up to 1 million households by 2020, a US-India Clean Energy Hub to increase renewable energy investments in India and a US-India Catalytic Solar Finance Program (The White House, 2016).

The International Solar Alliance was launched by India and France at COP 21 and includes about 120 countries that support the promotion of solar energy . Additionally, the Solar Energy Standardization Initiative was recently launched, which seeks to spur global solar development by standardizing contracts that can be used across industry, enabling more efficient pooling of cash flows and evaluation (GreenBiz, 2013).

Also at COP 21, the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative was initiated by the African Union Commission, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development’s, the African Group of negotiators, the African Development Bank, UNEP and IRENA, which committed to install large-scale renewable energy capacity on the African continent by 2020. Several other initiatives were launched at COP 21, including Better Hydro Better Climate and the Global Clean Water Desalination Alliance.

International cooperation on energy

Mission Innovation is a partnership that was launched at COP 21, when 20 countries pledged to accelerate the pace of clean energy innovation and double clean energy research and development investment over five years. Investments will focus on those technology innovations that transform clean energy and are scalable to varying economic and energy market conditions. The aspiration is that the developments attract private investors and that the investments facilitate affordable access to these critical technologies (Mission Innovation, 2015).

At the inaugural Mission Innovation meeting held in San Francisco, California on June 2, 2016 ministers from all Mission Innovation partners released their respective governments’ plans to double clean energy research and development funding to reach around $30 billion per year in governmental investment by 2021. Ministers also welcomed the European Commission on behalf of the European Union as the 21st partner.

Areas of action

Low-carbon sustainable public transport

The transport sector is a key enabler of economic growth and international trade, and demand for transportation services continues to grow, thus increasing emissions. Countries and jurisdictions around the world are designing and implementing policies and actions to enable low-carbon transport, primarily because of the mitigation co-benefits such as reduced local air pollution, improved public health and energy security, decongestion of roads, improved safety and increased general mobility. The shift towards low-carbon transport can also create jobs in mass transportation, energy-efficient vehicle manufacturing and biofuel production.

Why action now matters

Increasing pre-2020 ambition in the transport sector is essential for avoiding future lock-in, given the slow turnover of vehicle stocks, longevity of transport infrastructure and expanding urban sprawl, for making progress in the face of increased growth in demand and for harnessing major co-benefits on reducing air pollution and improving public health. The shift towards low-carbon transport and realizing renewable energy and energy efficiency potential will depend on significant investments by vehicle manufacturers, which will, in turn, require strengthening incentives and policies (Edenhofer et al, 2014). It also takes time to change the behaviour of consumers, which will be a necessary element for realizing modal shifts (REN21, 2016).

Moving forward through policy options

The best practices in the transport sector center around the Avoid-Shift-Improve framework (LEDS Global Partnership, undated).

Avoid policies seek to reduce or avoid the need for trips by reducing travel demand. This can be achieved through integrated land-use planning, transport infrastructure planning and transport demand management policies. For example, integrated transport planning has been pursued in Curitiba, Brazil; London, United Kingdom; Madrid, Spain; Qingdao and Hong Kong, China, and Singapore (Litman, 2014).

Shift policies change the way people and freight are moved by facilitating adoption of more environmentally friendly transport modes, including mass transit, car sharing and non-motorized transport. For example, bus rapid transit programmes, which have helped to cut private car use, have been adopted in: Auckland, New Zealand; Belo Horizonte, Brazil; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Chengdu and Yichang, China; Mexico City, Mexico; and Seoul, Republic of Korea (Institute for Transportation & Development Policy, 2013). Several jurisdictions are also pursuing non-motorized transportation. For example, in China, Beijing has established a bike sharing programme and Nanjing has developed pedestrian roads. Bogota, Colombia, has segregated bicycle lanes. In Utrecht, Netherlands, mini-roundabouts and other approaches have been developed to support cycling. Trains, trams and metros have also been advanced around the world, and the prominent examples are Bangkok, Thailand, and Singapore.

Improve policies focus on improvements in vehicles and fuels. This is chiefly achieved through the fuel economy standards that have been adopted in many countries, including Brazil, Canada, China, Japan, Mexico, the Republic of Korea and the United States. Improvements have also been achieved through pursuing hydrogen and electric vehicle (EV) programmes. For example, Germany has established a National Innovation Programme for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology; Finland has a fuel cell programme; the Republic of Korea has advanced hydrogen and fuel cell automobile research; and the United Kingdom has its H2Mobility programme (IEA, undated; Tekes, undated). Also, EV policies or integrated systems to support EVs have been established in several cities/countries, including Bogota (electric taxi programme), China (5 million EV deployment target); the EU (directive on the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure); Oslo, Norway (local tax incentives for EVs); Tokyo, Japan (integrated urban system), and India (National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020) (IEA, 2016; IEA, 2014).

Solutions though international cooperation

Multilateral partnerships between governments, cities, development institutions and the private sector can play a critical role in building commitment and supporting robust capacity-building and ongoing collaboration towards low-carbon transport. Several partnerships were launched under the LPAA that can support these objectives and can have a significant impact in catalysing effective low-carbon transport action globally. These include: the Paris Process on Mobility and Climate; the Declaration on Climate Leadership by the International Association of Public Transport; the Low Carbon Rail Transport Challenge led by the International Union of Railways; the MobiliseYourCity Initiative; and the Global Fuel Economy Initiative.

In addition, there are a number of multilateral, bilateral and regional development institutions and initiatives supporting finance, technology transfer and capacity-building. Examples include the Africa Sustainable Transport Forum, the Declaration from Ministers on Green and Inclusive Transport agreed at the International Transport Forum of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Electric Vehicles Initiative of the Clean Energy Ministerial, motor vehicle energy efficiency and emissions control programmes in the Group of 20 (G20) nations, the Partnership on Sustainable Low Carbon Transport and the Clean Energy Partnership promoting the use of hydrogen.

Action by ICAO and IMO on international transport and climate change

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) have advanced rules and regulations related to curbing emissions from the international aviation and maritime transportation and thus complementing the ambition of the Paris Agreement.

Since 2010, ICAO established aspirational goals of improving global annual average fuel efficiency by 2 per cent per year and carbon neutral growth from 2020. Means to achieve these goals include the recommendation of the first ever CO2 standard for airplanes, encouraging the development and deployment of sustainable alternative fuels, development of more than 100 State Action Plans and provision of assistance to States. At its Assembly in October this year ICAO passed another historic milestone and adopted the first ever global market-based measure scheme to regulate emissions from international aviation; pursuant to the scheme, the airline carriers will have to offset emissions growth from 2020. The IMO introduced in 2013 mandatory energy efficiency standards for new ships and has approved draft amendment to MARPOL Convention. The amendment that is expected to be adopted in October 2016, shall establish mandatory reporting of fuel consumption and transport work parameters by ships.

Both, ICAO and IMO are established to develop globally harmonized rules, and their experience and understanding of effective implementation by governments and industry of those rules can be helpful to support technology innovation and deployment, facilitate enabling environments and strengthen technology transfer and capacity-building.

Strengthening of efficiency standards in North America

In June 2016, Canada, Mexico and the United States committed to reduce emissions from lightand heavy-duty vehicles by aligning fuel efficiency and/or emissions standards, accelerating the deployment of clean vehicles in government fleets, and fostering research and development of clean technologies, and greater freight transportation (Office of the Prime-Minister of Canada, 2016).

Areas of action

Short-lived climate pollutants

Short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) contribute to human-induced climate change even though they do not last long in the atmosphere. SLCPs include methane (CH4) (which persists in the atmosphere for a decade), black carbon (days to weeks), nitrous oxide (N2O) (114 years) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) (about 15 years). These gases are emitted from a range of sectors, such as CH4 from fossil fuel extraction, distribution and combustion, industrial processes, agricultural sources and waste management; N2O from industrial processes, agriculture and the waste sector; and fluorinated gases (F-gases) from industrial processes . They are responsible for as much as one third of the total greenhouse forcing in 2010 (Shoemaker et al., 2013).

Why action now matters

One way to mitigate climate impacts over the next few decades is to pursue actions that reduce shortlived climate pollutants (SLCPs). Reducing SLCPs achieves climate benefits in a cost-effective way in a short time frame and lowers the need to overshoot temperature targets. Reducing SLCPs can bring about significant sustainable development benefits, which include the protection of the ozone layer and increased health and sanitation benefits. Reducing emissions in the agriculture sector contributes to improved water quality, erosion control and more efficient fertilizer use. In addition, processing fugitive methane (CH4) in coal mines, and from oil and gas transmission and distribution systems, improves health and safety conditions (Shoemaker et al., 2013).

Moving forward through policy options

As outlined in the 2015 SPM, many options exist to address these SLCPs, including regulatory measures, economic instruments and support for research and development.

There are many opportunities to provide clear and comprehensive regulatory frameworks and policies across various sectors relating to SLCPs. Waste is a sector where many countries have in place regulations to prevent pollution through waste minimization, separation and recycling, which helps to reduce CH4 emissions from landfills, and to use the remaining CH4 as fuel. In many cases, such regulatory actions are taken at the subnational level. For example, California’s draft strategy released in April 2016 includes regulatory measures to reduce SLCPs, including targeting CH4 emissions at dairies and landfills, accelerating the transition of refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment, reducing wood combustion black carbon emissions, among other measures (Mulkern, 2015; California Environmental Protection Agency, 2016).

Economic instruments have been used successfully in many countries and across a broad range of projects to encourage the reduction of non-CO2 emissions. This ranges from the use of emissions trading schemes (ETS) to reduce N2O emissions, for example the EU Emissions Trading System, to taxes on F-gases, for example in Spain, and taxes on waste, such as a waste water discharge tax and waste disposal tax in most countries.

Investment in and support for research, development and demonstration projects can help to deliver new technologies for reducing SLCPs, including research on the replacement of high global warming potential HFCs with low global warming potential alternatives and on how to reduce CH4 and N2O from agriculture, for example in New Zealand, Ireland and Uganda.

Solutions through international cooperation

Since the publication of the 2015 SPM, there have been several developments on reducing SLCPs. For example, at COP 21, under the Municipal Solid Waste Initiative that aims to mitigate SLCPs from landfill, a goal was established to secure commitments from at least another 50 cities to develop and implement plans of action in this area by 2020. Canada, Mexico and the United States committed to a North American Climate, Clean Energy and Environment Partnership in June 2016, which, among other things, aims to reduce CH4 emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40–45 per cent by 2025 (CCAC, 2016b).

In addition, at the United States-Nordic Leaders Summit in May 2016 a joint statement was issued by the United States, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, which included a commitment for each country to develop a national plan to reduce CH4 emissions and underscored the need to address both short- and long-lived climate pollutants (Nelson D, 2016). The United States-India MoU in June 2016 committed to phasing down the production and consumption of HFCs (The White House, 2016). There also exist a significant number of activities and initiatives by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Bank, including the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture.

International cooperation on short-lived climate pollutants

Governments have also been collaborating on intergovernmental processes such as through the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer and its Dubai Pathway on hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Accordingly, Parties to the Montreal Protocol are now engaged in negotiations on the amendment to the Montreal Protocol in 2016, which has a potential to reduce emissions of HFCs and make a sizeable contribution to the global goal enshrined in the Paris Agreement and help to reduce temperature increase up to half degree Celsius by 2100.

The amendment is expected to be adopted at the forthcoming conference at the end of October in Kigali, Rwanda, and to provide for yet another historic milestone in implementation urgent and accelerated climate action.

Under the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), governments, civil society and the private sector commit to reducing short -lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) across sectors by: raising awareness of SCLP impacts and strategies; enhancing and developing new actions, increasing capacity and mobilizing support; promoting best practices; and improving scientific understanding. Recently, CCAC has been conducting assessments of SLCPs and the first regional assessment, conducted in Latin America and the Caribbean, was published in 2016 (CCAC, 2016a).

Areas of action

Social and economic value of carbon and carbon pricing

Over the last decade, many countries have taken action to support policies aiming at carbon pricing and the use of the social and economic value of carbon. Carbon pricing gives an economic signal and polluting entities can decide for themselves whether to discontinue their polluting activity, reduce emissions, or continue polluting and pay for it. The carbon price has been used to reflect the net present value of long-term damages avoided by removing or preventing one additional tonne of CO2 emissions. It can also be reflected in terms of either the curent estimated cost of emission reductions or the social and economic value of carbon, which represents positive carbon pricing. Recognizing and utilizing a social and economic value of carbon is an innovative way for positivec arbon pricing as it allows worldwide damages associated with climate change in the future to be accounted for within the design of climate policies and projects launched today.

Why action now matters

By estimating the monetary value of potential damages avoided in the future, the social and economic value of carbon can serve as a reference level for stakeholders, including those in the public and private sectors, by which to evaluate the development, implementation and effectiveness of their mitigation actions. There is a growing momentum among countries and business to use carbon pricing as a means of bringing down emissions and driving investment into cleaner options. One of the latest examples is Australia’s emissions trading system, launched on 1 July 2016 to encourage mitigation actions among 150 companies in order to cut the level of emissions to absolute baseline levels (World Bank and ECOFYS, 2016). This represents a new development with a potential significant impact on emissions levels. If an accurate value or price of carbon was embraced across countries and companies, it could have a substantial transformative effect, altering behaviour and technologies, and driving innovation.

Moving forward through policy options

Social and economic value of carbon. Several governments and private sector institutions are already using the social and economic value of carbon to support the design and implementation of regulations, economic instruments, targets and projects that align with key climate and sustainable development goals. Estimations of the social and economic value or cost of carbon can be used to assess the potential impacts of climate regulations and policies, and support their effective design.

The United States’ use of the social cost of carbon

The United States has estimated the social cost of carbon to support the design of at least 75 regulations and impact analyses through quantification of the costs and benefits of mitigation measures. As challenges have been experienced in relation to the use of discount rates and other modelling uncertainties, the United States is applying multiple discount rates in deriving the social cost of carbon. Importantly, using the social cost of carbon has allowed for consistency in supporting policy and regulatory appraisal processes to enable low-carbon development (White House Office of Management and Budget, undated).

Appraising projects and assessing costs and benefits. Public and private institutions are applying a social and economic value of carbon or carbon pricing to inform project appraisals and cost–benefit analyses to prepare for future climate policies and regulations, support economic opportunities and de-risk investments. For the private sector specifically, the value of carbon can help to advance communication on investors’ benefits of setting longterm business strategies that shift away from carbon-intensive behaviour and investments. Currently over 1000 companies use reference values of carbon or carbon pricing to inform business operations.

Developing economic instruments. The social and economic value of carbon and related carbon pricing methods can inform the effective design of economic instruments to support low-carbon development. For example, a value of carbon has been embraced by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Slovakia, the United Kingdom and the United States (World Bank, 2015).

Carbon pricing using fiscal and market instruments. Carbon pricing has been embraced through ETS, carbon taxes, reversing perverse subsidies and other instruments informing operations in numerous jurisdictions. Approximately 40 nations and over 20 subnational and regional jurisdictions, representing almost a quarter of global GHG emissions, have already implemented carbon pricing approaches, particularly carbon markets, carbon taxes and incentives.

Carbon markets or ETS provide tradable allowances of emissions to incentivize market-based emission reductions. An increasing number of carbon markets are being implemented globally based on international experience. For example, ETS exist in Alberta (Canada), California (United States), China, the EU and Kazakhstan. A more recent example is of cooperation at the subnational level between Ontario and Quebec and the Mexican Government, which agreed to jointly develop carbon markets with the aim of allowing companies in those provinces to purchase Mexican emission reduction credits to satisfy provincially regulated emission caps (The Globe and Mail, 2016).

Carbon taxes provide a mechanism to support reductions in GHG emissions from carbon-intensive production processes and services, often through a tax based on the carbon content of fuel (World Bank, undated). Carbon taxes have been established in numerous jurisdictions and in many different formats, including Canada, Denmark, the United States, Switzerland and Costa Rica (Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, 2013). A government advisory committee in France recently recommended that the country increase taxes on coal-fired power plants or establish higher carbon emissions standards to encourage a shift to gas-fired power plants (Reuters, 2016).

Fossil fuel subsidies encourage investment in fossil fuel extraction, processing and consumption, whereas the carbon market instruments, such as ETS, encourage investment away from intensive carbon use. In markets with fossil fuel subsidies, the real price of fossil fuel and the social and economic value of carbon are obfuscated. Phasing out fossil fuel subsidies could result in a 6 to 13 per cent reduction in GHG emissions by 2050 (Merrill et al., 2015).

Solutions through international cooperation

Many initiatives exist to support the development and implementation of the value of carbon and carbon pricing policies. For example, among the prominent ones are the Climate Disclosure Standards Board Statement, which commits signatories to produce and use climate change information in mainstream corporate reports; the Divest-Invest Global Movement, which commits to divestment from carbon-intensive fossil fuels and accelerating the transition to clean and affordable forms of energy; the Montreal Carbon Pledge, which requires investors to measure, disclose and reduce their portfolio carbon footprint; the Portfolio Decarbonization Coalition, which mobilizes institutional investors to decarbonize their portfolios; the Science Based Targets Initiative, which commits countries to ambitious corporate targets; the Smart Risk Investing initiative, which aims to drive investments into smarter risk and resilience projects; and the United Nations Global Compact.

Advancements in fossil fuel subsidy reform

The Group of 20 (G20) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation countries committed to fossil fuel subsidy reform and phase out (REN21, 2016). In addition, in 2015, the Friends of Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform, a coalition of eight non-G20 countries, together with France and the United States put out a communiqué calling on the international community to increase efforts to phase out fossil fuel subsidies (Friends of Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform, 2015). As a sign of progress since that time, the Group of Seven (G7) made a pledge to end most fossil fuel subsidies by 2025 (The Guardian, 2016). Several other countries, including Ghana, France, India, Malaysia and Senegal, have committed individually to some sort of fossil fuel subsidy reform (IISD, 2010).

International cooperation on carbon pricing

The World Bank supports three key initiatives: the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, which facilitates carbon pricing peer learning, knowledge-sharing among governments, the private sector and civil society, and the development of effective carbon pricing policies; the Partnership for Market Readiness, which provides support, builds capacity and enables knowledge-sharing on carbon pricing; and the Networked Carbon Markets initiative, which focuses on enabling comparability and linking of carbon markets.