Climate Mitigation, Sustainable Development & Good Governance 

February 3, 2023

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Working Group III report of the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) assesses research on the scientific, technological, environmental, economic and social aspects related to mitigation of climate change. 

The findings of this report provide key information on the climate change impacts on the planet, as well as information on pathways for mitigation action; synergies between climate change mitigation, climate change adaptation, and risk management; as well as well finance flows for climate action, and international cooperation. 

Climate Change Mitigation & Sectoral Actions

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) defines climate change as “a change in climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity”. This includes alterations to the composition of the global atmosphere above the natural climate variability observed over periods of time. Today, climate change has become the planet’s biggest challenge, creating impacts across a multitude of sectors which are social, economical and environmental. In addressing climate change, mitigation plays a key role. 

According to the WGIII of the IPCC, since 2010, the total net anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have been on the rise, and the average annual emissions during the period from 2010 to 2019 is higher than other decade. At global level, the rise is spread across all key sectors. For example, as per the IPCC report, in 2019, 34% of anthropogenic GHG emissions were from the energy supply sector, 24% from industry, 22% from agriculture, forestry and other land use. 

  • Energy Sector

The IPCC Report provides that reductions in GHG emissions will need major transitions which apply across the full energy sector. This includes cutting down substantially the use of fossil fuel, moving towards low-emission energy sources, as well as moving to alternative energy carriers. Further, this includes electricity systems based on renewables which are becoming increasingly viable, as well as  energy efficiency and conservation. 

Energy sector mitigation actions also includes efforts aimed at reducing GHG emissions that contribute to creating, and aggravating the impacts of climate change. Among some forms of mitigation actions are shifting from fossil fuel to renewable energy such as solar and wind power, as well as shifting to sustainable transport and sustainable use of land. This includes moving to technology that is climate-friendly, and knowledge sharing which allows for countries of the developing world to reach the renewable energy sourcing potential. 

  • Food Systems

Agriculture, forestry, and land-use practices play a key role in mitigation activities as there exists a high level potential to achieve large-scale GHG emission reductions and enhanced removals through sustainable use of agriculture, forestry and other land-use (AFOLU) practices at national and global level. 

The IPCC Report provides that between 2020 and 2050, the economic mitigation potential of actions related to agriculture, forestry and land-use practices costs below USD100 tCO2-eq-1, out of which the largest proportion stems from conservation, improved management, and restoration of forests and other ecosystems (which includes coastal wetlands, peatlands, savannas and grasslands).

However, actions related to AFOLU will not be sufficient fully compensate for the inaction, or delays in just transitioning processes in other sectors, and these actions could present different barriers due to existing practices related to food systems and land-use, demands on land. This includes the complexity of land ownership and management systems, and cultural aspects. 

Choosing sustainably sourced agricultural and forest products over those that are exploitative of the planet’s resources, sustainable and healthy dietary processes could contribute to climate action in local, national and global food systems. 

The Working Group III Report elaborates the potential for climate action through sustainable and healthy diets, and highlights how these dietary patterns could promoter individuals’ health and wellbeing, as well as minimize the environmental impact from food systems. Among diets referred to in the Report are those that feature plant-based foods, legumes, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and other food systems which are based on practices that build resilience, sustainability, and emit lot GHG emissions.  

Climate Finance for Ambitious Pathways

Climate finance flows that are presently tracked do not meet the needed amounts to achieve mitigation goals across all sectors and regions. This gap in financial flows impact the developing countries the most, which hinder scaling up of mitigation actions. The Working Group III Report highlights the need for the average annual modelled investment requirements for 2020 to 2030 to be increased across all sectors to achieve the climate scenarios that limit warming to 2°C or 1.5°C. Estimates for mitigation options indicate that costing USD100 tCO2-eq-1 or less could reduce global GHG emissions by at least half of the 2019 level by 2030. . However, the gaps in investment for mitigation activities remain wide for all sectors, with the widest gap remaining AFOLU sector and in developing countries.

The scale of climate finance flows needed for climate action further increases when requirements for adaptation, reduction of losses and damages, as well as general infrastructure, regulatory environment (including social protection schemes addressing climate vulnerabilities) and capacity building for building resilience and emission enhancement potential are considered. 

The Report provides with high confidence that accelerated financial support for developing countries from developed countries (as well as other sources) is vital  to enhance mitigation action. This includes addressing inequities in access to finance, its costs, terms and conditions, as well as economic vulnerability to climate change for developing countries. Among options for scaling up climate finance in developing countries are increasing the levels of public finance and publicly mobilised private finance flows from developed to developing countries (taking into account the annual target set for Green Climate Fund, which is at USD100 billion), reducing risks in sourcing private finance, and generating higher levels of trust in the international cooperation processes

International Cooperation for Resilience

International cooperation and clear policy choices play a key role in raising climate finance flows to ambitious emission reduction. These will help address inequities in access to finance and contribute to building climate reliance. This includes processes such as the United Nations climate change process which includes the UNFCCC, Kyoto Protocol, and Paris Agreement which focus on climate finance to developing countries that are vulnerable to climate impacts, as well as capacity building and technology transfer which present enabling factors to scale up climate action. Further, these processes include goals, as well as transparency requirements related to national reporting which provide opportunities for cooperation among countries in a transparent and accountable manner aimed at improved emission reductions and climate resilience. 

The IPCC Report also indicates that transnational partnerships could stimulate policy development, low-emissions technology diffusion and emission reductions through interlinks with sub-national and other actors. This includes cities, regions, multiple stakeholders such as civil society and private sector entities. However, challenges remain. 

Sustainable Development, Good Governance and Climate Action

To achieve sustainable development through synergies between enhanced climate action, it is important that governments and at the global level the international community provide clear signals on approaches to be adopted to achieve enhanced emission reduction at all levels. This requires a stronger alignment of public sector finance and policy, higher levels of public sector climate finance, as well as  financial flows being aligned with the funding needs through technology transfer and support, and lowering financing costs for vulnerable and underserved groups. 

Accelerated and equitable climate action in mitigating, and adapting to climate change impacts is critical to sustainable development. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted in 2015 under the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development could serve as a basis for monitoring and evaluating climate action in the context of sustainable development. Integrated and synergized actions which are based on good governance could lead to a planet with climate resilience for all. 

The synergies between scaled up climate action and sustainable development could be seen through a focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy; urban planning; sustainable and healthy diets. These synergies could be seen in the transport sector where electrification, low GHG energy, and adopting public transport systems could contribute health, employment, as well as contribute to energy security and enhanced equity among the countries’ populations, which will contribute to achieving climate resilience and sustainable development for all. 

Note: This article has been published on The Morning as part of the author’s weekly column. 

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About the Author
Vositha Wijenayake

Vositha is an attorney-at-law specialising in public international law, with a focus on international environmental law, UN human rights law, refugee law and EU law. She has over a decade of experience in working on climate change, at national and international level. Vositha is a member of the national expert committee on climate change adaptation of the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment, national expert on vulnerability and adaptation measures for the Third National Communication of Sri Lanka to the UNFCCC for the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment, and is a delegate focusing on compliance, adaptation, loss and damage, and gender for the Sri Lankan delegation to the UNFCCC since 2016. She is also a consultant to the UNFCCC national adaptation plans and policy unit, and worked as a country support consultant to the UNDP NAP Global Support Programme. Vositha has an LLM in public international law from University College London, and an LLB from University of London. ‍