No. 9 May 1997 Supplement

Country Study News

The Newsletter of the UNEP Collaborating Centre on Energy and Environment

Regional Aspects of Climate Change Mitigation

Ian H. Rowlands, UNEP Centre

Internationally coordinated action by developing countries could help to mitigate global climate change in ways that are environmentally, economically and socially beneficial. As part of the UNEP/GEF project on 'The Economics of Greenhouse Gas Limitations', a study of the prospects for such regional action is well underway.

International regions have received relatively little attention in the study of climate change mitigation, for most of the work to date has concentrated upon the national level. Recognition, however, that extremely attractive possibilities may also exist at the regional level has prompted this investigation to move into the international level.

Some mitigation options depend upon cooperation between two or more neighbouring countries ­ for example, sharing offshore gas resources or integrating transportation infrastructure. Other options, moreover, are possible only by exploiting the economies of scale that emerge at the regional level ­ for example, developing either a large hydropower facility or a market for energy efficiency devices. Thus, it seems evident that regional action could, at least in theory, present mitigation options which are both cost­efficient and development­promoting.

The study aims to advance our understanding about the issue in two ways. First, it will begin to develop a broad methodological framework for assessing regional climate change options (like those suggested in the paragraph above). A variety of criteria will be developed to assess these options: climate­related (that is, savings in terms of greenhouse gas emissions that are abated and/or absorbed), economic (that is, the cost of such proposals), developmental (that is, how the actions would contribute to the region's own development goals, measured on a variety of social, economic and environmental yardsticks) and institutional (that is, what barriers to implementation might arise?).

During 1996, progress on the development of this methodology was realised. For one, the concept of a 'regional baseline' was investigated. Given that some regional options would clearly impact already­developed national options (an international market for a particular renewable energy technology, for example, would make any calculation of the same in the strictly national context obsolete), the impact of regional options upon national strategies obviously warrants attention. Moreover, in light of the unique institutional and political challenges that arise when we take the analysis to the international level, particular investigations were also undertaken in this area. Research revealed that the importance accorded, for example, sovereignty, distributional effects and power could make regional options that much more difficult to implement.

The study will also apply the methodology to two specific international regions in the developing world: the Southern African Development Community and the Andean Pact. These are described in the following two articles.

Findings from this project, which will begin to emerge in late 1997, will contribute directly to policy discussions-not only in the two sets of countries under specific examination, but in other regional groupings as well, as their representatives consider their own regional mitigation options. Although regional options are not expected to deliver all of the answers, they could well offer new opportunities for climate-change mitigation. Accordingly, it would seem that the study of regional options can only increase the chances of creating a portfolio of climate mitigation options that is efficient and fair.

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