Strategies for climate change: Mitigation

The aim is to attain stabilisation in GHG emissions into the atmosphere, taking the 1990 level as a reference.

The aim of the mitigation strategies is to attain stabilisation in GHG emissions into the atmosphere, taking the 1990 level as a reference point. The entry into effect of the Kyoto Protocol in 2005, signed in 1997 as part of the UNFCCC, implemented reduction and capping measures for emissions adopted by thirty industrialised nations which, by 2012, should have represented a 5.2% reduction over 1990 levels.

Strategies of climate change

The European Union adopted a global reduction of 8% for its emissions; Japan and Canada set the level at 6%. Countries such as Russia or New Zealand committed to maintaining their emissions at the 1990 level. The US federal government - the country responsible for 35% of global emissions - decided in 2000 not the ratify Kyoto although, afterwards, different state governments did pass emission capping plans and the Federal Government was favourable to reducing emissions by 50% by the year 2050.

In addition to setting emission quotas, Kyoto included different flexibility mechanisms likely to contribute to achieving the targets adopted by the signatories: the emissions market, clean development mechanisms (CDM), joint action mechanisms (JA), improving agricultural management, technology transfer and reforestation.

Despite all this, according to a report published by the European Environment Agency (EEA), emissions in the twenty-seven member states fell on average by 2.5% between 2010 and 2011, although the increased in several countries such as Spain by 0.1%.

Emissions quotas

In 2003, the European Union allotted each member country emissions quotas based on their level of development: it imposed cuts of 21% on Germany and Denmark, 13% on Austria, 12.5% on the United Kingdom and 6.5% on Italy; furthermore, it established increase caps of 13% for Ireland, 15% for Spain, 25% for Greece and 27% for Portugal. In turn, it set two time periods for complying with these quotas: an initial implementation stage, 2005-2007 and the longer stage, 2008-2012 by when the most intense adjustment should be seen in mitigation policies. From 2012, the European Commission has set the emissions quotas for all industries in the EU, including the chemical and aluminium sectors, so that comparison damage between countries is avoided; each emitting industry shall purchase its quota at a public auction.

Emission market

The allotted emissions rights are transferrable between individuals and states. Those who surpass their emissions cap may go to the emissions trading market and purchase rights granted by those who have not used up their respective quotas. The price fluctuates in line with demand and the level of restrictions imposed by government bodies.

Clean development mechanisms: CDM

In order to contribute to compliance with some of their commitments, the signatories that adopted reductions and caps could discount from their emissions those avoided in third party developing nations or those free from adopting mitigation strategies under Kyoto through energy production projects with renewable sources, reforestation projects, improving energy efficiency, mobility and sustainable agriculture, etc. These project had to involve the voluntary participation of both of the concerned parties. The promoters may be private and public institutions.

Joint action mechanisms: JA

Similar to the clean development mechanisms but agreed between countries that have adopted mitigation commitments. These countries may transfer between themselves emission reductions certified by joint projects.

It is important to underline that mitigating the increase rate of the problem does not mean putting an end to it and, hence, the approval of adaptation strategies whose aim is to alert, prevent and prepare for the consequences of climate change. In this sense, it is also important to know the environmental outlook of the OECD for 2030.