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GHG emissions - outlook from MNP (Outlook 008) - Assessment published Jun 2007

Indicator Assessmentexpired Created 08 Jan 2007 Published 08 Jun 2007 Last modified 12 Nov 2013, 08:45 AM
This content has been archived on 12 Nov 2013, reason: Content not regularly updated
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Generic metadata


Environmental scenarios Environmental scenarios (Primary topic)

ghg emissions | forward looking indicators
DPSIR: Pressure
Typology: Performance indicator (Type B - Does it matter?)
Indicator codes
  • Outlook 008
Geographic coverage:

Key policy question: What is the projected progress in GHG emissions reduction?

Key messages

The risk of inaction is high, with unabated emissions in the Baseline scenario1  leading to about a 37% and 52% increase in global emissions in the 2030 and 2050 respectively compared to 2005, with a wide range of impacts on natural and human systems. This unabated emission pathway could lead to high levels of global warming, with long-term average temperatures likely to be at least 4 to 6 C higher than pre-industrial temperatures. The costs of even the most stringent mitigation cases are in the range of a few percent of global GDP in 2050. Thus they are manageable, they are also feasible at limited cost, especially if policies are designed to start early to be cost-effective and to share the burden of costs across all regions.


GHG emissions according to the baseline scenario

Note: N/A

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GHG Emission projections per capita by the world regions

Note: Figures include land use change and forestry.

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GHG per GDP by world regions

Note: N/A

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Shares of GHG emissions per region

Note: Figures include land use change and forestry.

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Change in GHG emissions compared to 2005

Note: N/A

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Impacts of policy scenarios on greenhouse gas emissions, 2000-2050

Note: N/A

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Policy scenarios compared to Baseline: GHG emissions, CO2 emissions and global temperature change, 2000-2050

Note: The Outlook Baseline uses the UN forecast of population growth to 2050 and estimates that global economic growth will be 2.4% per year (expressed in terms of purchasing power parity or PPP) on average to 2050

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Key assessment

The principal gases associated with climate change are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O), which together accounted for over 99% of anthropogenic GHG emissions in 2005. CO2 is the dominant greenhouse gas, accounting for 64% of global emissions and about 83% of emissions from OECD countries in 2005, excluding land use and forestry emissions and removals. Including land use change and forestry increases the share of CO2 in 2005 to 76% globally and does not significantly change the share for the OECD. Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) account for less than 1% of total global anthropogenic GHG emissions, but they are growing quickly. All these greenhouse gases are subject to international obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), including national monitoring and reporting of emissions and removals of greenhouse gases.
Fossil fuel combustion is by far the largest global source of CO2 emissions, accounting for 66% of global GHG emissions in 2005. Of this, fossil fuel combustion in power generation is the most important source, and accounted for about one-quarter of all global GHG emissions in 2005. Electricity-related CO2 emissions are also a rapidly-growing source of GHGs, particularly in Asia, reflecting both increased electrification rates and the continued predominance of fossil-fired electricity. Global CO2 emissions from road transport are a significant contributor to global GHG emissions, at 11% of the total in 2005.

Trends in GHG emissions vary widely according to world region. Global anthropogenic GHG emissions (excluding CO2 emissions or uptake from land use change and forestry and from international bunkers) increased by 28% between 1990 and 2005.4 This increase was lower in OECD countries (+14%) than in BIC countries (Brazil, India, China), where emissions grew by about 70%. However, emissions in some countries - particularly those in Central and Eastern Europe - fell during the same period. Trends for OECD countries are broadly similar even if emissions or uptake from land use change and forestry are included, in which case OECD countries' emissions increased 10% over the period 1990-2005. BIC countries' emissions also increase even more (nearly 110%) if CO2 emissions from land use change and forestry are included.
However, between 1990 and 2005 there were also large variations in these trends within different OECD countries. Emissions in nine OECD countries increased by more than 20% in this period, and eight further OECD countries reported smaller increases. However, emissions in several other OECD countries have decreased since 1990, including Germany, Hungary, Finland, Norway, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, where 2005 emissions were between 67-80% of their 1990 value.

Policy scenarios:
Emission reductions are not only possible; they are also feasible at limited cost. Simulations made by MNP for the OECD Environmental Outlook compare Baseline (no new policy) projections for GHG emissions, global mean temperature and GDP increase with different policy cases of a phased-in carbon tax of USD 25 per tonne of CO2eq (see graph). Costs of a globally applied tax policy starting in 2008 would decrease GDP by only 1% below its "business as usual" level by 2050. Another more radical scenario involves phasing in a global tax to stabilise atmospheric GHG concentrations at 450 ppm CO2eq. This policy reduces climate impact substantially, but has more significant, though manageable, global costs. It is projected to reduce Baseline estimates of GDP by about 0.5% and 2.5% by 2030 and 2050 respectively, amounting to a loss of about 0.1 percentage point a year on average. Aggregate costs of global mitigation (% GDP), with all countries participating, would be lower in the OECD than in the BRIC and ROW countries, underscoring the need for burden-sharing in future agreements.

Table 1 shows growth in GHG and CO2 emissions for the Baseline and policy cases compared to 2000 emission levels. All of the policy cases, except the OECD 2008 tax, lead to significant emission reductions compared to 2000, with the 450 PPM case showing the greatest reductions in global GHG emissions (-39%), whereas the All 2008 tax case delivers about two-thirds of this emission reduction by 2050. Interestingly the Phased 2030 and Delayed 2020 tax cases significantly reduce emissions from the Baseline but do not deliver absolute emission reductions in 2050. The OECD 2008 tax shows significant reductions in OECD regions (-43%) yet the global emissions still grow by 38% compared to 2000 emission levels (Table 1). The spread of outcomes among these cases demonstrates the importance of full participation by all major emitters and early mitigation efforts if substantial emission reductions are to be achieved by 2050.

Note: The Outlook Baseline uses the UN forecast of population growth to 2050 and estimates that global economic growth will be 2.4% per year (expressed in terms of purchasing power parity or PPP) on average to 2050

1)The OECD Baseline Reference Scenario presents a projection of historical and current trends into the future. This Baseline indicates what the world would be like to 2030 if currently existing policies were maintained, but no new policies were introduced to protect the environment. It is an extension of current trends and developments into the future, and as such it does not reflect major new or different developments in either the drivers of environmental change or environmental pressures. A number of major changes are possible in the future, however, that would significantly alter these projections.

Because the Baseline reflects no new policies, or in other words it is "policy neutral", it is a reference scenario against which simulations of new policies can be introduced and compared. Simulations of specific policy actions to address key environmental challenges were run in the modelling framework. The differences between the Baseline projections and these policy simulations were analysed to shed light on their economic and environmental impacts.

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