What actions can be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

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What are the costs, the co-benefits and the longer term implications of mitigation actions? How can changes in lifestyle and behaviour patterns contribute? How can different sectors reduce emissions? Which actions have been taken in Europe to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Cost of mitigation

Mitigation measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have a certain cost. However, they also constitute an economic benefit by reducing the impacts of climate change, and the costs associated with them. In addition, they can bring economic benefits by reducing local air pollution and energy resource depletion.

If the benefits of avoided climate change are taken into account and a “carbon price” is established for each unit of greenhouse gas emissions, this could create incentives for producers and consumers to significantly invest in products, technologies and processes which emit less greenhouse gases. The resulting mitigation potential is substantial and could offset the projected growth of global emissions over the coming decades or reduce emissions below current levels.

Mitigation measures could contribute to stabilizing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by 2100 or later. To achieve low stabilization levels, stringent mitigation efforts are needed in the coming decades. This could reduce global GDP by up to a few percent.

Changes in lifestyle and behaviours

Changes in lifestyle and behaviours that favor resource conservation can contribute to climate change mitigation.

Co-benefits of mitigation

Mitigation measures can also have other benefits for society, such as health cost savings resulting from reduced air pollution. However, mitigation in one country or group of countries could lead to higher emissions elsewhere or effects on the global economy.

Reduction potential of different sectors

No one sector or technology can address the entire mitigation challenge. All sectors including buildings, industry, energy production, agriculture, transport, forestry, and waste management could contribute to the overall mitigation efforts, for instance through greater energy efficiency. Many technologies and processes which emit less greenhouse gases are already commercially available or will be in the coming decades.

Longer term implications of mitigation actions

In order to stabilize the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, emissions would have to stop increasing and then decline. The lower the stabilization level aimed for, the more quickly this decline would need to occur. World-wide investments in mitigation technologies, as well as research into new energy sources, will be necessary to achieve stabilization. Delaying emission reduction measures limits the opportunities to achieve low stabilization levels and increases the risk of severe climate change impacts.

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