In the previous chapter we discussed the importance of capacity-building in developing countries and the establishment of a system for international transfer of technology as components of the international climate change regime. Arrangements for flows of funding, knowledge and technology from developed to developing countries are a manifestation of equity considerations in international climate law, as well as a practical response designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in some of the fastest-growing economies. Such technology flows will also assist in preparing vulnerable countries to adapt more successfully to the effects of climate change. Nonetheless, these efforts raise a fundamental preliminary question: namely, are there technologies available that are adequate to achieve international goals of climate change mitigation and adaptation? An associated question is whether legal frameworks exist to deploy such technologies successfully. These questions animate the discussion in this chapter and the following two chapters, which deal respectively with biosequestration and adaptation.
In this chapter we examine technologies for climate change mitigation, encompassing energy efficiency improvements, renewable energy, nuclear power, and processes for carbon capture and storage (CCS), all of which primarily target emissions in the energy/power generation sector. Attention is also given to technological improvements that reduce emissions in sectors such as building and construction, and transport, given the significant contribution to overall GHG emissions that they represent in many developed countries, including Australia. This discussion is framed by a review of the relevant scientific and policy literature regarding the technological options for climate change mitigation in the energy sector and related spheres. The chapter considers whether such technologies are adequate to the task of putting the world generally, and Australia in particular, on a pathway that will stabilise emissions, avoid global warming and enable a transition to a low-carbon economy. The emerging consensus seems to be that, at least from a technical perspective, climate change mitigation is feasible using existing technologies, although such measures would need to work in concert with demand management/energy efficiency options. However, a potentially more difficult hurdle is the adequacy of legal and regulatory frameworks for enabling rapid deployment of these technologies, and impediments within those frameworks.