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This chapter provides an overview of the multi-faceted landscape of methods used to study the steering effects of the Sustainable Development Goals. After a discussion of the political use of science and the complex relations between science and politics, the chapter showcases a selection of different methods that are employed to trace the steering effects of the Sustainable Development Goals. Selecting the most suitable method for a particular research question requires understanding their main characteristics, strengths and weaknesses. The chapter highlights that all methods and tools need to be combined to comprehensively assess the political impact of the goals, the progress towards their achievement, and their overall transformative potential. As data gaps and unequal geographical coverage still hamper a broader understanding of the political impact of the globalgoals, we need to build bridges across language communities, disciplines and methodological camps, which still work very much in isolation.
We summarize some of the past year's most important findings within climate change-related research. New research has improved our understanding of Earth's sensitivity to carbon dioxide, finds that permafrost thaw could release more carbon emissions than expected and that the uptake of carbon in tropical ecosystems is weakening. Adverse impacts on human society include increasing water shortages and impacts on mental health. Options for solutions emerge from rethinking economic models, rights-based litigation, strengthened governance systems and a new social contract. The disruption caused by COVID-19 could be seized as an opportunity for positive change, directing economic stimulus towards sustainable investments.
A synthesis is made of ten fields within climate science where there have been significant advances since mid-2019, through an expert elicitation process with broad disciplinary scope. Findings include: (1) a better understanding of equilibrium climate sensitivity; (2) abrupt thaw as an accelerator of carbon release from permafrost; (3) changes to global and regional land carbon sinks; (4) impacts of climate change on water crises, including equity perspectives; (5) adverse effects on mental health from climate change; (6) immediate effects on climate of the COVID-19 pandemic and requirements for recovery packages to deliver on the Paris Agreement; (7) suggested long-term changes to governance and a social contract to address climate change, learning from the current pandemic, (8) updated positive cost–benefit ratio and new perspectives on the potential for green growth in the short- and long-term perspective; (9) urban electrification as a strategy to move towards low-carbon energy systems and (10) rights-based litigation as an increasingly important method to address climate change, with recent clarifications on the legal standing and representation of future generations.
Social media summary
Stronger permafrost thaw, COVID-19 effects and growing mental health impacts among highlights of latest climate science.
Chapter 17 explores possible transformational pathways of the future global energy system with the overarching aim of assessing the technological feasibility as well as the economic implications of meeting a range of sustainability objectives simultaneously. As such, it aims at the integration across objectives, and thus goes beyond earlier assessments of the future energy system that have mostly focused on either specific topics or single objectives. Specifically, the chapter assesses technical measures, policies, and related costs and benefits for meeting the objectives that were identified in Chapters 2 to 6, including:
providing almost universal access to affordable clean cooking and electricity for the poor;
limiting air pollution and health damages from energy use;
improving energy security throughout the world; and
limiting climate change.
The assessment of future energy pathways in this chapter shows that it is technically possible to achieve improved energy access, air quality, and energy security simultaneously while avoiding dangerous climate change. In fact, a number of alternative combinations of resources, technologies, and policies are found capable of attaining these objectives. From a large ensemble of possible transformations, three distinct groups of pathways (GEA-Supply, GEA-Mix, and GEA-Efficiency) have been identified and analyzed. Within each group, one pathway has been selected as “illustrative” in order to represent alternative evolutions of the energy system toward sustainable development. The pathway groups, together with the illustrative cases, depict salient branching points for policy implementation and highlight different degrees of freedom and different routes to the sustainability objectives.
The thirteenth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2007 decided that developing countries should be compensated for adaptation costs to climate change through the Adaptation Fund (first draft decision of the third session of the conference of the parties serving as the meeting of the parties to the Kyoto Protocol). This shows that adaptation to climate change has become important in international climate negotiations. Today, adaptation is widely recognized as an equally important and complementary response to climate change mitigation (for example, Commission of the European Communities 2007; IPCC 2007a; Agrawala and Fankhauser 2008).
Still, relatively little information is available to support more integrated climate policies that focus on both mitigation and adaptation (Klein et al. 2005). In particular, in integrated assessment models that aim at supporting climate policy by analysing their economic and environmental consequences and formulating efficient responses, explicit consideration of adaptation is still in its infancy (Tol 2005; Wilbanks 2005; Agrawala et al. 2008).
This chapter tries to fill the gap in integrated assessment models by integrating adaptation and residual damage functions from AD-RICE (de Bruin et al. 2009) with the FAIR model (den Elzen and van Vuuren 2007; Hof et al. 2008). This version of the FAIR model (from now on called AD-FAIR) enables an analysis of the interactions between mitigation, emissions trading, adaptation and residual damages (that is, damages not avoided by adaptation measures) on a global as well as regional scale. Furthermore, adaptation is modelled explicitly as a policy variable, providing insights in the economic consequences of adaptation. This information is vital for effective adaptation governance.
The thirteenth conference of the parties of the climate convention had launched a negotiation process to craft a new international climate change agreement by the end of 2009. This agreement would need to stipulate emission reduction commitments, specify essential actions to adapt to the impacts of climate change and mobilize the necessary funding and technological innovation. Given these enormous challenges, the structure and design of a future climate agreement are still unclear. Besides the negotiations within the UN climate regime, major greenhouse gas emitting countries are also leading ad hoc debates in other forums, for example in the context of the Group of Eight and the Asia–Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. Depending on the course of these processes, a new climate governance regime could develop in different directions; it could end somewhere between a universal, inclusive governance architecture and a strongly fragmented, heterogeneous governance architecture (Biermann et al., this volume, Chapter 2).
In recent years, numerous universal and fragmented climate regimes have been proposed (for an overview, see Bodansky 2004; Blok et al. 2005; Philibert 2005; IPCC 2007: 770–773). Many of these regimes are quantitatively or qualitatively assessed, but no attempt has yet been made to compare the costs estimates of these studies for specific regions under different regimes. Nevertheless, the available material allows us to make an assessment of the regional costs of several universal and fragmented regimes, based on different models. This chapter presents a literature review concerning the economic effectiveness of a number of possible universal and fragmented regimes. We use only studies that quantitatively assess both emission reductions and costs. From a quantitative perspective, this chapter tries to answer the appraisal question of the ‘architecture’ domain of this book, namely whether a universal or a fragmented regime will be more effective to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
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