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Limiting Climate Change by Fostering Net Avoided Emissions journal article

Michel Köhler, Axel Michaelowa

Carbon & Climate Law Review, Volume 8 (2014), Issue 1, Page 55 - 64

Reducing Fossil Fuel Supply and Emissions from Fuel Exploitation

With the gap to the emissions path required to reach the 2°C target growing steadily as well as the need for substantial mitigation from 2020 onwards under the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action,1 efforts to reduce greenhouse gases must be scaled up. Unless low-carbon technologies are universally available and environmentally reliable, mitigation can only be successful if emission of greenhouse gases, in particular burning of fossil fuels, is reduced. This requires a voluntary limitation of economic activities that lead to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The concept of Net Avoided Emissions (NAE) has been proposed to effectively incentivize avoidance of GHG intensive activities. Emission credits would be granted for the cessation of fossil fuel exploitation. However, the mechanism also faces critical elements that might jeopardize environmental integrity, additionality and permanence. This article identifies key challenges and provides recommendations on how to overcome these hurdles in order to increase international acceptability of NAE. We propose that credits should be discounted depending on the price elasticity of fuel demand. Classical emission reductions e.g. linked to the protection of vegetation on the surface above the fuel reservoir would be fully credited. In order to ensure environmental integrity by reducing the incentive to exploit the fossil fuel, credit revenues would be administered by a trust fund and have to be invested into activities that promote sustainable development, i.e. renewable energy and energy efficiency. Physical adulteration of the fuel in the reservoir could also be considered.


Tackling Climate Change: Where Can the Generic Framework Be Located? journal article

Matthias Honegger, Kushini Sugathapala, Axel Michaelowa

Carbon & Climate Law Review, Volume 7 (2013), Issue 2, Page 125 - 135

International negotiations on climate change under the UNFCCC are increasingly burdened by the gap between low political will to engage in emissions mitigation and the level of mitigation required for limiting warming to 2°C. Given the growing understanding that mitigation will be insufficient, adaptation has recently gained in importance – a step sometimes seen as a portent of other actions on climate yet to come such as climate engineering. Existing international treaties such as the Convention on Biodiversity or the London Convention limit climate engineering interventions but do not provide clear guidance for acceptable solutions. Given their objectives – preserving biodiversity and the integrity of oceans – are jeopardised by insufficient action on climate change, they should become more specific in this regard and avoid conflicts with other conventions. The UNFCCC could pursue any approach in line with the overarching principle in Article 2 of the Convention – to achieve “stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”. An interpretation beyond reductions of anthropogenic emissions could include climate engineering in form of carbon removal and radiation management technologies: The former can directly contribute to the stabilisation of greenhouse gases. The latter could help to limit indirect emissions from e.g. melting permafrost soils, and reduce the risks from higher level of greenhouse gas concentrations. Some climate engineering researchers argue against expanding the UNFCCC’s scope. As it is the only significant framework mandated to prevent dangerous climate change, we argue that it can, should, and is likely to become the forum to govern the use of climate engineering technologies.

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