Skip to main content

Costs and benefits of differences in the timing of greenhouse gas emission reductions

Abstract

Most modelling studies that explore long-term greenhouse gas mitigation scenarios focus on cost-efficient emission pathways towards a certain climate target, like the internationally agreed target to keep global temperature increase below 2 °C compared to pre-industrial levels (the 2 °C climate target). However, different timing of reductions lead to different transient temperature increase over the course of the century and subsequently to differences in the time profiles of not only the mitigation costs but also adaptation costs and residual climate change damage. This study adds to the existing literature by focussing on the implication of these differences for the evaluation of a set of three mitigation scenarios (early action, gradual action and delayed action), all three limiting global temperature increase below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, using different discount rates. The study shows that the gradual mitigation pathway is, for these discount rates, preferred over early or delayed action in terms of total climate costs and net benefits. The relative costs and benefits of the early or delayed mitigation action scenarios, in contrast, do strongly depend on the discount rate applied. For specific discount rates, these pathways might therefore be preferred for other reasons, such as reducing long-term uncertainty in climate costs by early action.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6

References

  • Agrawala S, Fankhauser S (eds.) (2008) Economic aspects of adaptation to climate change: costs, benefits and policy instruments. OECD, Paris. Available via http://www.oecd.org/env/cc/economicaspectsofadaptationtoclimatechangecostsbenefitsandpolicyinstruments.htm. Cited 20 May 2014

  • Agrawala S, Bosello F, Carraro C et al (2011) Plan or react? Analysis of adaptation costs and benefits using integrated assessment models. Clim Chang Econ 2:175–208

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Arrow K, Cropper M, Gollier C et al (2013) Determining benefits and costs for future generations. Science 341:349–350

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bosello F, Carraro C, De Cian E (2013) Adaptation can help mitigation: an integrated approach to post-2012 climate policy. Environ Dev Econ 18:270–290

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Burniaux JM, Chateau J (2010) An overview of the OECD ENV-linkages model. OECD, Paris. Available via http://www.oecd.org/env/45334643.pdf

  • de Bruin KC, Dellink RB, Agrawala S (2009a) Economic aspects of adaptation to climate change: integrated assessment modelling of adaptation costs and benefits. OECD Environment Working Papers No. 6. OECD, Paris

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • de Bruin KC, Dellink RB, Tol RSJ (2009b) AD-DICE: an implementation of adaptation in the DICE model. Clim Chang 95:63–81

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • den Elzen MGJ, Lucas PL, van Vuuren DP (2008) Regional abatement action and costs under allocation schemes for emission allowances for achieving low CO2-equivalent concentrations. Clim Chang 90:243–268

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • den Elzen M, Hof A, Mendoza Beltran A et al (2010) The Copenhagen accord: abatement costs and carbon prices resulting from submissions. Environ Sci Policy 14:28–39

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • den Elzen MGJ, Hof A, Mendoza Beltran A et al (2013) Implications of long-term global and developed country reduction targets for developing countries. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Chang 18:491–512

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Garibaldi JA (2014) The economics of boldness: equity, action, and hope. Clim Policy 14:82–101

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Haites E, Yamin F, Höhne N (2013) Possible elements of a 2015 legal agreement on climate change. IDDRI, Paris. Available via http://www.iddri.org/Publications/Collections/Idees-pour-le-debat/WP1613_EH%20FY%20NH_legal%20agreement%202015.pdf

  • Hof AF, de Bruin KC, Dellink RB et al (2009) The effect of different mitigation strategies on international financing of adaptation. Environ Sci Policy 12:832–843

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hof AF, den Elzen MGJ, Roelfsema M (2013) The effect of updated pledges and business-as-usual projections, and new agreed rules on expected global greenhouse gas emissions in 2020. Environ Sci Policy 33:308–319

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hohne N, Van Breevoort P, Deng Y et al. (2013) Feasibility of GHG emissions phase-out by mid-century. Ecofys, Germany. Available via http://www.ecofys.com/files/files/ecofys-2013-feasibility-ghg-phase-out-2050.pdf

  • Hope C (2006) The marginal impact of CO2 from PAGE2002: an integrated assessment model incorporating the IPCC’s five reasons for concern. Integr Assess J Bridg Sci Policy 6:19–56

    Google Scholar 

  • IPCC (2014) Climate Change 2014: mitigation of climate change. IPCC working group III contribution to AR5. Available via http://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg3/

  • Jakob M, Luderer G, Steckel J et al (2012) Time to act now? Assessing the costs of delaying climate measures and benefits of early action. Clim Chang 114:79–99

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • JRC/PBL (2014) Emission database for global atmospheric research (EDGAR)—release version 4.2 FT2012. Bilthoven, Netherlands: European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC)/PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. Available via http://edgar.jrc.ec.europa.eu

  • Kriegler E, Tavoni M, Aboumahboub T et al (2013a) What does the 2 °C target imply for a global climate agreement in 2020? The LIMITS study on Durban Platform scenarios. Clim Chang Econ 4:1340008

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kriegler E, Weyant JP, Blanford GJ et al (2013b) The role of technology for achieving climate policy objectives: overview of the EMF 27 Study on Global Technology and Climate Policy Strategies. Clim Chang 123:353–367

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kriegler E, Riahi K, Petermann N et al. (2014) Assessing pathways toward ambitious climate targets at the global and European levels: a synthesis of results from the AMPERE project. FP7 AMPERE Project. Available via http://ampere-project.eu/web/images/Final_Conference/ampere_synthesis_5-2014-compact.pdf

  • Lucas PL, van Vuuren DP, Olivier JGJ et al (2007) Long-term reduction potential of non-CO2 greenhouse gases. Environ Sci Policy 10:85–103

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Luderer G, Pietzcker RC, Bertram C et al (2013) Economic mitigation challenges: how further delay closes the door for achieving climate targets. Environ Res Lett 8:034033

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Meinshausen M, Raper SCB, Wigley TML (2011) Emulating coupled atmosphere–ocean and carbon cycle models with a simpler model, MAGICC6—part 1: model description and calibration. Atmos Chem Phys 11:1417–1456

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nordhaus WD, Boyer J (2000) Warming the world: economic models of global warming. MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Available via http://eml.berkeley.edu/~saez/course131/Warm-World00.pdf

  • OECD (2012) OECD environmental outlook to 2050. OECD, Paris. Available via http://www.oecd.org/env/indicators-modelling-outlooks/oecdenvironmentaloutlookto2050theconsequencesofinaction.htm. Cited 10 May 2014

  • Riahi K, Kriegler E, Johnson N et al (2013) Locked into Copenhagen pledges—implications of short-term emission targets for the cost and feasibility of long-term climate goals. Technol Forecast Soc Chang 90:8–23

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rogelj J, McCollum D, Reisinger A et al (2013) Probabilistic cost estimates for climate change mitigation. Nature 493:79–83

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stehfest E, Van Vuuren DP, Kram T et al. (2014) Integrated assessment of global environmental change with IMAGE 3.0. Model description and policy applications. PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, The Hague. Available via http://www.pbl.nl/sites/default/files/cms/PBL-2014-Integrated_Assessment_of_Global_Environmental_Change_with_IMAGE_30-735.pdf

  • Stern N (2006) The economics of climate change. The Stern Review. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  • UNEP (2013) The emissions gap report 2013. A UNEP synthesis report. UNEP

  • UNFCCC (2009) Copenhagen accord. Available via http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2009/cop15/eng/l07.pdf

  • UNFCCC (2010) Decision 1/CP.16, the Cancun agreements. UNFCCC document FCCC/CP/2010/7/Add.1, http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2010/cop16/eng/07a01.pdf#page=2

  • van Vuuren DP, Van Ruijven B, Hoogwijk M et al. (2006) TIMER 2.0: model description and application. In: Bouwman AF, Kram T, Klein Goldewijk K (eds.) Integrated modelling of global environmental change. An overview of IMAGE 2.4. Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, Bilthoven. Available via www.pbl.nl/en

  • van Vuuren DP, den Elzen MGJ, Lucas PL et al (2007) Stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations at low levels: an assessment of reduction strategies and costs. Clim Chang 81:119–159

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • van Vuuren DP, Stehfest E, den Elzen MGJ et al (2011) RCP2.6: exploring the possibility to keep global mean temperature increase below 2 °C. Clim Chang 109:95–116

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Warren R, Lowe JA, Arnell NW et al (2013) The AVOID programme’s new simulations of the global benefits of stringent climate change mitigation. Clim Chang 120:55–70

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Weitzman M (1994) On the environmental discount rate. J Environ Econ Manag 26:200–209

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Weyant J, Davidson O, Dowlatabadi H et al (1996) Integrated assessment of climate change: an overview and comparison of approaches and results. In: Bruce JP, Lee H, Haites EF (eds) Climate Change 1995: economic and social dimensions. Contribution of Working Group III to the Second Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

The authors kindly acknowledge the input and comments made by colleagues and the ACT 2015 project partners.

Compliance with ethical standards

Funding

This paper is partly based on a suite of materials developed through the ACT 2015 project, which is funded by the European Commission and the International Policies and Politics Initiative via the Climate Works Foundation. This study has also received funding by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under the REA grant agreement no. 603942 (PATHWAYS).

Conflict of interest

The authors of this paper declare that they have no conflict of interest and that this paper complies with the ethical rules applicable for this journal.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Annemiek K. Admiraal.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Admiraal, A.K., Hof, A.F., den Elzen, M.G.J. et al. Costs and benefits of differences in the timing of greenhouse gas emission reductions. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change 21, 1165–1179 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11027-015-9641-4

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11027-015-9641-4

Keywords

  • Adaptation costs
  • Avoided damage
  • Climate mitigation
  • Discount rate
  • Mitigation costs
  • Net benefits
  • Residual damage