Full Title: The Road to Paris and Beyond: Comparing Emissions Mitigation Efforts
Author(s): Joseph E. Aldy and William A. Pizer
Publisher(s): Resources for the Future (RFF)
Publication Date: 2015

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Description (excerpt):

T his year, countries will pledge to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions as part of the negotiations leading up to the UN climate change talks in Paris in December. These pledges will take on many different forms: targets as a percentage of year 1990 or 2005 emissions, percentage improvements in the ratio of carbon dioxide emissions to GDP, percentage abatement versus a “no-policy” reference case, renewable power goals, energy efficiency goals, afforestation goals, and more. Understanding the comparability of the pledged mitigation efforts will play a critical role in the negotiating process.

Such understanding is essential to build confidence among countries and to have a common interpretation of how pledges expressed in different forms stack up against one another. Similar efforts among similar countries would likely be seen as a “fair” deal, likely a necessary condition for broad participation now and increased ambition in the future. In addition, comparable costs of mitigation efforts across countries could represent a relatively cost-effective agreement and help level the playing field internationally for energy-intensive industries.

Comparing efforts requires metrics. Yet official agreement on specific metrics and a comprehensive policy surveillance mechanism is a tall order. To help inform the difficult task ahead, we have developed a set of three basic design principles and illustrate how an array of metrics might satisfy them. Because no single metric does well in meeting all the principles, we recommend a portfolio approach that assesses countries’ estimated emissions levels, emissions abatement, carbon and energy price effects, and costs of implementation.