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Integrated assessment and mitigation

Peter Zhou discusses the role of integrated assessment in assessing mitigation priorities for Africa.

The author is Director and Consultant of the Energy, Environment, Computer and Geophysical Applications Group in Gaborone, Botswana.

If integrated assessment of climate change is to be a decision-making tool, it should be able to capture the interests of the decision maker as dictated by the socio-economic and ecological demands of the day. Based on recent surveys, African nations place a high priority on addressing issues of poverty, land and water resources management, and health aspects. In comparison, climate change is at the bottom of priorities.

This situation may have to change for developing countries since the climate change paradigm will determine future business orientation in the context of world trade and markets. Increasingly, markets are demanding cleaner production of products, including greenhouse gas reduction, in an effort to save the deteriorating environment. For developing countries, it is becoming crucial to incorporate climate change issues in national development planning.

What tools are available to support effective decision making? At present, greenhouse gas mitigation models are grouped under top-down (macroeconomic) and bottom-up (engineering) models.

Top-down models are best used in cross sectoral studies incorporating observations and assumptions about the aggregate economy, for example, introducing a fuel tax then observing implications on energy consumption. Top-down models hardly incorporate any detail on energy consumption and technology change compared to bottom-up models.

Bottom-up or technical/engineering models are best for project analysis, building up the aggregate demand characteristics from specific technological information (current and forecast), for example, through understanding energy consumption patterns to build up total energy demand and supply structures.

The two types of model can produce divergent results. The top-down models tend to emphasize the positive costs of mitigation efforts while the bottom-up models frequently suggest emission savings to be available at net economic benefit, the negative costs concept.

Increasingly, however, there is a convergence in both model structures and model results. Differences remain in assumptions about how rapidly and effectively market institutions adopt cost-effective new technologies or can be induced to adopt them by policy interventions.

Integrating top-down and bottom-up approaches in national mitigation analysis would provide better insights for decision making. The models in use today do, however, remain simplistic in a complex decision making framework. For example, none of the existing models address the market imperfections, institutional barriers and the role of the informal sector, all of which can create bias when African economies are assumed to operate like those in developed countries.

It should also be realized that, while integrated modelling is a powerful and general tool for conducting integrated assessment, a model is not sufficient to replace integrated assessment itself. The essence of integrated assessment is to provide a systematic way of integrating knowledge across disciplines, styles, resolutions and degrees of certainty.

A case study of mitigation analysis for Botswana has integrated various developmental, equity and sustainability/ ecology issues for decision making in terms of priority of mitigation projects. Apart from defining the baseline and analyzing mitigation options, implementation aspects and macroeconomic impacts as listed below have been considered in the mitigation strategy.

  • Impact (positive or negative) on balance of payments resulting from implementation of the mitigation measures.
  • Revenue collection, for example, in the form of taxes accruing from the mitigation measure.
  • Employment loss or creation with baseline and mitigation policies.
  • Savings on energy consumption and avoided fuel import bills or deferred investments resulting from implementing the mitigation measure.
  • Improvement in economic efficiency/ competitiveness as a result of the implemented mitigation measure.
  • Cross-sectoral linkages, that is, either positive or negative impacts in other sectors as a result of implementing the mitigation measure in one sector.
  • Improvement in health aspects, particularly as they affect vulnerable groups such as women and children.
  • Improvement of social standards.
  • Land rehabilitation and management aspects from the mitigation measure.

A mitigation strategy presented in the form of  a cost curve suggests that options with the lowest cost are implemented first before rising to the more expensive. Yet decision making for implementation of projects does not only depend on costs. The multi-criteria analysis of presented mitigation measures for Botswana was conducted by incorporating the above macroeconomic stated criteria. In this type of analysis, the sequencing of the greenhouse gas mitigation options depends on what effect the option has on the economy beyond the cost element.

The integrated assessment-based ranking should not have any serious cost implications when considering zero or negative costs options unless significantly large capital layouts are required for implementation. This may be the case with renewable energy technologies which governments in Africa urgently want to adopt although costs are still high.

It is recommended that greenhouse gas mitigation ranking should reflect related socio-economic and ecological trade-offs. The selection and ranking should also be reflected in national communications prepared as part of the climate treaty process for future consideration by multilateral funding agencies. Finally, supportive national mitigation policies and institutional and legal frameworks are required to realize development, equity and sustainability goals.

Further information

Peter Zhou, EECG Consultants (Pty) Ltd., PO Box 402339, Plot 2602-Flat 8, Zebra Way, Ext., 9, Gaborone, Botswana. Fax: 267-327521. Email:

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