Emissions in the Platinum Age: The implications of rapid development for climate change mitigation

12 May 2008

Rapid global economic growth, centred in Asia but now spread across the world, is driving rapid greenhouse gas emissions growth, making earlier projections unrealistic. This paper develops new, illustrative projections for carbon dioxide (from fossil fuels and other sources) and for non-CO2 greenhouse gases.


Making adjustments to 2007 World Energy Outlook projections to reflect more fully recent trends, we project annual emissions by 2030 to be almost double current volumes, 11 per cent higher than in the most pessimistic scenario developed by the IPCC, and at a level reached only in 2050 in the business-as-usual scenario used by the Stern Review. Such high levels of future emissions have major implications for the global approach to climate change mitigation. The required effort is much larger than implicit in the IPCC data informing the current international climate negotiations. Larger and earlier cuts in developed country emissions will be required than previously thought, and major deviations from baselines will be required in developing countries by 2020. It is hard to see how the required cuts could be achieved without all major developing as well as developed countries adopting economy-wide policies to reduce emissions.

This background working paper has been prepared for the Oxford Review of Economic Policy (not yet published) by Ross Garnaut, Stephen Howes, Frank Jotzo and Peter Sheehan. It was presented by Stephen Howes at the Australian National University on 29 April 2008 and updated on 2 May 2008.

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