Present estimates suggest that about 1.5 billion people lack access to electricity worldwide. Many scenarios for the "successful" implementation of mitigation policies leave what we believe to be an unacceptable number of people literally in the dark. For instance, the IEA's 2009 scenario has global emissions on a trajectory to stabilisation at 450 ppm carbon dioxide; yet 1.3 billion people worldwide remain without access to electricity. If energy access is to be expanded to include those without access today while meeting expected growth in global energy demand in the rest of the world, the unit costs of energy will necessarily have to come down. But the higher quality fossil fuels are in already tight markets. If the attempt is made to satisfy new demand using these fuels, then costs will rise. Alternatives to fossil fuels must be made cheaper. For this to happen, innovation is required.
Broadening the range of management strategies beyond those conventionally defined as "mitigation" would have other benefits, which, together with their climate change relevance, justify the actions needed to achieve the alternative scenario.
Eradicate emissions of black carbon. Black carbon (or soot) is a public health hazard. Around 1.8 million people die every year from exposure to black carbon through indoor fires. Black carbon also warms the atmosphere at regional and global scales, contributing between 5 and 10% of the total human forcing of the climate system. It is feasible nearly to eradicate emissions of black carbon through targeted and enforced regulation. The environmental pay-back here is relatively quick, with huge public health benefits, especially for the poorest in developing countries.
Reduce tropospheric ozone. Poor air quality in urban environments is exacerbated by emissions of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, methane and other volatile organic compounds. These gases react in the troposphere to form ozone, which is toxic to humans and to plants including crops. Tropospheric ozone contributes between 5 and 10% of the total human forcing of the climate system. Rigorous implementation of air pollution regulations, together with a move towards more efficient urban transportation systems, could more than halve these emissions of ozone precursor gases.
Protect tropical forests. Tropical forests are a key asset for humanity's future for reasons that extend well beyond their function as a carbon store... Rather than seeking to lock tropical forest management into an all-embracing climate convention, and thus get snarled up in the complexities of reducing industrial carbon emissions, forests should be managed in ways which recognise the integrated value of these ecosystems. Issues of deforestation should be de-coupled from the Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Accelerate energy efficiency. Energy efficiency offers an important avenue for short- to medium-term progress. Efficiency saves money, makes industry more productive and attains other worthwhile objectives. This makes it worth doing irrespective of the benefits to carbon policy. This strategy is also harmonious with economic growth, which is a prerequisite for any sort of political traction in major economies.
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