While it is recognised that adaptation is a priority for many developing countries, they will also need to show progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 42  Mitigation actions can deliver not only emissions reductions, but also wider co-benefits in relation to climate change adaptation, development, employment, energy security and public health. These co-benefits can contribute to achieving a number of SDGs, in particular those on affordable and clean energy (SDG 7), sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11) and responsible consumption and production (SDG 12). 43  Explicitly setting out the co-benefits of a low-emission development approach can increase stakeholder buy-in and support the prioritisation of mitigation activities. In addition, mainstreaming gender equality in mitigation policy design and implementation delivers well-planned and inclusive initiatives that produce improved results. 44

NDCs can contain a range of different mitigation contributions. Many NDCs have quantified goals to reduce greenhouse gases (outcome-based goals), while others qualitatively set out specific mitigation actions (action-based goals). 45  In some NDCs, both outcome-based and action-based goals are included. Outcome-based reduction goals can cover discrete sectors or be economy-wide, and can take a range of forms, including: absolute reduction targets; reductions in relation to a base year or future projected business-as-usual emissions; and greenhouse gas intensity targets, for example emissions relative to gross domestic product (GDP). In addition, many NDCs contain not only an unconditional contribution but also a conditional contribution, which is contingent on the receipt of international support (or other conditions).

Figure 2. Key activities in the mitigation module
Reference Manual Figure 2. Key activities in the mitigation module

Box 2. Mitigation and the Paris Agreement

“In order to achieve the long-term temperature goal set out in Article 2, Parties aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, recognizing that peaking will take longer for developing country Parties, and to undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with best available science, so as to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century.” – Article 4.1, Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement establishes the global goal of keeping warming well below a 2°C increase, and calls for efforts to limit this increase to 1.5°C (Article 2). Low-carbon economies will be built upon the foundation of NDCs (Article 4.2), with each new submission every five years representing a progression on the last to reflect the highest possible ambition from each country (Article 4.3).

Greenhouse gas inventories are central to tracking progress in reducing emissions, with each country required to regularly produce a national inventory report (Article 13.7.a). Developing countries are encouraged to move, over time, towards economy-wide emissions-reduction targets (Article 4.4) and all countries are invited to communicate, by 2020, long-term low-emission development strategies (Decision P.36).

Mitigation actions, including those labelled as NAMAs (see Box 3), are the key means for delivering the mitigation contributions in the NDCs. They can include small-scale local projects (e.g. at the city or village level) or national policies, with a range of potential delivery options, such as regulations, standards, information and labelling, on-the-ground projects and infrastructure, and fiscal incentives. Mitigation actions will need to be robust and measurable (see the MRV module) to secure financing and international support (see the finance module).

Box 3. Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions

The NAMA concept was introduced in the Bali Action Plan at COP 13. It refers to any action that reduces emissions in developing countries and is prepared under the umbrella of a national government initiative. 46 NAMAs can include projects, policies, programmes, action plans and strategies that are targeted within a specific sector or across multiple sectors, and at the national or subnational level. NAMAs can be supported by international finance (supported NAMAs) or fully funded domestically (unilateral NAMAs).

Figure 3 summarises the activities required to implement an NDC in terms of mitigation, setting out the overall planning process. Countries can undertake the activities sequentially, or immediately implement the measures that provide clear benefits and for which funding is available. Alternatively, a country can first analyse the mitigation opportunities in specific priority sectors, then undertake national-level mitigation activities at a later date (e.g. to improve the evidence base or expand the scope of the mitigation contribution).

Figure 3. The mitigation planning process
Reference Manual Figure 3. The mitigation planning process

When reviewing this module, countries may find it useful to refer to the adaptation module with regards to mitigation–adaptation synergies; the finance module with regards to financing mitigation actions; the MRV module for guidance regarding tracking the implementation and effectiveness of mitigation actions and international reporting requirements in relation to the Paris Agreement; and the governance module with regards to the institutional structures and processes needed to deliver mitigation actions.

Key activity 1: Review the current mitigation policy landscape

1a. Review the NDC

  • Identify whether the NDC proposes any additional mitigation activities compared to existing mitigation strategies or action plans (e.g. sectoral action plans, green growth strategies, climate change action plans).
  • Review the type of mitigation contribution (outcome-based versus action-based) and any conditionality.

1b. Review the existing mitigation policy landscape

  • Identify what measures are proposed or already in place, including:
    • the level at which each measure will be implemented (e.g. national, regional, city)
    • which sectors are covered by each measure
    • the relative contributions of these measures to overall greenhouse gas emissions reductions (if known)
    • the direct and indirect implications of these measures for delivering on the SDGs.
  • Identify the current arrangements for the governance framework for mitigation, and the extent to which the full range of stakeholders are already engaged (see activity 1 in governance module for more details).

Key activity 2: Set up institutional arrangements for the coordination and oversight of mitigation activities

  • Identify a focal point or coordinating entity within government for both policy (or NAMA) design and implementation.
  • In practice, this is likely to be the same entity which is responsible for oversight of NDC implementation as a whole (see activities 2 and 3 in governance module for more details).

Key activity 3: Analyse the national mitigation potential to identify priority sectors and mitigation options

3a. Identify key sectors

  • Identify the co-benefits of low-emission and explicitly mitigation-oriented approaches.
  • Consider which sectors (e.g. power, transport, industry, buildings, waste, agriculture) are the most significant from a greenhouse gas perspective, both now – based on the country’s greenhouse gas inventory – and in the future, including sectors that are key to economic development and employment or contribute a significant percentage of GDP, provide opportunities for other co-benefits, provide links with achieving SDGs, etc.
  • Identify how mitigation is being, or will be, integrated into wider economic and development actions, to ensure that implementation of the NDC demonstrates its impact and contribution to core developmental goals and targets, as enshrined in the SDGs.

3b. Analyse mitigation potential and costs across these sectors

  • Identify drivers for emissions growth in each key sector (e.g. the effect of population growth on transport or energy demand) and nationally (e.g. urbanisation, industrialisation, an expanding middle class). This will show what data will need to be collected to assess mitigation potential.
  • This could potentially be done to different levels of detail; for example, for the building sector, countries could collect data on building energy demand or the drivers of energy demand, such as persons per household, GDP per capita, etc.
  • Carry out a data collection exercise, if required, including reviewing existing studies and surveying key data holders. Consider the scope for gender-disaggregated data collection to allow for the analysis of gender impacts.
  • Calculate the abatement potential and produce marginal abatement cost curves, where possible.
  • Collect international benchmark data where national data are not available, or are not sufficiently robust.
  • Identify the emissions reductions needed to meet the unconditional and conditional mitigation contributions in the NDC. Note that it could be useful to determine the costs of mitigation within particular sectors or industries within the country. This can set a shadow price for carbon, which could help countries to tender for projects that provide the best value in terms of mitigation. This will also build experience of results-based payment systems ahead of the development of a new financing mechanism, as identified in the Paris Agreement.
  • Develop a ‘long list’ of potential mitigation actions for each key sector. This could include technology actions, which some countries may have reviewed already as part of their Technology Needs Assessment. 47 Behaviour-change actions can also be considered.
  • Estimate the upfront investment and ongoing costs needed for each action, identifying where there may be a need for donor and/or private sector finance. Note that expectations may need to be adjusted around value for money frameworks to ensure that environmental and social equity aspects are appropriately balanced against other considerations of efficiencies, economics and impacts (see activity 3 in the finance module for more details on compiling overall costings, and activity 4 in the finance module for more details on identifying the level and type of support needed).

3c. Shortlist and prioritise mitigation options

  • Determine the criteria for prioritisation, such as mitigation potential, costs and technical feasibility, as well as the benefits of each action as they relate to national priorities such as resilience, development, job creation, air quality and health. Prioritisation should also factor in temporal considerations, for example actions that encourage the implementation of measures that may take some time to deliver, and/or in a way that avoids lock-in to carbon-intensive technologies.
  • Consider using cost–benefit analysis tools to assess and prioritise mitigation. Tools such as jobs and economic development impact models can be used to estimate the economic impacts of constructing and operating renewable energy power plants. Multi-criteria analysis is another possible approach.
  • Prioritise mitigation options, either qualitatively or quantitatively (depending on data availability), using methodologies such as multi-criteria analysis and in close consultation with key stakeholders inside and outside of government.
  • Appraise the co-benefits (development–adaptation–mitigation) to ensure mitigation actions adopt a ‘no regrets’ approach, and so that win–win actions are clearly identified.

3d. Undertake barriers analysis for each shortlisted option

  • Assess the enabling environment for each action, for example domestic policy support frameworks and institutional barriers.
  • Understand the mix of financial and non-financial measures required to successfully implement each action.

3e. Model greenhouse gas emissions under a business-as-usual scenario and emissions-reduction scenarios

  • Choose a modelling approach suitable for the country’s needs and level of data availability and quality.
  • Collate data inputs for the model, including: sector-level emissions in a reference year (e.g. from the latest emissions inventory); baseline emissions; mitigation potential and costs (e.g. marginal abatement cost data); emissions growth factors (e.g. economic growth, population growth, electricity availability, levels of transport demand).
  • Develop simple techniques for estimating the factors behind emissions growth where data are not available. These techniques might include extrapolation of past trends, interpolation to fill data missing in a sequence, and splicing or combining data sources.
  • Run the model to produce business-as-usual and emissions-reduction scenarios, giving consideration to running different emissions-reduction scenarios that identify the mitigation pathways for both the unconditional and conditional contributions.
  • Carry out quality assurance checks of the data used in the model, and sensitivity analysis to check the accuracy of results.
  • Check results by comparing modelling outputs to any previous work undertaken in the country and/or models from similar countries.
  • Consult key stakeholders on the modelling results and choice of scenarios. Consider revisions where appropriate, based on feedback.

3f. Allocate national mitigation efforts across sectors

  • Consider an appropriate allocation – of the mitigation actions in the NDC and other national mitigation goals – across key sectors, in close consultation with those sectors and affected stakeholders.

3g. Build capacity and improve the evidence base

  • Document any remaining data gaps and develop a plan to address them through further research.
  • Develop technical and modelling capability for mitigation potential analysis and scenarios, for example on how to develop marginal abatement cost curves and how to use models such as the Long-range Energy Alternatives Planning model for long-term mitigation scenarios.

Key activity 4: Conduct a detailed appraisal of priority actions for key sectors

4a. Review the strategic priorities for each key sector

  • For example, in the agriculture sector, is there an objective on the extent to which national demand should be met through domestic production? In the construction sector, are there any national targets for housebuilding?

4b. Carry out further analysis and prioritisation

  • Conduct more in-depth analysis on mitigation potential and costs, if needed.
  • Conduct further prioritisation of mitigation actions at the sector level if needed, including consideration of not only greenhouse gas emissions reductions but also co-benefits of particular relevance for each sector, identifying win–win options. This could include proposing specific mitigation policies or projects, as well ‘greening’ existing or planned infrastructure for a sector.
  • Conduct macroeconomic impact assessments, using computable general equilibrium modelling or other tools, of selected mitigation actions to consider their impact on economic growth, distribution of income, poverty, government revenues, trade balance and investment, among other factors. This could be undertaken in collaboration with the ministries of finance and/or planning, which will have an interest in the outcomes of the analysis.
  • Further analysis may be required to assess if the prioritised mitigation actions for each sector will be sufficient for the sector to achieve any mitigation targets allocated to it, and any conditional or unconditional contributions to which the sector is expected to achieve or contribute.

4c. Appraise policy options

  • Undertake an initial review of options for delivering the identified actions or abatements, (e.g. fiscal instruments, regulations, standards, information campaigns); these will be further elaborated under the mitigation policy design (see activity 5 within this module).
  • Consider any actions that may be needed outside of each sector to support the sector achieving its targets. For example, meeting transport greenhouse gas reduction targets might require certain levels of biofuel supply; hence discussions between the transport and agriculture ministries may be needed.

4d. Prepare a mitigation-sector action plan

  • This plan should consolidate the sector analysis. Note that cross-sectoral policies might be included in these plans or in an overarching national action plan.
  • Ensure that consultations are held with relevant stakeholders, including civil society organisations, women and women’s organisations, and development-focused stakeholders, to ensure coherence and alignment with sectoral ambitions related to the SDGs.
  • Bring in sectoral expertise as necessary to understand the opportunities, barriers and costs in different sectors, as well as the developmental co-benefits and implications.
  • Aim to integrate sectoral action plans with relevant subnational and national plans and strategies, coordinating where appropriate with engagement mechanisms serving the whole of the NDC (see activity 3 in governance module for more details on ensuring integration with existing processes across ministries, agencies and subnational authorities). In particular, it might be beneficial to produce a combined mitigation and adaptation action plan for each sector to highlight mitigation–adaptation synergies.

Key activity 5: Design mitigation policies

5a. Design the policy

  • Agree the most appropriate policy options for delivering the identified mitigation actions. (Consideration of the pros and cons of individual policies is beyond the scope of this guide.)
  • Design the policy, including information on the proposed policy, the expected impacts (including co-benefits), feasibility studies, alignment with similar policies and possible funding options.
  • Consider the broad set of outcomes that the policy should achieve, including supporting SDG implementation and gender equity.
    • Gender-responsive climate change mitigation involves asking who should decide on the consumption of energy at the household level, who prioritises sources of energy at the national level, how technology and energy choices can address the unequal division of unpaid labour between men and women, and which technologies and emission levels are decided by governments and who takes this decision.
    • For example, consider targeted financing mechanisms such as payment plans and pay-as-you-use models 48 to facilitate the provision of energy services for poor households.
  • Consult with relevant stakeholders when designing the policy.

5b. Agree arrangements for ongoing implementation

Key activity 6: Access financing for mitigation actions

Key activity 7: Implement mitigation policies

7a. Implementation

7b. Resources and support

  • Organise capacity-building for the institutions that will deliver the policy, to administer and successfully implement it. This will also help with developing expertise in project implementation and financing.
  • Develop any communications and guidance that may needed to support the implementation of the policy (e.g. marketing materials and technical guidance).

7c. Evaluate policies, structures and processes

  • Evaluate the policy and make changes as appropriate, involving key stakeholders (including women) to ensure the policy is effective, user-friendly and sustainable.

Key activity 8: Design and implement a mitigation MRV system

8a. Design and develop a greenhouse gas inventory

  • See the MRV module for more details on setting up an MRV system.
  • If a greenhouse gas inventory is not yet in place, allocate responsibilities and a budget to develop one, then establish a team and aim to take a modular approach. For example, it can initially be developed for the most relevant sectors using readily available data, then extended over time to cover all sectors.
  • If there is an inventory in place, aim to close any data gaps and improve it over a number of years, in terms of its scope, data quality, staff capacity, documentation and archiving approach.
  • Set up data-sharing agreements between key ministries (e.g. in the form of memoranda of understanding or legal requirements) to ensure the data are available over the long term.

8b. Design a system for the monitoring and evaluation of mitigation actions

  • If previous Biennial Update Reports or National Communications did not contain data on mitigation actions, consider the most relevant data required to track the implementation and impacts of the mitigation actions set out in activity 2.
  • Consider using the approach described in the World Resources Institute’s (WRI) Greenhouse Gas Protocol Policy and Action Standard 49 to identify this data, and to consider appropriate indicators and methodologies for estimating the impact of policies and actions. Note that indicators other than greenhouse gas emissions can be important in understanding the effectiveness of a mitigation policy, and might be more meaningful to other stakeholders. 50
  • Where mitigation actions might affect greenhouse gas emissions in the same sector, consider assessing their impacts as a package to avoid ‘double counting’.
  • If previous Biennial Update Reports or National Communications contained data on mitigation actions, identify any potential gaps, for example whether impact indicators were included.
  • Review whether there is an overarching structure for the collection and compilation of data and develop a long-term plan to fill in the gaps based on the above considerations.
  • Ensure that development projects capture and report on their mitigation potential, and that mitigation projects capture and report on their developmental potential and impacts.

8c. Develop projections for greenhouse gas emissions

  • Consider developing greenhouse gas projections to show whether future emissions are on track to meet any outcome-based contributions. At first this could be via ad-hoc updates supported by international technical assistance, but ultimately the aim should be to build the national capacity to carry out this work. Projections may have been produced under existing reports, e.g. a Low Carbon Development Strategy or National Communication. 51

8d. Develop interim milestones

  • Consider interim milestones (e.g. greenhouse gas targets or carbon budgets) between now and any medium- to longer-term emissions-reduction targets. These can give countries a benchmark against which to measure greenhouse gas emissions prior to the target year. Guidance on this can be found in the WRI’s Greenhouse Gas Protocol Mitigation Goal Standard. 52

Key activity 9: Prepare for future NDCs

  • Ensure that staff are given responsibility for updating the NDC, and that they are trained in or have access to appropriate technical skills on mitigation and adaptation.
  • Regularly review and analyse the aggregate impact of mitigation activities across sectors, and consider the need to improve existing measures or introduce new measures.
  • If the NDC does not include an economy-wide contribution, consider expanding the scope of the mitigation contribution to all sectors.
  • If the NDC does not seek to reduce overall emissions, consider setting up a peak decline pathway for when emissions will peak.
  • If the NDC does not include a long-term vision, consider an appropriate mitigation pathway up to 2050 and beyond.
  • Ensure that timelines are included in the implementation plan for the next NDC. These should allow time for new technical analysis, reviews of lessons learned from implementation, stakeholder engagement on the new NDC, and national decision-making processes.

Learning from others

Case study 8. Peru: national mitigation planning in the waste sector

Peru’s solid waste NAMA, 53 coordinated by the Ministry of Environment, is a good example of national mitigation planning, sectoral action planning, policy design and policy implementation. The following activities were carried out as part of the programme.

  • Development of a solid waste inventory, including data gathering of waste and waste streams and calculating greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Assessment of mitigation options in the waste sector.
  • Identification of barriers to the implementation of the mitigation options and how to overcome these.
  • Development of a NAMA proposal, integrated into the national solid waste strategy.
  • Setting up a system for MRV, according to international standards.
  • Identification of relevant institutional arrangements.
  • Identification of financing options and setting reference levels for possible emissions trading or results-based finance.
  • Capacity-building and training.

Development benefits of climate action: In addition to actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the municipal waste sector, the NAMA focused on the many additional sustainable development benefits of reducing waste. These include reducing the health risks from inadequate waste disposal and the contamination of aquifers, decreased leachate production at current landfills and open dumps, and job creation from alternative waste treatment technologies.

Embedding in national plans: Key to the success of this process was the fact that NAMAs are embedded into Peru’s development plans and strategies by local regulatory authorities. To ensure sustainability and transformational change, the NAMA proposals include different types of actions that will take place in the short, medium and long term.

Stakeholder engagement: The process included extensive stakeholder involvement.

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Case study 9. Mexico: options analysis for low-carbon planning

In 2009 the Government of Mexico’s Special Climate Change Program set out to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 11% by 2020 and 50% by 2050, compared with 2000 levels. This programme was informed by a cost–benefit analysis that assessed the costs and greenhouse gas savings of 40 near-term mitigation measures in five sectors.

Cost-benefit analysis: The study assessed 40 near-term mitigation measures in the following sectors: electric power; oil and gas; energy end use (energy efficiency in multiple sectors); transport; agriculture; and forestry. The analysis evaluated interventions against a baseline scenario, which predicted that total greenhouse gas emissions will grow by 172% from 2008 to 2030. It also found that, together, the measures would cost US$64 bn up to 2030, but would maintain emissions at 2008 levels. The analysis was then used to identify the areas with potential for the largest savings, and actions with significant scale-up potential.

Modelling: A range of tools was used, including the Long-range Energy Alternatives Planning system, the Computable General Equilibrium model, marginal abatement cost curves, input–output models and cost–benefit analysis, 54  which improved the robustness of the analysis.

Options analysis to facilitate policy-making: The cost–benefit analysis demonstrated that Mexico can move to a low-carbon pathway while generating economic opportunities. This helped align the strategy with the country’s wider economic goals and fed into the national climate change programme. 55 56

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Case study 10. European Union: developing a long-term strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector

Emissions from the transport sector are responsible for a rapidly increasing proportion of many countries’ emissions, but there are specific challenges to reducing their growth. In Europe, the problem is being addressed by a long-term transport sector decarbonisation strategy for 2010 to 2050. This covers all modes of transport, including road, aviation, rail and shipping.

Assessment of costs and co-benefits: The work included costed assessments of demand-side and supply-side options, including their co-benefits in relation to air quality, congestion, energy consumption and energy security.

Scenario Analysis tool: A new transport-scenario-analysis tool, ‘SULTAN’, 57  was developed for this. This allowed all the major impacts to be considered in the assessment. Several other countries, from Japan to South Africa, have undertaken similar policy option reviews using SULTAN. 58

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Case study 11. Africa: economic empowerment of women through clean energy technologies

Solar Sister is a non-governmental organisation that helps women in Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda to create economic opportunities and increase energy access by generating profits from sales of solar products in their community networks. It reaches out to remote communities by providing them with access to clean energy technologies. Environmental benefits include reduced carbon dioxide emissions, resulting from replacing kerosene lanterns and diesel generators for phone charging with solar alternatives, and reduced deforestation due to the use of energy-efficient stoves. The model and approach used by Solar Sister provides an innovative way to combine economic empowerment with environmental and social benefits.

Enabling economic and social empowerment: Providing women with an active role in energy supply and distribution has helped Solar Sister to break cultural norms with respect to women’s role in the society. The specific gender-focused benefits range from income and skills development to expanding social networks, building self-confidence and improving women’s status in their family and community. Improved technologies also bring health and safety benefits for women, and improved adaptive capacities in terms of climate change.

Facilitating market access and private sector engagement: Solar Sister has created a strong public–private partnership, which continues to grow, building a supply chain for off-grid clean energy technologies and bringing specific benefits for women. Economic impacts include the establishment of new microbusinesses, value chains and increased economic productivity from the use of solar-powered products. Solar Sister plans to reach five countries in sub-Saharan Africa by 2020 and train 5,000 entrepreneurs. 59

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