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Transitions pathways and risk analysis for climate change mitigation and adaption strategies

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A framework for making climate change policies

Risk and uncertainty in climate policy making is currently an under researched area. These factors need to be fully considered if unintended consequences are to be avoided.

Climate Change and Environment icon Climate Change and Environment

Models concerning the evolution of the future climate and its impacts contain a high degree of uncertainty, as do models for assessing the costs and benefits associated with different mitigation pathways. The EU-funded TRANSrisk project addressed this knowledge gap to help decision makers implement more effective climate policies through an improved understanding of the costs, benefits, risks and uncertainties associated with various policy options. Researchers developed an assessment framework, incorporating risk and uncertainty analysis of the costs and benefits of transition pathways and resulting policy designs. These pathways provide insights into a range of technological innovations that can aid a sustainable low-carbon transition, cutting across the energy, transport, agriculture and industrial sectors. A decision support toolbox also aided policy makers and informed policy design. “Some of our tools can explore, categorise and analyse the expertise of key sector stakeholders, while others can help make quick and easy estimates of the impacts of proposed policy changes,” says project co-principal investigator Dr Jenny Lieu. Case studies examined Project partners extensively tested the tools and guidance developed by TRANSrisk in 14 case studies in countries from Europe and North America to the fast-growing economies of Africa, Asia and Latin America. “Each case study focused on key economic sectors and low carbon technologies for the country in question, applying a common framework to very different contexts (social, economic and political) and technologies,” explains project co-principal investigator Prof. Gordon MacKerron. Case studies included solar photovoltaics in the Netherlands at both the rooftop and solar park level and the transition from coal to renewables in the Polish energy generation sector. An Indonesian case study examined the use of biodigesters and biogas for electricity generation at both the village and larger scales. In Chile, researchers investigated solar energy production and how carbon mitigation measures can be ‘fine-tuned’ to improve urban air quality. Engaging with a diverse group of stakeholders can help improve understanding of core problems and potential risks and how these impact different groups. TRANSrisk therefore collaborated with stakeholder partners such as NGOs and industry through its case study workshops and interviews. According to Prof. MacKerron: “Most case studies used a two-way process, where stakeholders provided information and results on potential low carbon pathways were fed back to them.” Multiple benefits This process had two major impacts. Firstly, stakeholders were provided with cutting edge academic analysis of their favoured low carbon technologies and pathways. Secondly, the partnerships created between stakeholders and academics can be further utilised by both parties in the future, to better understand developments in low carbon technologies and their deployment. Pathways for the transition to a low-carbon future are often perceived as inherently positive, but the case studies revealed several instances of trade-offs leading to negative social, economic or local environmental impacts. In some cases these trade-offs may lead to social resistance, for example if large numbers of people (or those working in politically influential sectors) face losing their jobs. TRANSrisk will benefit policy makers and researchers as well as members of the public. “The project will help those who wish to understand not only the costs associated with climate change but also the risks, uncertainties and co-effects related to different mitigation pathways as well as public acceptance (or lack thereof) of low-carbon technologies,” concludes Dr Lieu.


TRANSrisk, policy, stakeholder, risk, transition, climate change, low-carbon, solar, academic, policy maker, uncertainty

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