Work Package 4

Climate change as part of the broader development agenda – Systematic assessment of synergies and trade-offs between multiple policy objectives

The integrated analysis of a broad portfolio of policy objectives – as opposed to focussing on each in isolation – is important for informing the policy process, given that decision-making regularly involves balancing a myriad of objectives in a wide variety of areas. In the context of sustainable development, it is therefore essential to develop an understanding of the synergies and trade-offs between the multiple policy objectives, including, for example, alleviating energy poverty and income inequality, improving air quality and thereby health, ensuring water availability, maintaining food and energy security, limiting and reducing GHG emissions, and increasing resilience to climate variability and change. Recent analyses have shown that significant synergies between at least a subset of these objectives exist and that these synergies may help to reconcile shorter-term national and regional objectives with the long-term objective to limit climate change (e.g., Riahi et al., 2012, McCollum et al., 2011, McCollum et al., 2013, Shukla et al., 2008, van Vuuren et al., 2006).

This work package aims at an in-depth exploration of the linkages between climate change goals (for both mitigation and adaptation) and a host of other sustainable development objectives (as listed above), taking into account national and local policy priorities and constraints in G20 countries. The central issue to be explored is whether and to which extent achieving climate goals reinforces or potentially impedes reaching other sustainable development objectives and, vice versa, if meeting certain development objectives may impact progress on climate.

Going far beyond the limited state of the current literature on integrated, holistic sustainable development pathways requires that national and global modelling frameworks be enhanced in several key areas. For starters, given that many of the policy dimensions to be assessed are only partially (or not at all) represented in current models, a first task for enabling integrated analyses will be to develop suitable methodologies, indicators and metrics for quantifying the sustainable development and climate objectives. Improving the respective representation in models will be done in a collaborative fashion by sharing data and methodologies among the contributing research teams. This capacity building exercise will enable multi-model comparisons and the assessment of associated uncertainties (both parametric and structural). Then, in a second task, taking full advantage of the extended modelling frameworks, the synergies and trade-offs among the various policy objectives will be explored by conducting integrated scenario analyses. The analyses will be informed by the empirical assessment of past and existing policies (WP1) and will build upon the review of national action plans, pledges, and development policies and the corresponding indicators to measure development along the different dimensions (WP2). Furthermore, the insights generated from this work package will be used to inform the development of new national and global low-carbon development pathways in WP3. All scenario results emanating from this work package will ultimately be made available in an interactive online database so that others can exploit the research in future work.

Key research questions

  • Can climate policy serve as an entry point for achieving multiple sustainable development objectives? Are there certain development goals that could hinder progress on climate? Which measures can ensure that climate and development goals are achieved simultaneously?
  • What are the key synergies and trade-offs between a broad set of policy objectives? How do these complex relationships play out at different regional scales (globally as well as for different countries/regions)?