There is a need to build a capacity at the national level to develop, review and implement response strategies. Construction of major engineering works and installation of forecasting systems will require significant strengthening of the agencies responsible, whether in the public or the private sector. Most critical is the requirement for a socio-economic mechanism that can review predictions of the impact of climate change and possible response strategies and make the necessary judgements and decisions.
This strategy features in the framework of Agenda 21 as formulated at UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), now coordinated by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and implemented through national and local authorities. Agenda 21 recommends increasing international cooperation particularly with a view to strengthening national scientific and technological capabilities for analysing, assessing and predicting global climate and environmental change.
National governments have a number of policy options open to them through which they can achieve the aims of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. In very broad terms, policy responses to climate change must take one of three forms: (a) adaptation; (b) climate engineering; and (c) abatement. Abatement strategies are attempts to lower the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere; they are the strategies that the Convention invokes.
Traditional market-oriented policies for abatement include: controlling energy prices (particularly if energy is provided under a government or private monopoly); removing government subsidies on environmentally-damaging forms of energy; taxing certain fuels, tradable carbon permits, encouraging changes in fuel mix and replacement of fossil fuels by renewable energy sources; and ensuring that new technologies have free access to the market place. Reducing energy demand (by, for example, insulation of buildings), energy conservation and energy efficiency are being widely promoted within the business community and for households. Phasing-out ozone depleting chemicals that are also greenhouse gases is a complementary policy response already in place in many countries. In addition, countries can increase the size of carbon sinks, for example by planting forests. Furthermore, the Convention specifically includes the possibility of what is known as Joint Implementation – the idea that two or more countries can work together to reduce their joint emissions or increase the size of their joint carbon sinks in the most economically efficient way. These options are not mutually exclusive and varying combinations will be economically attractive and practicable in differing circumstances.
The UK Government has taken action aimed at helping the UK to reach its targets including the Integrated Transport Policy; increasing the fuel duty escalator to 6% per year in real terms; a review of what would be necessary and practicable to achieve 10% of electricity demand from renewables by 2010; discussions with the energy industry and others about the possibility of promoting energy efficiency through a new Standards of Performance scheme; an increase in funds for energy efficiency; and finally, establishing a Task Force which will report on the use of economic instruments to improve the use of energy by business.