Increasing Mitigation Ambition: Establishing 'Mitigation Reference Points' to Trigger Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reductions

24 Pages Posted: 2 Jul 2019

See all articles by Chris Wold

Chris Wold

Lewis & Clark College Paul L Boley Library

Amelia Schlusser

Lewis & Clark College

Date Written: 2014


Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) pledged in the Cancun Agreements to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by certain percentages or take other action to limit their GHG emissions. However, at the 2011 climate change negotiations in Durban, they acknowledged the “significant gap” between their pledges and the goal of limiting global average temperature below 2°C above pre-industrial levels — the stated goal of the climate regime. The United Nations Environment Programme concluded that, in 2020, the pledges included in the Cancun Agreements will be eight to thirteen GtCO2e short of the 2°C goal. To bridge this gap, Parties must raise their level of ambition and make additional mitigation commitments to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Yet, they have made no progress to increase their mitigation ambition before 2020 when the Cancun pledges expire or after 2020 as part of any new agreement under the Durban Platform. To increase ambition before 2020, Parties should adopt “mitigation reference points” that trigger automatic, predetermined mitigation action by Parties. Modeled on the precautionary reference points found in fisheries regimes, these reference points could include, for example, atmospheric GHG concentrations or global average temperatures reaching a specific target. When a reference point is reached or exceeded, automatic action, such as increasing mitigation commitments by some specified amount, would be required. The pre-determined actions triggered by mitigation reference points could take a variety of forms. They could require prorated or sector-specific emissions reductions. They could require all Parties to undertake the same action or be tailored according to Parties’ past and present emission rates and mitigation capacities. Regardless, these mitigation actions must be predetermined, mandatory, and result in a measurable decrease in GHG emissions or a measurable increase in sequestration capacity.

Keywords: UNFCCC, Mitigation, Climate Change

JEL Classification: K32, K33

Suggested Citation

Wold, Chris and Schlusser, Amelia, Increasing Mitigation Ambition: Establishing 'Mitigation Reference Points' to Trigger Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reductions (2014). Environmental Law, Vol. 45, No. 1, 2014, Available at SSRN:

Chris Wold (Contact Author)

Lewis & Clark College Paul L Boley Library ( email )

10015 S.W. Terwilliger Blvd.
Portland, OR 97219
United States

Amelia Schlusser

Lewis & Clark College ( email )

0615 SW Palatine Hill Road
Portland, OR 97204
United States

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