Marginal abatement cost curves and the optimal timing of mitigation measures

Marginal Abatement Cost Curves and the Optimal Timing of Mitigation Measures / A. Vogt-Schilb, S. Hallegatte, Energy Policy, vol. 66, 2014, pp. 645-653.

Highlights :

• Classification of existing Marginal Abatement Cost Curves (MACC).
• MACCs do not provide separated data on the speed at which measures can be implemented.
• Optimal measures to reach a short-term target depend on longer-term targets.
• Unique carbon price or aggregated emission-reduction target may be insufficient.
• Room for short-term sectoral policies if agents are myopic or governments cannot commit.

Authors’s abstract :

Decision makers facing abatement targets need to decide which abatement measures to implement, and in which order. Measure-explicit marginal abatement cost curves depict the cost and abating potential of available mitigation options. Using a simple intertemporal optimization model, we demonstrate why this information is not sufficient to design emission reduction strategies. Because the measures required to achieve ambitious emission reductions cannot be implemented overnight, the optimal strategy to reach a short-term target depends on longer-term targets. For instance, the best strategy to achieve European’s −20% by 2020 target may be to implement some expensive, high-potential, and long-to-implement options required to meet the −75% by 2050 target. Using just the cheapest abatement options to reach the 2020 target can create a carbon-intensive lock-in and make the 2050 target too expensive to reach. Designing mitigation policies requires information on the speed at which various measures to curb greenhouse gas emissions can be implemented, in addition to the information on the costs and potential of such measures provided by marginal abatement cost curves.

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