Study: Piecemeal approach to emissions proves surprisingly effective

Dec. 16, 2013 at 5:39 PM
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CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Dec. 16 (UPI) -- A piece-by-piece approach to emissions policies, rather than attempting comprehensive solutions, can be effective, a U.S. study indicates.

While most discussions on curbing climate change tend to focus on comprehensive, emissions-focused measures, such as a global cap-and-trade scheme aimed at controlling carbon or a tax on all carbon emissions, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say a "segmental" approach -- involving separate targeting of energy choices and consumption through regulations or incentives -- can be a significant factor in achieving emission reductions.

"A policy that's focused on controlling carbon emissions is a different kind of policy than one that's focused on the underlying demand-side and supply-side technology drivers," engineering systems Professor Jessika Trancik said in an MIT release Monday.

While sweeping, emission-focused policies often face uphill battles in regions, states, and nations, a wide variety of segmental policies avoiding such obstacles and have been adopted by such jurisdictions, she said.

That makes it important to understand the effectiveness of such approaches, she added.

"There are some things that these segmental policies do very well," Trancik said, noting they are particularly effective in dealing with the inertia associated with existing infrastructure.

"Compliance with a carbon-focused policy can come either from changes in energy consumption levels or technological change, and a set of segmental policies can ensure that both types of change happen concurrently," she said.

Trancik's study has been published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

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