IMAGE framework summary/Policy issues

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Policy issues

The IMAGE framework can be used to explore types of policy issues in a variety of areas. These include possible impacts in the absence of new policies or policy responses, and evaluation of possible policy interventions. IMAGE provides an integrated perspective on policy issues by assessing options in various part of the Human and Earth systems and evaluating the impact from several perspectives. The model assesses the following key areas for policy responses:

  • Climate policy (global targets, regional efforts, costs and benefits)
  • Energy policies (air pollution, energy access, energy security and bioenergy)
  • Land and biodiversity policies (food, bioenergy, nature conservation)
  • Human development policies (malnutrition, health)
  • Measures to reduce the imbalance of nutrient and water cycles.

The first three are discussed below.

Climate policy

A key focus of the IMAGE framework is climate change mitigation strategies. For this purpose, IMAGE is linked to the FAIR model (Component Climate policy) to assess detailed climate policy configurations in support of negotiation processes, and also for inter-temporal optimisation of mitigation strategies. FAIR receives information from various parts of IMAGE, including baseline emissions from energy, industry and land use, the potential for reforestation, and the costs to emission abatement in the energy system. The latter is provided in dynamic marginal abatement cost (MAC) curves, based on the IMAGE energy model, for different regions, gases and sources. Using demand and supply curves, the model determines the carbon price on the international trade market, and the resulting net abatement costs for each region. Long-term reduction strategies can be determined by minimising cumulative discounted mitigation costs. The FAIR results are fed back to the core IMAGE model to calculate impacts on the energy and land-use systems. Together, FAIR and IMAGE can be used to assess the relative importance of mitigation measures and the potential impacts of climate policy, such as avoided damage and co-benefits for air pollution.

Energy policies

The IMAGE framework can be used to assess a wider range of energy policies than climate policy alone, including measures to promote access to modern energy and to improve energy security (Component Air pollution and energy policies). Moreover, it is possible to constrain or even ban the use of specific technologies, such as bioenergy, nuclear power and carbon capture storage. IMAGE analysis incorporates linkages, synergies and trade-offs in global change processes, such as the link between energy use and land use for bioenergy, and the consequences of air pollution for human health.

Land and biodiversity policies

Policies on land use and biodiversity can be introduced in the various IMAGE components (for an overview, see Component Land and biodiversity policies). These include changes in the agro-economic model (trade policies, subsidies, taxes, yield improvements, and dietary preferences) and the land-use system (restriction on certain land use types, REDD). As a linked system, IMAGE can assess the system-wide consequences of measures introduced, including trade-offs and feedbacks, such as the consequences of agricultural policies for nutrient cycles, biodiversity and hunger. Key examples are evaluation of dietary changes with respect to biodiversity, land-use and greenhouse gas emissions, and evaluation of more stringent land-use planning and REDD on biodiversity conservation and food security.