Sustainability impact assessment of climate change mitigation policies – A case study in Mexico

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Insinööritieteiden korkeakoulu | Master's thesis
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Master's Programme in Creative Sustainability (CS)
The design, adoption, and implementation of climate policies by governments all around the world has increased in the past decades. The growing popularity of these types of policies comes as a response to the severe and irreversible impacts climate change poses to people and ecosystems, in addition to the influences from international accords such as the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Thus, climate policies are considered to be the most appropriate approach to mitigate the effects of climate change. However, these policies bear the risk of causing inadvertent impacts on humankind if they fail to be assessed in terms of the three dimensions (environmental, social, and economic) of sustainable development. Thus, the aim of this thesis is to identify as well as assess the positive and negative impacts of a climate policy on the three dimensions of sustainable development. The climate policy that serves as a case study, is focused on energy retrofits of public buildings in the State of Jalisco, Mexico. The author followed the Sustainable Development Guidance, developed by the Initiative for Climate Action Transparency (ICAT) as a tool to identify relevant impacts as well as qualitatively and quantitatively assess the policy. Furthermore, environmental impacts were determined through an LCA, including both in-jurisdiction impacts (i.e. state-wide) as well as out-of-jurisdiction impacts (i.e. rest of the world). Alternatively, impacts within the social and economic dimensions were only assessed locally. The results revealed that the greatest positive environmental impacts, affecting Mexico, occurred as a result of a decrease in usage of the national energy mix, both in terms of electricity generated from the photovoltaic panels and the reduction in electricity consumption from the LED lamps. However, negative environmental impacts also took place outside Mexican borders, mainly related to the raw material extraction and manufacturing of the aforementioned technologies. The implementation of the policy yielded savings of 1,071,223 kWh corresponding to MX$2,525,365. Furthermore, the policy had a positive impact on climate change awareness of civil servants and public acceptance of energy retrofits. Based on the research results, this thesis recommends integrating social, economic as well as other environmental impact categories (in addition to greenhouse gas emissions) in impact assessments of climate policies. It is also recommended to adopt a life cycle thinking approach when accounting for these impacts as well as to disaggregate the results based on different life cycle stages. Other recommendations are proposed: (i) the inclusion of end-of-life strategies in climate policies; (ii) the development of a climate change and/or a sustainable development governmental fund to avoid rebound effects as well as to support other like-minded projects; and (iii) the incorporation of new requirements in tendering processes which support an efficient use of materials as well as include environmental and social considerations as guiding principles.
Viitanen, Kauko
Thesis advisor
Rashidfarokhi, Anahita
Dong, Yan
sustainable development impact assessment, climate policies, Mexico, ICAT, PV panels, LED lamps
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