Evaluating the use of marginal abatement cost curves applied to greenhouse gas abatement in the UK agriculture
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Climate change is arguably the most important global societal challenge. Developing ‘low-carbon societies’, i.e. reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and adapting to a changing climate, is becoming a policy goal across the globe. Agriculture plays an important role in this transformation. The sector is highly vulnerable to climate variability, and is a significant source of emissions. At the same time, it has potential for reducing GHG emissions and also provides opportunity for carbon sequestration in soils and crop biomass. Policy support for mitigating GHG emissions is being informed by scientific evidence on the effectiveness and costs of mitigation opportunities. This information is frequently depicted in marginal abatement cost curves (MACCs), an assessment tool which can help to visualise the hierarchy of technical measures and their cumulative level of abatement. Similarly to other assessment tools, MACCs’ suitability to provide information has certain limitations. Furthermore, different derivations of MACCs are appropriate to answer different questions. In order to draw both informative and reliable conclusions for policy decisions, the characteristics of the MACCs and the resulting limitations have to be presented clearly. This dissertation seeks to answer the general question whether the agricultural MACCs can be improved so that they provide more comprehensive and tailored information to policy makers. In particular five limitations of the MACCs are discussed: the lack of representation of wider effects, the issue of cost-effectiveness of policy instruments and the inclusion of transaction costs, the uncertainty in the MACCs, the boundaries and the heterogeneity of the analysis. Theoretical frameworks are developed and case study examples are provided for these limitations, and the frameworks are assessed in terms whether they achieve the goal of providing more comprehensive information to policy makers than a conventional MACC. Furthermore, the dissertation summarises the available methodologies and applications in agriculture to enhance the MACCs and provides guidelines for researchers and policy makers about the choice of methods and the communication of the results in order to improve the use of MACCs in the policy process.