UCL Energy Institute report Marginal Abatement Cost Curves: A Call For Caution

Last edited 19 April 2011 at 12:29pm
Publication date: 
7 April, 2011

This report reflects the author's research, opinion and conclusions, and not those of the UCL Energy Institute, which does not take positions on detailed issues such as those discussed here.

This report critically reviews various issues relating to the construction and interpretation of marginal abatement cost curves (MACC, or MAC curves) for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, the most well-known and widely used of which have been compiled by McKinsey and Company. It also reveals various weaknesses related to the cost curves and points out their limited usefulness.

The creators of the McKinsey MAC curves have been careful to include some suitable caveats with the presentation of their results. However, the apparent simplicity and straightforwardness of the graphic MAC curve, with its summary and presentation of a great deal of complex numeric data in an easily-digestible form, often lead to these caveats being over- looked, so that excessive confidence is placed in the curves and the ranking of carbon abatement measures that they suggest.

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