New Delhi: If governments don’t act now, global temperatures will rise to 3.2 degrees above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century, bringing with it irreversible and cascading effects of climate change, states the latest report of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It adds, however, that there is possibility for the world to avoid the worst of climate change, by acting within this decade — through sustainable development, employing carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies and methods, and making deep cuts in emissions.
The IPCC published the third, and final, part of its sixth assessment report — authored by Working Group 3 — Monday. Like the two reports that preceded it, this report too reiterates that without deep cuts in emissions, more extreme climate change will be inescapable, impacting the least developed countries the most. Global temperatures are already at 1.1 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
The years between 2010 and 2019 saw the highest emissions in human history (at 56 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide or its equivalent), and the window to adapt to and mitigate climate change is quickly narrowing, says the latest IPCC report. In order to keep global temperatures to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, emissions would need to peak by 2025, and fall right after, with “rapid and deep” reductions following every decade till 2050.
“Modelled mitigation strategies to achieve these reductions include transitioning from fossil fuels without Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) to very low — or zero — carbon energy sources, such as renewables or fossil fuels with CCS, demand side measures and improving efficiency, reducing non-CO2 emissions, and deploying carbon dioxide removal (CDR) methods to counterbalance residual GHG emissions,” says the report.
CCS refers to highly contentious technologies that can trap and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. These have been a point of division among climate activists and researchers, because they are not yet scalable, are expensive, and their ecological costs are still not fully known.
According to the report, relying on carbon capture and removal of “hard-to-abate residual emissions” is “unavoidable” if the world is to achieve its net-zero targets. The report adds that the efficiency, feasibility, and application of these technologies need to be studied further.
Though the world is currently off-track to meet the 2015 Paris Agreement goal of keeping temperatures “well below” 2 degrees above pre-industrial level, the IPCC report presents several options for governments to avoid a world where temperatures soar to 3.2 degrees above it.
“I am encouraged by climate action being taken in many countries. There are policies, regulations and market instruments that are proving effective. If these are scaled up and applied more widely and equitably, they can support deep emissions reductions and stimulate innovation,” said Hoesung Lee, IPCC Chair, in a statement released Monday.
The sixth assessment report of the IPCC includes contributions by three working groups, and while the repots of the first and second groups were released in April 2021 and February 2022, the third and final report was released Monday.
Environment minister Bhupender Yadav said India “welcomed” the latest IPCC report, adding that it “justifies India’s emphasis on equity at all scales in climate action and sustainable development. We welcome it.”
The @IPCC_CH report underlines the need for deep and urgent global emissions reduction and justifies India’s emphasis on equity at all scales in climate action and sustainable development. We welcome it.
— Bhupender Yadav (@byadavbjp) April 5, 2022
Shifting development pathways
A growing source of emissions comes from urban spaces, which also provides an opportunity for governments to “systematically transition” to low carbon development pathways, says Monday’s report.
One way to do this is to introduce demand-side mitigation measures, and inspire behavioral changes — aspects of climate change mitigation explored by the IPCC for the first time.
“For example, food waste reduction or dietary choice for a sustainable, healthy, balanced diet is a choice individuals can make. If you make these choices, and you provide the right kind of access and infrastructure to make these choices in the whole supply chain of food, then you will see that land will actually be freed up,” Dr Joyashree Roy, one of the coordinating lead authors of the report, explained in a media briefing Monday. “That land could lead to a reduction in deforestation, or could be used for afforestation,” she added.
Other methods include moving towards electric vehicles, and designing cities in a way to ensure that the demand for personal transport is low. Lifestyle and infrastructure changes could lead to a 40 to 70 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050, says the report.
The report stressed the need for the world to transition away from fossil fuels, saying “the continued installation of unabated fossil fuel infrastructure will ‘lock-in’ greenhouse gas emissions”.
Gaps in climate finance
Like the previous report on climate adaptation authored by the Working Group 2, the latest IPCC report draws attention to gaps in funding for developing nations to implement climate mitigation strategies.
“Tracked financial flows fall short of the levels needed to achieve mitigation goals across all sectors and regions. The challenge of closing gaps is largest in developing countries as a whole,” says the report.
The Working Group 2 had said the estimated need for climate adaptation finance was “higher” than previous estimates.
The report shows that North America is responsible for the highest share of historical cumulative emissions (23 per cent), as well as the highest per capital emissions (15 tonnes of CO2), which is almost 20 times higher than that by an average person in the African continent.
Developed countries have failed to deliver on their promise of mobilising $100 billion in climate finance, for developing countries to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change.
“Accelerated international financial cooperation is a critical enabler of low-GHG and just transitions, and can address inequities in access to finance and the costs of, and vulnerability to, the impacts of climate change,” the report says.
The issue of climate adaptation finance had also come up in last year’s COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow. India was among countries that had asked for at least $1.3 trillion a year in climate finance, but countries like Australia, Norway, and the EU had been reluctant to settle on a figure.
Yadav has said the IPCC report “fully supports India’s view on the necessity of public finance for developing countries and the need for scale, scope and speed in climate finance.”
“The Report sends out a clear message on the global average investment
required to achieve 1.5°C or 2°C by 2030, and that the current projections show flow of finance is three to six times less than required on a global average basis at present. The finance shortage is across the globe, but the gap is relatively higher in developing regions like Asia, Africa and Latin America,” said Navroz Dubash, another coordinating lead author of the report.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)