The 56th session of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on Monday approved the much-anticipated Summary for Policy Makers (SPM) of the Working Group III contribution to the Sixth Assessment Cycle (AR6 WGIII) titled ‘Mitigation of Climate Change’.
There were nearly 60,000 comments from expert reviewers and governments, and 59,000 scientific papers were referenced in the report that was completed by 278 authors.
What does the report say?
The WGIII report examines the current trends of emissions, projected levels of future warming, and how to transition to a low carbon economy in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2100. All this, was in line with the targets set out in the Paris Agreement 2015. Considering the trends in sectoral emissions across energy, transport, agriculture, buildings and industry, and projected warming levels based on current levels of policy commitment, the report shows how transformative systems can ensure a safer climate and a sustainable economy.
The report highlights that rapid, deep and absolute cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, phasing out all fossil fuels, transformative shifts to scale up energy efficiency, renewable energy and electrification, and conservation and restoration of forests and lands — all aligned with sustainable development, accompanied by substantially increased finance and underpinned by principles of equity — offers the only real chance to avert runaway climate change.
The science in the report is crystal clear: Systemic transformations across all sectors of society, particularly the most high-consuming and polluting, within a precious narrowing window of opportunity, can provide a path forward to avoid total climate breakdown and secure a safe, healthy and liveable planet.
Fossil fuels, carbon free future possible?
To achieve 1.5 degrees Celsius, the world must reduce annual CO2 emissions by 48 per cent by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050 (India has opted net zero target of 2070) while reducing methane emissions a third by 2030 and almost halving them by 2050. The report also reminded that 2010-2019 saw the highest increase in average decadal emissions in human history.
On average, the globe emitted 56 giga tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year over this period. The high level of gas emissions were primarily driven by fossil fuels, it said and added how rich countries are disproportionately high emitters.
Reiterating that fossil fuels are the root cause of climate change, of environmental injustices and “as witnessed in case of Ukraine-Russia war right now”, frequently associated with geopolitical strife and conflict, Policy Director and Lead Economist, Climate and Energy Programme with the Union of Concerned Scientists, Rachel Cleetus said: “This latest IPCC report puts policymakers on notice, yet again, that the current global trajectory of heat-trapping emissions is alarmingly off-track. The solutions are obvious and have been for a long time. Richer nations, including the United States, bear significant responsibility to both cut emissions and provide funding to help developing countries.”
Retrofitting existing fossil fuel assets with carbon capture and storage (CCS) is being proposed as one option to reduce the amount of emissions already locked in by existing infrastructure.
Solutions include renewables, batteries, EVs, CDR
Monday’s IPCC report also finds that solutions are readily available across all sectors to more than halve emissions by 2030, in line with a 1.5 degrees Celsius pathway. Moreover, a low-carbon economy can create more jobs overall, and there are many mitigation options with economic, societal and environmental benefits, it said.
“Since the last report, technologies have significantly improved, and the costs of solutions like solar, wind and batteries have declined by up to 85 per cent. Around 20 countries have shown they can reduce emissions through policy and economic measures, which have boosted energy efficiency, reduced rates of deforestation and increased renewable energy and low-carbon transportation. Some countries’ reductions are consistent with limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius, but none are yet on track for a 1.5 degrees Celsius pathway,” Stephanie Roe, IPCC Lead Author and WWF Global Climate and Energy Lead Scientist, said.
Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) can help counterbalance “hard-to-abate” residual emissions to help reach net zero CO2 or net zero GHG emissions in the mid-term.
Vaibhav Chaturvedi, Fellow, Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) summed up: “The IPCC WGIII report highlights the criticality of accelerating near term mitigation and embracing sustainable lifestyles. It reveals that the goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius would be beyond reach if deep emission cuts are not achieved between now and 2030. The developed countries – especially China, the United States, and the European Union – must significantly ramp up their climate mitigation efforts as these three big emitters alone would consume 45 per cent of the available carbon space by 2030 under a business-as-usual scenario.”