The third part of the Sixth Assessment Report, Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change, the Working Group III contribution was due to be published early on Monday 4 April 2022. However, as a result of disagreements between major polluters on issues such as the definitions and relative responsibilities of developed and developing countries, as well as disagreements on the phase out of fossil fuel subsidies, the report was finalised with a six-hour postponement.
The IPCC has issued its final warning in this report that global emissions must peak by 2025 to stop the impact of the climate crisis. It warns that if global CO2 emissions continue at current rates without strengthening the policies beyond those that were implemented by the end of 2020, GHG emissions are projected to rise beyond 2025, leading to a median global warming of 3.2°C by 2100. Countries announced nationally determined contributions (NDCs) prior to COP26 in an effort to put forward better targets and pledges. However, the IPCC reports that the policies which were implemented by the end of 2020 are projected to result in higher global GHG emissions than those implied by NDCs. Even with the full implementation of the NDCs, global GHG emissions in 2030 would still make it likely that warming will exceed 1.5°C during the 21st century.
Key Takeaways from the report
- Substantial reduction in the fossil fuel use. There were disagreements on this issue prior to the publication that resulted in delays. Particularly, on what emphasis to give policies that aim to phase out fossil fuel subsidies. Nevertheless, the IPCC is calling for a substantial reduction in overall fossil fuel use which can be brought about by increasing the economic attractiveness of low-emission energy sector transitions through 2030, and increased focus on electricity systems powered by renewables.
- Social aspects of mitigating emissions. The report had a focus on demand-side measures to influence GHG emissions. Demand-side mitigation encompasses change in infrastructure use, end-use technology adoption, and socio-cultural and behaviour change. By influencing consumer behaviour through policy, demand can be reduced for all transport services and support the shift to more energy efficient transport modes.
- Carbon dioxide removal projects. CDR refers to anthropogenic activities that remove CO2 from the atmosphere and store it durably in geological, terrestrial, or ocean reservoirs, or in products. The IPCC suggests that the use of large-scale CDR will be unavoidable to beat those hard-to-abate residual emissions. However, the upscale of deployment of CDR will depend on developing effective approaches to address feasibility and sustainability constraints.
- Investment into clean energy. The report calls for increased investments into clean energy, particularly calling for the flow of finance from developed countries to developing countries and address inequalities in access to finance. Rapid near-term transitions and higher up-front investments will bring about an earlier peak between now and 2025 that will result in long-term gains for the economy as well as earlier benefits of avoided climate change impacts.
- The top 10%. The IPCC reports that the 10% of households with the highest per capital emissions contribute 34-45% of global consumption-based household GHG emissions. The report does not suggest ways to tackle this inequality, however, the report makes emphasis on GHG reduction brought by way of change to consumer behaviour which means that the 10% household may as well have a high potential for emissions reductions.
Appendix: overview of key findings of the ipcc report
The IPCC has reported that:
- total anthropogenic GHG emissions continued to rise during the period 2010-2019, and the average annual GHG emissions during 2010-19 were higher than in any previous decade although the rate of growth between 2010-19 was lower than that between 2000-2009;
- emissions have increased since 2010 across all major sectors globally including the energy supply and industry, the transport sector, agriculture and forestry and other land use;
- an increasing share of emissions attributed to urban areas is increasing. However, the drivers of this increase is complex and include population size, income, state of urbanisation and urban form;
- global energy intensity of GDP and carbon intensity of energy has decreased due to fuel switching from coal to gas, reduced expansion of coal capacity, and increased use of vehicles. However, the decrease has been less than emission increases from rising global activity levels in industry, energy supply, transport, agriculture and buildings;
- globally, the 10% of households with the highest per capita emissions contribute 34-45% of global consumption-based household GHG emissions;
- emissions dropped temporarily in the first half of 2020 due to responses to the pandemic but rebounded by the end of the year;
- the unit costs of low-emission technologies have fallen continuously since 2010 such as sustained decreases in the unit cost of solar energy (85%), wind energy (55%), and lithium-ion batteries (85%); and
- digitalisation can contribute to mitigation of climate change by increase energy efficiency and promoting adoption of low-emission technologies while creating economic opportunities. However, there is also a risk of involving trade-offs such as increasing electronic waste, negative impacts on labour market, exacerbating the existing digital divide.
IPCC's calls for change
Reducing GHG emissions across the full energy sector
The IPCC calls for the reduction of GHG emissions across the full energy sector and has set out what this will mean in practice to achieve a net-zero CO2 energy system:
- substantial reduction in overall fossil fuel use, minimal use of unabated fossil fuels, and use of CCS in the remaining fossil system;
- electricity system that emits no net CO2;
- widespread electrification of the energy system including end uses;
- energy carriers such as sustainable biofuels, low-emission hydrogen, and derivatives in applications less amenable to electrification;
- energy conservation and efficiency; and
- greater physical, institutional, and operational integration across the energy system.
The combined global discounted value of the unburned fossil fuels and stranded fossil fuel infrastructure has been projected to be around 1-4 trillion dollars from 2015 to 2050 to limit global warming to approximately 2°C. However, continued unit cost reductions in key technologies will increase the economic attractiveness of low-emission energy sector transitions through 2030.
Carbon Dioxide Removal ("CDR")
The IPCC has also suggested that the use of large-scale CDR will be unavoidable to beat those hard-to-abate residual emissions. These could include reforestation, improved forest management, soil carbon sequestration, peatland restoration and blue carbon management. However, natural storage through vegetation and soil management can be reversed by human or natural disturbances. In comparison, CO2 stored in geological and ocean reservoirs and as carbon in biochar could be less prone to reversal.
The IPCC states that demand-focused interventions can reduce demand for all transport services and support the shift to more energy efficient transport modes. By encouraging changes in consumer behaviour, for example through transport pricing, transport related GHG emissions can be reduced in developed countries and growth in emissions slowed down in developing countries.
Electric vehicles powered by low emission electricity, sustainable biofuels for additional mitigation benefits, low emission hydrogen and derivatives can support mitigation of CO2 emissions from all sorts of transportation methods. These will have a various co-benefits, including air quality improvements, health benefits, equitable access to transportation services, reduced congestion, and reduced material demand.
In addition to this, mitigation technologies could reduce CO2 emissions for aviation and shipping such as high energy density biofuels, low-emission hydrogen and synthetic fuels for aviation, and low-emission hydrogen, ammonia, biofuels and other synthetic fuels for shipping. Electrification could also serve for short trips and can reduce emission from port and airport operations.
Demand-side measures and new ways of end-use service provision can reduce global GHG emissions in the end use sectors by 40-70% by 2050 compared to baseline scenarios. However, this will require national policy support.
Investment into clean energy climate solutions
Models show that if global emissions peak between now and 2025 at the latest compared to a later peak in global emissions, although it will entail more rapid near-term transitions and higher up-front investments, it will bring long-term gains for the economy as well as earlier benefits of avoided climate change impacts.
Models suggest that to limit warning to 2°C or 1.5°C means that we need three to six times greater investments than current levels, and total mitigation investments would need to increase across all sectors and regions.
Accelerated financial support for developing countries from developed countries are critical enablers to enhance mitigation action and address inequities in access to finance, including costs, terms and conditions and economic vulnerability to climate change for developing countries. The IPCC report suggests:
- increased levels of public finance and publicly mobilised private financed flows from developed countries to developing ones in the context of the USD 100 billion a year goal;
- increase the use of public guarantees to reduce risks and leverage private flows at lower cost;
- local capital markets development; and
- building greater trust in international cooperation processes.
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