Running out of time, climate action feasible and affordable, says IPCC

STRESSING ON stronger action in the near term, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said that global greenhouse emissions needed to peak by 2025 “at the latest” if the world wanted to restrict temperature rise to within 1.5 degree Celsius from pre-industrial times.

Further, global emissions would have to be reduced by 43 per cent from current levels by the year 2030 in order to meet the 1.5 degree Celsius target, it said.

In its latest assessment report released on Monday, the IPCC has provided an assessment of actions that are being taken, and where they will take us in the fight against climate change.

Also, it has evaluated the different options available to achieve the global goals of keeping temperature rises within agreed levels.

The IPCC pointed out that many effective methods to scale up climate actions were not only available but also “feasible” and affordable, even though these varied across sectors and regions.

For example, nearly half of the current level of emissions could be cut by options, or tools, that cost less than $100 per tonne of carbon dioxide reduction. About half of this potential, one-fourth of the total, could be cut by options that cost less than $20 per tonne of CO2 reduction, it said.

The IPCC has acknowledged that progress was being made. “There has been a consistent expansion of policies and laws addressing mitigation (reduction of emissions)… This has led to avoidance of emissions that would otherwise have occurred…,” the report said.

“In many countries, policies have enhanced energy efficiency, reduced rates of deforestation and accelerated technology deployment, leading to avoided, and in some cases reduced or removed, emissions. Multiple lines of evidence suggest that mitigation policies have led to avoided global emissions of several billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent every year,” it said.

It also noted that targeted policies had ensured a consistent fall in the unit cost of several low-emission technologies.

“From 2010 to 2019, there have been sustained decreases in the unit costs of solar energy (85 per cent), wind energy (55 per cent), and lithium-ion batteries (85 per cent), and large increases in their deployment, for example >10x for solar, and >100x for electric vehicles… Electric vehicles powered by low emissions electricity offer the largest decarbonisation potential for land-based transport, on a life cycle basis,” it said.

The IPCC report said digitalisation could speed up climate action, though there was the risk of adverse side-effects if proper governance mechanisms were not put in place.

“For example, sensors, Internet of Things, robotics, and artificial intelligence can improve energy management in all sectors, increase energy efficiency, and pronote the adoption of many low-emission technologies, including decentralized renewable energy, while creating economic opportunities. However, some of these climate change mitigation gains can be reduced or counterbalanced by growth in demand for goods and services due to the use of digital devices,” it said.

The IPCC lamented that progress was slow on making financial provisions to enable climate actions. The estimated money required for scenarios that limit global warming to 2 degree or 1.5 degree Celsius were “three to six times greater” than the current financial flows, the IPCC said, noting that the overall impact of climate change action on global GDP was relatively small.

“There is sufficient global capital and liquidity to close the global investment gaps, given the size of the global financial system, but there are barriers to redirect capital to climate action, both within and outside the global financial sector…,” it said.

The report drew out the “strong link” between sustainable development, vulnerability and climate risks. “Limited economic, social and institutional resources often result in high vulnerability and low adaptive capacity, especially in developing countries,” it said.

Navroz Dubash of the Centre for Policy Research, one of the lead authors of the report, told The Indian Express that this was one of the most important takeaways of the report.

“The need for economic development is often pitted against climate action. What this report shows is that development and climate action can, in fact, be in sync. There has to be a shift in development pathways, but climate action does not hinder development. Instead of individual low-emissions policies, the report focuses on sectoral approaches, or policy packages, that complement and reinforce each other,” Dubash said.

The IPCC’s assessment reports are the most comprehensive scientific analysis of the state of earth’s climate, and are released in five to six-year cycles.

Monday’s release was the third and final part of IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report. The first part described the reasons and processes that were driving global warming, and was released in August last year. The second part, about impact, vulnerabilities and adaptation options, was released in the last week of February this year.

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