In its , the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – the United Nations expert body of scientists for the assessment of climate change – has warned that it won’t be possible to limit warming to 1.5ºC above pre-industrial level unless fossil fuel infrastructure is phased out rapidly and finance is made available for clean and renewable sources of energy.
“Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, limiting global warming to 1.5°C is beyond reach,” the report stated.
The report examines current emission trends and suggests methods to cut carbon and greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C by the end of this century – a target under the Paris agreement signed in 2015 by more than 190 countries.
The Working Group III was approved on April 4 by 195 member governments of the IPCC through a virtual session that started on March 21. IPCC, in the process of preparing its sixth assessment report on climate change and its impacts, has released three working group reports in the last eight months. In August last year, the first working group report dealt with the physical science basis of global warming. The second report in February this year was about impact, adaptation and vulnerability, while the latest report is on the mitigation of climate change.
The latest report focusses on how to set the world on a low carbon path – a promise world leaders have failed to keep. “The jury has reached a verdict. And it is damning. This report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a litany of broken climate promises,” said United Nations General Secretary Antonio Guterres. “It is a file of shame, cataloguing the empty pledges that put us firmly on track towards an unliveable world.”
‘Urgent action needed’
According to the World Meteorological Organisation, the and 2020 among the three warmest years in history. According to the IPCC, the average annual global greenhouse gas emissions were at their highest levels in human history between 2010 and 2019 but growth has slowed.
“We are at a crossroads. The decisions we make now can secure a liveable future. We have the tools and knowhow required to limit warming,” said IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee.
Acceleration on the path of clean energy is much needed for developing countries such as India which face the challenge of maintaining economic growth while protecting the environment.
According to the IPCC assessment, limiting warming to around 1.5°C (2.7°F) requires global greenhouse gas emissions to peak before 2025 at the latest, and be reduced by 43 percent by 2030; at the same time, methane would also need to be reduced by about a third. “Even if we do this, it is almost inevitable that we will temporarily exceed this temperature threshold but could return to below it by the end of the century.”
“The unavoidable reality is that human emissions over this past decade have been the highest in history. Limiting warming to 1.5°C is out of reach without immediate and substantial short-term measures by 2030, in addition to longer term efforts to reduce emissions to net-zero,” said professor Navroz Dubash of Centre for Policy Research, among the coordinating lead authors of the IPCC report.
Need to go clean
The world still heavily depends on fossil fuel which is the prime cause of carbon emissions. According to the IPCC, limiting global warming will require major transitions in the energy sector. This will involve a substantial reduction in fossil fuel use, widespread electrification, improved energy efficiency, and use of alternative fuels such as hydrogen.
“Having the right policies, infrastructure and technology in place to enable changes to our lifestyles and behaviour can result in a 40-70 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This offers significant untapped potential,” said IPCC Working Group III co-chair Priyadarshini Shukla.
According to the IPCC, there has been a sustained decrease since 2010 up to 85 percent in the costs of solar and wind energy and batteries. It states that reducing emissions will require using materials more efficiently, reusing and recycling products, and minimising waste.
“This report is clear that we are now facing a dangerous lock-in of fossil fuel emissions and stranded assets which will further destabilise our economy and society. This is because governments and companies have continued to recklessly expand oil, gas and coal projects. A new global fossil fuel treaty can help countries manage this risk…in a way that is fast and fair at the scale required to tackle this global crisis. You can’t put out a fire with gas and our planet is quite literally on fire,” said Tzeporah Berman, Chair for the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative and International Programme Director.
Where is the finance?
Climate finance has been one of the biggest problems. Rich nations – responsible for most of the carbon deposit – vowed to set up a green climate fund in 2015 but this remains an . Most vulnerable nations are for adaptation and mitigation needs.
According to the IPCC report, “while financial flows are a factor of three to six times lower than levels needed by 2030 to limit warming to below 2°C (3.6°F), there is sufficient global capital and liquidity to close investment gaps.” It demands “a stronger alignment of public sector finance and policy” along with “a clear signalling from governments and the international community”.
Sustainability is key
There are 17 that include “affordable and clean energy” and “climate action”. They stress on the need for an equitable world with equal opportunities while setting the countries on the path of high economic growth. “Mitigation in industry can reduce environmental impacts and increase employment and business opportunities. Electrification with renewables and shifts in public transport can enhance health, employment, and equity,” stated the IPCC.
It has been a point of debate that transition to clean energy should not snatch away the jobs of those employed in sectors such as coal mines or thermal plants.
“Climate change is the result of more than a century of unsustainable energy and land use, lifestyles and patterns of consumption and production,” said Jim Skea. “This report shows how taking action now can move us towards a fairer, more sustainable world.”
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