Limiting global warming to 1.5°C beyond reach without deep emissions reductions

Limiting global warming to 1.5°C beyond reach without deep emissions reductions

Options in all sectors available to at least halve emissions by 2030 but major energy sector transitions are required, IPCC scientists say

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Limiting global warming to 1.5°C is beyond reach without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, scientists said in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released Monday.

The average annual global greenhouse gas emissions between 2010 and 2019 have been at their highest levels in human history, scientists found.

Yet since 2010, there have been sustained decreases of up to 85% in the costs of solar and wind energy and batteries.

An increasing range of policies and laws have enhanced energy efficiency, reduced rates of deforestation, and accelerated the deployment of renewable energy, according to the Summary for Policymakers of the IPCC Working Group III report, Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change, which was approved by 195 member governments of the IPCC through a virtual approval session which started on March 21.

This is the third installment of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), which will be completed this year.

According to IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee, the world is at a crossroads in terms of climate change.

"The decisions we make now can secure a liveable future. We have the tools and know-how required to limit warming," he said.

He said he is encouraged by the climate action taken in many countries, with policies, regulations and market instruments that he says are proving effective.

"…If these are scaled up and applied more widely and equitably, they can support deep emissions reductions and stimulate innovation," he said.

- Untapped potential to cut emissions by 40-70%

In the report, scientists assessed that the options available in all sectors to at least halve emissions by 2030 to limit global warming by 1.5°C would require major energy sector transitions.

These transitions involve a substantial reduction in fossil fuel use, widespread electrification, improved energy efficiency and the use of alternative fuels such as hydrogen.

"Having the right policies, infrastructure and technology in place to enable changes to our lifestyles and behavior can result in a 40 -70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This offers significant untapped potential," said IPCC Working Group III Co-Chair Priyadarshi Shukla, who added that the evidence also shows that these lifestyle changes can improve health and wellbeing.

According to the report, cities and other urban areas also offer significant opportunities for emissions reductions.

These can be achieved through lower energy consumption, such as by creating compact, walkable cities, electrification of transport in combination with low-emission energy sources and enhanced carbon uptake and storage using nature.

The report said that reducing emissions in the industrial sector would involve the more efficient use of materials, including steel, building materials and chemicals, reusing and recycling products and minimizing waste.

As approximately a quarter of global emissions come from this sector, achieving net zero will be challenging, requiring new production processes, low and zero-emissions electricity and hydrogen.

- Next few years are critical, shift to renewables needs to triple

In the scenarios assessed by the scientists, limiting warming to around 1.5°C requires global greenhouse gas emissions to peak before 2025 at the latest and be reduced by 43% 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 report said.

"It is now or never if we want to limit global warming to 1.5°C," said Jim Skea, co-chair of the IPCC Working Group III. "Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible."

Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, said during the launch of the report that it is “a file of shame, cataloging the empty pledges that put us firmly on track towards an unlivable world. We are on a fast track to climate disaster. Major cities underwater, unprecedented heatwaves, terrifying storms, widespread water shortages and the extinction of a million species of plants and animals. This is not fiction or exaggeration."

He said that as the world is on a pathway to global warming of more than double the 1.5-degrees limit agreed upon in Paris, investments in new fossil fuels infrastructure is moral and economic madness.

He recommended a tripling in a shift to renewables which would mean moving investments from fossil fuels to renewables.

"Today's report comes at a time of global turbulence. Inequalities are at unprecedented levels. The recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is scandalously uneven. Inflation is rising and the war in Ukraine is causing food and energy prices to skyrocket," he said.

However, Guterres warned that increasing fossil fuel production would only make matters worse.

"Choices made by countries now will make or break the commitment to 1.5 degrees. A shift to renewables will mend our broken global energy mix and offer hope to millions of people suffering climate impacts today," he urged.

- Sufficient liquidity to close investment gaps

Assessments by the IPCC scientists show that the global temperature will stabilize when carbon dioxide emissions reach net zero. For 1.5°C, this means achieving net zero carbon dioxide emissions globally in the early 2050s, while for 2°C, it is in the early 2070s.

This assessment shows that limiting warming to around 2°C still requires global greenhouse gas emissions to peak before 2025 at the latest and be reduced by a quarter by 2030.

The report also said that there is sufficient global capital and liquidity to close investment gaps.

"Without taking into account the economic benefits of reduced adaptation costs or avoided climate impacts, global Gross Domestic Product (GDP ) would be just a few percentage points lower in 2050 if we take the actions necessary to limit warming to 2°C or below, compared to maintaining current policies," Shukla said.


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