In 2010-2019 average annual global greenhouse gas emissions were at their highest levels in human history, but the rate of growth has slowed. Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, limiting global warming to 1.5°C is beyond reach, according to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released today.
“The jury has reached a verdict. And it is damning,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a video statement. “This report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a litany of broken climate promises. It is a file of shame, cataloguing the empty pledges that put us firmly on track towards an unlivable world. We are on a fast track to climate disaster.”
However, there is increasing evidence of climate action. 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.
“We are at a crossroads. The decisions we make now can secure a liveable future. We have the tools and know-how required to limit warming,” said IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee. “I am encouraged by climate action being taken in many countries. There are policies, regulations and market instruments that are proving effective. If these are scaled up and applied more widely and equitably, they can support deep emissions reductions and stimulate innovation.”
The Summary for Policymakers of the IPCC Working Group III report, Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of climate change was approved on April 4 2022, by 195 member governments of the IPCC, through a virtual approval session that started on March 21. It is the third instalment of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), which will be completed this year.
We have options in all sectors to at least halve emissions by 2030
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% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This offers significant untapped potential,” said IPCC Working Group III Co-Chair Priyadarshi Shukla. “The evidence also shows that these lifestyle changes can improve our health and wellbeing.”
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. There are options for established, rapidly growing and new cities.
“We see examples of zero energy or zero-carbon buildings in almost all climates,” said IPCC Working Group III Co-Chair Jim Skea. “Action in this decade is critical to capture the mitigation potential of buildings.”
Reducing emissions in industry will involve using materials more efficiently, reusing and recycling products and minimising waste. For basic materials, including steel, building materials and chemicals, low- to zero-greenhouse gas production processes are at their pilot to near-commercial stage.
This sector accounts for about a quarter of global emissions. Achieving net zero will be challenging and will require new production processes, low and zero emissions electricity, hydrogen, and, where necessary, carbon capture and storage.
Agriculture, forestry, and other land use can provide large-scale emissions reductions and also remove and store carbon dioxide at scale. However, land cannot compensate for delayed emissions reductions in other sectors. Response options can benefit biodiversity, help us adapt to climate change, and secure livelihoods, food and water, and wood supplies.