The latest IPCC report finds that there are ‘options in all sectors’ to at least halve emissions by 2030, but ‘deep and immediate’ action is required to make it happen.

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Published yesterday (4 April 2022), the report from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) highlighted that although annual average global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were at their highest levels in human history from 2010 - 2019, growth rate has slowed.

Since 2010 there has been sustained decreases of up to 85 per cent in the costs of solar and wind energy, and batteries, the IPCC said — however, limiting global warming to 1.5°C will be ‘beyond reach’ without immediate emissions reductions across all sectors.

“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 report calls for ‘major transitions' in the energy sector involving widespread electrification, improved energy efficiency and use of alternative fuels such as hydrogen.

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Cities and other urban areas are highlighted as a significant opportunity for emissions reduction, with recommendations including creating ‘compact, walkable cities’, electrification of transport in combination with low-emissions energy sources, and enhanced carbon uptake and storage using nature.

Meanwhile, industry should use materials more efficiently and minimise waste. For basic materials including steel, building materials and chemicals, low to zero-GHG production processes are at pilot to near-commercial stage, the IPCC said, adding that achieving net zero will be challenging for the sector which accounts for around a quarter of global emissions.

Whilst agriculture and other land use can provide large-scale emissions reductions and remove and store CO2 at scale, the IPCC stressed that land can not compensate for delayed emissions reductions in other sectors.

In the scenarios it assessed, limiting warming to around 1.5°C requires global GHG emissions to peak before 2025 at the latest, and be reduced to 43 per cent by 2030. Methane would also need to be reduced by about a third.

Even if this is achieved, the IPCC said it is ‘almost inevitable’ that we will temporarily exceed that temperature threshold, but that it could return to below it by the end of the century.

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Nick Cooper, CEO of Storegga, said that technology-based solutions must undertake ‘much of the carbon-removal heavy lifting’.

“Direct air capture is industrial and unglamorous but it uses little land and gives us the profound opportunity to remove CO2 permanently,” Cooper commented. “It also provides the opportunity to create and transition large numbers of technical jobs in the UK.

“In the future, and if deployed at scale, direct air capture technology could even reverse the historic damage done to the environment since the industrial revolution.”

Looking beyond technologies, the report found that while financial flows are a factor of three to six times lower than levels needed by 2030 to limit warming to below 2°C, there is sufficient global capital and liquidity to close investment gaps.

However, the report calls for clear signalling from governments and the international community, including stronger alignment of public sector finance and policy.

Professor Sir Jim McDonald FREng FRSE, president of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said that the report makes it ‘clearer than ever’ that progress must be accelerated with the current trajectory set to lead to 3.2°C warming by 2100.

“The report makes it clear that the cost of the transition cannot be an excuse for delay – the economic case made by the report authors is strong, highlighting that lower cost mitigation options could reduce global GHG emissions by at least half the 2019 level by 2030, while still allowing GDP to grow,” McDonald commented.

“All of this means that the solution to both the UK’s short term energy crisis and our long term climate challenge are the same; redoubling our efforts on mitigation policies that focus on shifting from fossil fuels to renewables, reducing demand, and retrofitting buildings.”

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