GP Short Notes

GP Short Notes # 628, 10 April 2022

New IPCC report: Emphasis on mitigation and climate change action
Rashmi BR

What happened?
On 4 April 2022, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report titled "Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change". The report is prepared by the Working Group III of the IPCC and is part of the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report scheduled to be released in September 2022. The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres remarked that the latest IPCC report is "a litany of broken promises" and added that "this is not a fiction or exaggeration. It is what science tells us will result from our current energy policies. We are on a pathway to global warming of more than double the 1.5-degree limit". 

Following are the key takeaways of the report. First, the growing anthropogenic GHG emissions. The net emissions have increased since 1850, courtesy the industrial revolution. Human actions have further accelerated the process and the total net anthropogenic GHG emissions have increased between 2010-19. There are clear regional and income variations contributing to GHG emissions, with 10 per cent of households with the highest per capita income contributing the largest share of global emissions. 

Second, the rapid urbanization. Towns and cities have the lion’s share of increasing emissions. Redesigning the cityscape with changes in transport system- from electric private vehicles to electric public transport system, reduction of distances that must be travelled, sustainable infrastructure and smart city plans are some of the key focus areas of the report. 

Third, the warnings on the rise of global average temperature. The report highlights that the world is not on the course yet, to limiting the temperature rise in accordance with the Paris Agreement. 

Fourth, the emphasis on the co-existence of the SDG and mitigation efforts. The IPCC vice-chair Ramón Pichs-Madruga said: "we see that equity and just transitions can lead to deeper ambitions for accelerated climate action." 

Fifth, the positives. The rate of growth of emissions during 2010-19 has been lower than the previous decade2000-09. The cost of producing solar and wind energy has reduced by nearly 85 per cent since 2010, though it is nowhere near to replacing the non-renewables. The report also takes a positive note on the visible climate action being undertaken in many countries. The IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee said: "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 emission reductions and stimulate innovation." 

What is the background?
First, the numerous reports on climate change. The IPCC, as an important body of the UN assessing climate change, provides a plethora of scientific data and analysis to the policymakers, helping them take necessary actions. It creates a massive ripple through the detailed "Assessment Reports" prepared by its working groups. Along with the IPCC, numerous scientific bodies and NGOs have published reports warning the governments across the world about the impending climate crisis, calling on them to undertake mitigation measures. 

Second, the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6). On 9 August 2021, the Working Group I to the IPCC released a report on the physical science of the climate crisis, talking extensively about the human influence over atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere, land and biosphere at large. On 28 February 2022, the Working Group II released a report on the climate change impacts on ecosystem, human settlements, infrastructure, vulnerabilities and risks related to socio-economic development, and a detailed account of adaptation, its feasibility and limitations. The Working Group III report is third in the series of AR6

Third, the focus of ARs. The Assessment Reports have over the years evolved on the focus areas. While the AR1 released in 1990 studied climate change as a challenge demanding global solutions, the AR2 and AR3 revised the global temperature rise, rainfall and sea-level rise. The AR2 was also the first report to note the "unlikely entirely natural" temperature rise. 

Fourth, the impact and response to the reports. IPCC reports have been the basis for international climate policymaking. The AR1 played a key role in the setting up of the UNFCCC, AR2 in providing a basis for the Kyoto Protocol, AR4 in working towards limiting the warming to 2 degrees, and AR5 in providing scientific backing for the Paris Agreement. 

What does it mean?
First, more evidence on the Anthropocene. Compared with IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), the Working Group reports of the AR6 emphasises on the "unequivocal human influence" on the earth's system. This provides more impetus to already loud calls to formally recognize the end of the Holocene and the beginning of the Anthropocene epoch. 

Second, prioritizing ground-level actions. For the first time, an IPCC report has included a chapter on the social aspects of climate change. The chapter titled "Demand, Services and Social Aspects of Mitigation" emphasizes the demand-side of intervention such as the use of public transport networks, energy-efficient homes, and encouraging people for using cleaner modes of cooling and movement. In other words, there is a focus on motivating people to change consumption patterns which can potentially reduce GHG emissions between 40 to 70 per cent by 2050.