IPCC AR6 Working Group 3: Climate Mitigation - April 2022

IPCC AR6 Working Group 3: Climate Mitigation – April 2022

“The evidence is clear: the time for action is now”. A key statement in the launch of the report from the IPCC’s working group 3 (WG3). The report provides an updated global assessment of climate change mitigation progress and pledges and examines the sources of global emissions. The report considers what we can do to limit and prevent emissions with focus on emissions trends and drivers, mitigation pathways, national and international policy, and investment and finance. This webpage is aimed at providing a summary of the WG3 report from the IPCC with some analysis of its relevance to Warwickshire County Council (WCC).

The report forms the third part of the IPCC 6th assessment report (AR6). The AR6 report from WG1 was published in August 2021 and looked at the physical science of climate change, setting out the danger of climate change. WG2 recently published their report in February 2022 which looked at the adverse impacts and related losses on a warming planet, emphasising that the “stakes for our planet have never been higher”. WG3 assesses the literature on scientific, technological, environmental, economic, and social aspects of the mitigation of climate change and aims to provide a comprehensive view of the knowledge we have on climate change. Their report “provides an updated global assessment of climate change mitigation progress and pledges and examines the sources of global emissions”.

The report is made up of 17 chapters, over 2913 pages produced over five years by more than 278 authors from 65 countries. The report covers emissions trends, mitigation pathways, energy systems, transport, national and sub-national policies, institutions, and much more. They provide a summary for policy makers, as well as a more detailed technical summary. This policy briefing is based on the summary for policy makers and technical summary.

Headlines include:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise across all major groups of emission types (CO2 from fuel, land use change, methane, nitrous oxide, and F-gases).
  • Annual greenhouse gas emissions during 2010-2019 were higher than in any previous decade, but the growth of increase is slowing (comparing 2000-2009 versus 2010-2019). This is seen across all sectors, with urban areas contributing most to the global increases.
  • The top 10% of global earners contribute 34-45% of consumption-based emissions, while bottom 50% contribute ~13%.
  • The unit cost of renewable energy has continued to fall, now being lower than fossil fuel costs.
  • There has been consistent expansion of government policy and laws since AR5 in 2014 to address emissions mitigation. This has avoided emissions that would have happened otherwise and has increased investment in low-greenhouse gas technologies and infrastructure.
  • Unfortunately, we are not on track to limit warming to 1.5° If all pledges announced before COP26 were implemented, global greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 would make it likely that warming will exceed 1.5°c.
  • Assessment shows that limiting warming to 1.5°c requires:
    • Greenhouse gas emissions need to peak before 2025 and be reduced by 43% by 2030.
    • Methane needs to be reduced by 34% by 2030.
    • Achieve net zero globally by early 2050.
  • Assessment shows that limiting warming to 2°c requires:
    • Global greenhouse gas emissions still need to peak before 2025 at the latest and be reduced by 27% by 2030.
    • Achieve net zero globally by 2070s.
  • Policies implemented at the end of 2020 put us on track to a median global warming of 3.2°c by 2100.
  • Limiting global warming to 1.5°c or 2°c involves a deep and rapid (or immediate) greenhouse gas emission reduction in all sectors. Fortunately, the report finds that there are options available in every sector right now that can at least halve emissions by 2030.
  • Sector specifics:
    • Energy: Decarbonisation will require a significant reduction in fossil fuel use and use of carbon capture and storage. We will also need to switch to alternative fuel sources like hydrogen and sustainable biofuels to reduce emissions, as well as deploying low emission energy sources and improving energy efficiency.
    • Transport: Demand must be reduced, and low emission technologies are key. Demand-focussed interventions can reduce demand for all transport services and support the shift to more energy efficient transport modes. Electric vehicles powered by low emissions electricity have the greatest potential. Sustainable biofuels and low emission hydrogen can support reductions from shipping and aviation. Many of these have co-benefits: air quality, health, equitable access to transport, and reduced congestion.
    • Industry: More difficult an area to tackle. More efficient use of energy and materials is required, with more reusing and recycling to minimise waste in all processes. The sector will need low/ zero emission electricity, hydrogen, and CCS, as well as new production methods to reduce their emissions.
    • Cities: Reducing material consumption, through electrification of transport, and CCS.
    • Buildings: Net zero by 2050 can be done with effective implementation of policy. This includes ambitious retrofit of existing buildings, as well as better mitigation techniques for new buildings. Low ambition policies increase the risk of lock-in buildings in carbon for decades, while well-designed and effectively implemented mitigation interventions, in both new buildings and existing ones if retrofitted, have significant potential to contribute to achieving the sustainable development goals in all regions while adapting buildings to future climate.
    • Demand and services: Changes in demand can reduce emissions by 40-70% by 2050. This includes changes to infrastructure and behaviour change (active travel, electric transport, reduced air travel).
    • Land use: Agriculture, forestry, and other land use mitigation, when done sustainably, can provide emissions reductions, but these cannot compensate for delayed action.
    • CO2 removal (Not CCS, but human actions that remove emissions): This will be required to balance the ‘hard-to-reach’ emissions and will be essential in reaching net zero.
  • There are costs associated with the changes required to meet our net zero and climate goals. The report states that financial flows are currently 3-6x lower than the levels needed by 2030 to ensure we stay under 2°c warming. However, there is enough global capital and liquidity in the world to meet this gap, though barriers do exist.
  • Global GDP continues to grow in modelled pathways but, without accounting for the economic benefits of mitigation action from avoided damages from climate change nor from reduced adaptation costs, it is a few percent lower in 2050 compared to pathways without mitigation beyond current policies.
  • However, properly scaling the mitigation financial flows can be supported through clear policy from governments, and the economic benefit of limiting warming to 2°c exceeds the costs of mitigation.
  • The report also considered the UN sustainable development goals. Accelerated and equitable climate action is critical to sustainable development, and it emphasises the benefits that mitigation can have if it is embedded in the wider development process. Policy that shifts development towards sustainable development will wider the mitigation responses available.

The chair of the IPCC said “we are at a crossroads. This is the time for action. We have the tools and know-how required to limit warming, and secure a liveable future”.

Relevance to WCC

Much of the discussion in the IPCC WG3 report centres on global considerations and data looking at the global impact of emissions. It rarely focuses in directly on local government directly, so recommendations for local authorities from WG3 are not made. However, the report acknowledges that “climate governance is most effective when it integrates across multiple policy domains, helps realise synergies and minimize trade-offs, and connects national and sub-national policy-making levels”. The report goes on to agree that “effective and equitable climate governance builds on engagement with civil society actors, political actors, businesses, youth, labour, media, indigenous peoples and local communities.”

For WCC, this emphasises the impact that local government can have in tackling climate change, as has been discussed in previous literature (30% of emissions are in local authorities' control, and 80% are influenceable). It also emphasises the importance of community power and engagement with local communities in designing policy to target emissions reductions, adaptation, and growth of green and biodiverse spaces. This is an area the council can use to generate greater buy-in from residents to help drive demand-side reductions through behaviour change, as well as design effective policy.

There is much discission of sector specific work to be done in the report. As a local authority (LA) our priorities lie with the areas we have control over like transport, energy, buildings, and adaptation. Focussing our efforts on these areas will provide the biggest return on investment. We should also consider how our role as a local leader can influence behaviour with the aim of reducing demand. The report particularly found that active travel and electric vehicles were key in this behaviour change, both of which LAs have some control over the promotion of.

The report also re-emphasises the importance of climate change generally, and the pressing need to act now. Local authorities need to set bold climate targets and begin implementing policy that can have a significant effect on tackling emissions as soon as possible.

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