IPCC report calls for critical climate action to achieve 1.5C

On Monday (4 April), the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group III published the third and final instalment of its review of climate science. The report highlights that it is possible to limit global warming to 1.5C, but stresses that it is ‘now or never’.

IncineratorThe working group points to strong evidence of climate action, noting that a range of policies and laws have accelerated the deployment of renewable energy and reduced rates of deforestation, as well as enhancing energy efficiency.

The report emphasises that ‘all sectors’ have options available to ‘at least halve emissions by 2030’, building on existing climate action.

Industrial and materials sectors

Net-zero CO2 emissions from the industrial sector, the report states, are ‘challenging but possible’. This will require ‘coordinated action throughout value chains to promote all mitigation options, including demand management, energy and materials efficiency, circular material flows, as well as abatement technologies and transformational changes in production processes.’

Reducing emissions from the production and use of chemicals, the report says, would rely on a ‘life cycle approach’, with increased plastics recycling, carbon capture and utilisation (CCU), direct air carbon capture, and carbon capture and storage (CCS) listed amongst the suggested strategies.

The report asserts that limiting emissions from basic materials industries could be encouraged through international cooperation and coordination, given that the industries are subject to global competition.

The IPCC emphasises that ‘broad and sequential and sub-national policy strategies reflecting regional contexts will be required’, listing greenhouse gas (GHG accounting and standards; R&D and niche markets for the commercialisation of low emissions materials and products; economic and regulatory instruments to drive market uptake, and high-quality recycling amongst the potential strategies.

Construction sector

In the construction sector, the report states, ‘low renovation rates and low ambition of retrofitted buildings’ have limited emissions reductions.

At the design stage, the IPCC recommends mitigation interventions such as adjusting buildings’ typology, form and multi-functionality to allow for adjusting the size of buildings to the ‘evolving needs of their users’, as well as repurposing unused existing buildings to avoid using GHG-intensive materials and additional land.

At the construction stage, the report encourages the use of low-emission construction materials, highly efficient building envelope, and the integration of renewable solutions. And at the disposal stage, recycling and reusing construction materials.

Choice architecture

The report refers to ‘choice architecture’ – the presentation of choices to consumers, and the impact that presentation has on consumer decision-making.

This, the IPCC asserts, could encourage consumers to adopt sustainable diets, reduce food waste, choose ‘adaptive heating and cooling choices for thermal comfort’ and integrated building renewable energy, and shift towards electric light-duty vehicles, as well as cycling and pooled public transit. Choice architecture could also enable sustainable consumption by intensive use of longer-lived repairable products.

Limiting global warming

In the scenarios assessed by the report, limiting warming to around 1.5C required global GHG emissions to peak before 2025 at the latest, and be reduced by 43 per cent by 2030. Methane would also need to be reduced by about a third. If this occurred, the report notes, it is ‘almost inevitable’ that the temperature threshold would be temporarily exceeded, but could fall back sufficiently by the end of the century.

The global temperature will stabilise when carbon emissions reach net-zero. To achieve 1.5C, the report states, this would require reaching net-zero globally in the early 2050s. For 2C, this would need to come in the early 2070s. According to the IPCC’s assessment, limiting warming to around 2C would still require global GHG emissions to peak before 2025, and be reduced by a quarter by 2030.

‘We are at a crossroads’

IPCC Working Group III Co-chair Priyadarshi Shukla said: “Having the right policies, infrastructure and technology in place to enable changes to our lifestyles and behaviour can result in a 40-70 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This offers significant untapped potential. The evidence also shows that these lifestyle changes can improve our health and wellbeing.”

IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee added: “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.

“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.”