Cut CO2 emissions 43% to keep 1.5 alive say IPCC

by Felix von Geyer

Global CO2 emissions must peak by 2025 and be slashed by forty-three per cent by 2030, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) told journalists Monday as it launched the Working Group III report on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.

Failure to do so would undermine any chance to limit increases in average global temperatures due to anthropogenically caused climate change to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the goal of the 2015 Paris Treaty that the world’s governments are still trying to implement.

In addition, governments will also need to implement the thirty-four reduction in global methane (CH4) emissions committed to before Glasgow’s COP26 UN climate talks last November.

Opening the press conference, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Gutierres highlighted that governments’ “broken promises” would “fast-track to climate disaster” and double average global temperatures from the 1.5 degree Celsius target, he said.

Gutierres described as “dangerous radicals” the countries who attempted to increase their fossil fuel production describing such strategies as “moral and economic madness” that would only lead to stranded assets that would create a “blot” on investor portfolios, especially when renewable energies are now far cheaper than fossil fuels, he said.

Gutierres called for people around the world to “demand renewable energy at scale and now,” he said.

“We are at a crossroads,” added IPCC Chairman Hoesun Lee. “This is a time for action and we have the tools,” he declared.

The World Meteorological Organization’s Secretary-General, Petteri Taalas from Finland, placed the report against the background of the Ukraine crisis including traditional energy concerns of increased prices of food and energy. “This report shows the most effecgtive means to mitigate,” he said.

“Half measures will not halve greenhouse gas emissions” added Inger Andersen the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Environment Programme. The next UN climate change conference, UNFCCC COP27 in Egypt’s Sharm-el-Sheikh would require “stronger climate pledges and pathways to 2050 before we sleepwalk into a climate catastrophe,” she stated, underlining that science-based mitigation targets need to be addressed “this month, not next month.”

In terms of pathways to achieve this, the IPCC were clear. Currently financial flows were creating climate investment gaps of three to six times lower than required to achieve the aim of keeping average global temperature increases “well below two degrees Celsius,” according to the press release that added that there is sufficient global capital and liquidity to close the investment gaps.

The Working group III report also encouraged urban areas and cities to play their part, highlighting that parks, open spaces, wetlands and urban agriculture could all be enhanced to play a role in reducing flood risk and heat island effects.

Indeed, every sector could halve its emisisons, according to the working Group III Co-Chair, Diana √úrge-Vorsatz high-lighting low to no varbon energy systems, alternative fuels such as hydrogen and sustainable biofuels. Systemic changes were possible across all levels of society, she added, in particular stressing carbon uptake in cities and urban spaces; buildings including energy, retrofits, appliances and materials; land use and particularly transport including maritime and aviation.

In terms of CO2 removal, √úrge-Vorsatz underlined reforestation and soil carbon management. Direct air capture she said required, “more research, investment and proof of concept of larger scales.”

Otherwise land use through restoring forests, peatlands, savannahs, grasslands and coastal wetlands could “only do so much,” she said, ” and could not replace mitigation from other sectors.”

Asked during questions and answers how feasible the Working Group III pathways were considering greenhouse gas emissions had never fallen so sharply, Co-Chair Jim Skea stated: “We’re not looking at business as usual (BAU). Governments have asked us and this is our response,” he said.