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The third installment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report is the usual mix of carrot and stick.
Scientists from 195 member governments say any hope of limiting global warming to 1.5°C is beyond reach unless we make immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors. On the plus side of the balance sheet, evidence is mounting that the climate actions we're taking are making a difference. And it is possible to cut emissions in half by 2030, but only if we act now.
“Climate change is the result of more than a century of unsustainable energy and land use, lifestyles and patterns of consumption and production,” said IPCC Working Group III Co-Chair Priyadarshi Skea. “This report shows how taking action now can move us towards a fairer, more sustainable world.”
The climate actions taken around the world in the form of policies, regulations and market instruments are bearing fruit and proving effective in enhancing energy efficiency, reducing rates of deforestation and accelerating the deployment of renewable energy. If these are scaled up and applied more widely and equitably, the report says, they can support deep emissions reductions and stimulate innovation.
“Having the right policies, infrastructure and technology in place to enable changes to our lifestyles and behavior can result in a 40-70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This offers significant untapped potential,” said IPCC Working Group III Co-Chair Priyadarshi Shukla. “The evidence also shows that these lifestyle changes can improve our health and wellbeing.”
Limiting global warming to around 1.5°C (2.7°F) will require that global greenhouse gas emissions peak before 2025 at the latest, and be reduced by 43% by 2030. This must happen at the same time as we reduce methane by about a third.
The report identifies the many available tools we can use to make this happen and achieve positive outcomes for the world's economy.
Mitigation in industry can reduce environmental impacts and increase employment and business opportunities. Electrification with renewables and shifts in public transport can enhance health, employment and equity.
Cities and other urban areas account for about a quarter of global emissions but also offer significant opportunities for emissions reductions by creating compact, walkable cities, electrification of transport in combination with low-emission energy sources.
Agriculture, forestry and other land use can provide large-scale emissions reductions and also remove and store carbon dioxide at scale.
While saving the world from climate disaster will be expensive, the pricetag for doing nothing is even greater. Climate change is already costing the world trillions of dollars in natural disasters, lost labor productivity, energy costs, migration and other impacts.
There is sufficient global capital and liquidity to close investment gaps but making those investments requires a stronger alignment of public sector finance and policy, as well as clear indications from governments and the international community that this is a priority.
IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee says the next few years are critical. “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 Lee.
**Cover image: Credit IPCC