In a previous post we looked at the at 6th Assessment Report (AR6) from the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The latest contribution to the AR6, Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change published April 4th by the panel’s Working Group III, provides an updated global assessment of climate change mitigation progress and pledges, and examines the sources of global emissions.
The report observes that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are at their highest levels in human history and continue to increase, but it offers cautious optimism in noting that the rate of increase diminished between 2010 and 2019. It is also optimistic in its assessment of recent progress, noting the recent development of tools and strategies for mitigation, and mounting evidence that, if they can be successfully applied at sufficient scale, they can arrest and perhaps even reverse global warming. However, the time for action is now. Further delays only increase the cost of mitigation and the deleterious impacts of warming.
Global Net Anthropogenic GHG Emissions 2010-2019
“We are at a crossroads. The decisions we make now can secure a livable future. We have the tools and know-how required to limit warming,” said IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee. “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.”
The next few years are critical. Scenarios that limit warming to around 1.5°C (2.7°F) require global greenhouse gas emissions to peak before 2025 at the latest and be reduced by 43% by 2030; at the same time, methane emissions must also be reduced by about a third. Even then it is almost inevitable that we will temporarily exceed this temperature threshold but could return to below it by the end of the century. The global temperature will not stabilize until carbon dioxide emissions reach net zero. For 1.5°C (2.7°F), this means achieving net zero carbon dioxide emissions globally in the early 2050s; for 2°C (3.6°F), it is in the early 2070s. Limiting warming to around 2°C (3.6°F) still requires global greenhouse gas emissions to peak before 2025 at the latest and be reduced by a quarter by 2030.
Projected global GHG emissions from national defined contributions (NDC) announced prior to COP26 would make it likely that global warming will exceed 1.5°C and also make it harder after 2030 to limit warming to below 2°C.
The report also notes significant progress in both policy and technology since 2010. An increasing range of policies and laws have enhanced energy efficiency, reduced rates of deforestation and accelerated the deployment of renewable energy. There have been sustained decreases of up to 85% in the costs of solar and wind energy and batteries, leading to rapidly accelerating adoption of these low-carbon technologies.
The authors point to options in all sectors to at least halve emissions by 2030:
Limiting global warming will require major transitions in the energy sector. This will involve a substantial reduction in fossil fuel use, widespread electrification, improved energy efficiency, and use of alternative fuels (such as hydrogen). Electrification with renewables and shifts in public transport can enhance health, employment, and equity.
Cities and other urban areas also offer significant opportunities for emissions reductions. These can be achieved through lower energy consumption (such as by creating compact, walkable cities),
electrification of transport in combination with low-emission energy sources, and enhanced carbon uptake and storage using nature. There are options for established, rapidly growing, and new cities.
Accelerated and equitable climate action in mitigating and adapting to climate change impacts is critical to sustainable development. Some response options can absorb and store carbon and, at the same time, help communities limit the impacts associated with climate change. For example, in cities, networks of parks and open spaces, wetlands and urban agriculture can reduce flood risk and reduce heat-island effects.
Reducing emissions in industry will involve using materials more efficiently, reusing and recycling products and minimizing waste. For basic materials, including steel, building materials and chemicals, low- to zero-greenhouse gas production processes are at their pilot to near-commercial stage. This sector accounts for about a quarter of global emissions. Achieving net zero will be challenging and will require new production processes, low and zero emissions electricity, hydrogen, and, where necessary, carbon capture and storage. Mitigation in industry can reduce environmental impacts and increase employment and business opportunities.
Agriculture, forestry, and other land use can provide large-scale emissions reductions and remove and store carbon dioxide at scale. However, land cannot compensate for delayed emissions reductions in other sectors. Response options can benefit biodiversity, help us adapt to climate change, and secure livelihoods, food and water, and wood supplies.
The report looks beyond technologies and demonstrates that while financial flows are a factor of three to six times lower than levels needed by 2030 to limit warming to below 2°C (3.6°F), there is sufficient global capital and liquidity to close investment gaps.
Successful mitigation will rely on clear signaling from governments and the international community, including a stronger alignment of public sector finance and policy. It is here that we in the semiconductor industry may be able to have our greatest impact. In addition to minimizing the carbon impact of our own operations, we have the financial and political capital to exert significant influence on policy makers.
“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 Jim Skea. “This report shows how taking action now can move us towards a fairer, more sustainable world.”