Is mitigating climate change still possible? - Deciphering the third IPCC's Report on climat change
On 4 April 2022, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its third instalment of its latest assessment report on climate change. In August 2021, the first instalment of the assessment report painted an alarming portrait of the current state of climate change and its impact on our planet. It showed that although human-induced global warming has already had an irreversible impact on biodiversity, the rise in temperatures could still be limited to 2°C by taking steps to promote carbon neutrality. Building on these findings, the second instalment of the report published in February 2022 went even further by assessing the impact of climate change on ecosystems, biodiversity and human communities while stressing the importance of making an ecological transition that takes social concerns into account. In the third instalment of the report, the IPCC assessed present and past emissions and proposed solutions that could halve our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030. This is the first in-depth analysis by the IPCC of the way that our behaviour, choices and consumer habits can help mitigate climate change. The message is encouraging, for this goal is within reach. But it means accelerating climate change policy implementation so that emissions peak by 2025.
What has the situation been like over the last decade (2010–2019)?
Total net GHG emissions consistently increased over the period from 2010 to 2019. Average annual emissions even hit their highest level since 1850. The industrial, energy and agricultural sectors(1) are responsible for 80% of GHG emissions. Worldwide, households with income in the top 10% contribute more than a third of global GHG emissions. In contrast, households with income in the bottom 50% are responsible for only 15% of GHG emissions. However, on a more positive note, eradicating extreme poverty and providing decent living standards in low-emitting countries can still be achieved from a climate standpoint. In fact, the onus is on developed countries to carry out the ecological transition. All of the countries that signed the Paris Agreement made a commitment to limiting the global temperature increase. But the IPCC claims these commitments fall short of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.
What are the mitigation measures?
The cost of inaction is higher than implementing adaptation and mitigation measures. The global cost of limiting warming to 2°C over the 21st century is lower than the global economic benefits of reducing warming”(2). The IPCC lists a number of solutions that cost less than USD 100 per tonne of CO2 equivalent and could cut global emissions in half by 2030 through renewable energy initiatives (solar power, wind power, etc.). The table below presents mitigation measures in key sectors for the transition.
- Limit our dependence on fossil fuels: stop building new infrastructure and end subsidies.
- Transition to zero-carbon energy sources such as renewable energy. Technological advances have significantly reduced the cost since 2010.
- Keep investing in methods for eliminating or capturing carbon dioxide (carbon dioxide removal or CDR). These technologies will allow us to offset residual emissions.
It is possible for industry to achieve carbon neutrality, but that requires coordinated action throughout the value chain to promote mitigation options:
- Demand management
- Energy and materials efficiency
- Circular economy
- Transformation of manufacturing processes
During the construction phase, low-emission materials can be used, while in the use phases renewable energy and systems for recycling and reusing materials can be integrated.
Afterwards, continuing to work on building insulation remains a possibility.
The use of electric vehicles, biofuels and hydrogen not only helps mitigate GHG emissions, it also contributes to improving air quality and increasing equitable access to transportation services.
To limit the increase in global temperatures to 1.5°C, we must also change our behaviours. Individuals can implement several mitigation options such as choosing a mostly plant-based diet, minimizing waste, encouraging clean transportation methods (cycling, walking, etc.) and avoiding long-haul flights. Implementing these strategies worldwide could lead to a 40% to 70% reduction in global GHG emissions by 2050. Governments have a major role to play in this process by offering subsidies, support plans or well-thought-out urban development plans to limit the use of high-pollution transportation methods and encourage people to renovate their homes to make them more environmentally friendly.
These actions help us mitigate and adapt to climate change and are critical for achieving the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Transition must be just. Although some jobs are likely to disappear, the energy transition could create more possibilities for developing skills and creating new job opportunities in some sectors.
What role do financial stakeholders have to play?
Despite the trend, financial flows to help mitigate climate change are not high enough to achieve our goal. Between 2020 and 2030, the amount of money invested each year to achieve the Paris Agreement's 1.5°C to 2°C target should be three to six times higher than current levels. There is enough capital and liquidity in the world to close the gaps in investment, but obstacles to redirecting capital to climate action still exist. At Societe Generale Private Banking, we believe that all sectors must take part in the just transition. This is especially true for businesses in high climate-impact sectors. As responsible stakeholders, our management companies SG 29 Haussmann and SGPWM are determined to help these businesses implement their decarbonisation strategy and promote responsible practices that factor in the challenges to making a just transition.
SG 29 Haussmann and Societe Generale Private Wealth Management (SGPWM) have committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. They became signatories to the UN Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI) in 2020 and the Net Zero Asset Managers initiative in 2022.
“Our climate is our future. Our future is in our hands” (Source: IPCC)
(1) AFOLU: Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use
(2) "Mitigation options costing USD100 tCO2-eq–1 or less could reduce global GHG emissions by at least half the 2019 level by 2030 (high confidence). 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. The global economic benefit of limiting warming to 2°C is reported to exceed the cost of mitigation in most of the assessed literature."
See the IPPC's video on the report: https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg3/resources/presentations-and-multimedia YouTube link
Source: IPCC, 2022: Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [P.R. Shukla, J. Skea, R. Slade, A. Al Khourdajie, R. van Diemen, D. McCollum, M. Pathak, S. Some, P. Vyas, R. Fradera, M. Belkacemi, A. Hasija, G. Lisboa, S. Luz, J. Malley, (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK and New York, NY, USA. doi: 10.1017/9781009157926.001