Climate change mitigation

Climate change mitigation

The IPCC Working Group 3 report, published in June 2022, is a definitive base case analysis of the position on climate change. It makes a clarion call for action NOW to reduce emissions:

“Without a strengthening of policies beyond those that are implemented by the end of 2020, GHG emissions are projected to rise beyond 2025, leading to a median global warming” (Para C1)

“Deep GHG emissions reductions by 2030 and 2040, particularly reductions of methane emissions, lower peak warming, reduce the likelihood of overshooting warming limits and lead to less reliance on net negative CO2”.
(Para C2)

“All global modelled pathways that limit warming to 1.5°C (>50%) with no or limited overshoot, and those that limit warming to 2°C (>67%), involve rapid and deep and in most cases immediate GHG emission reductions in all sectors.
(Para C3 – our emphasis).

But it also takes a positive view that these actions are possible, addressing particular sectors where reductions are important: the industrial sector (para C5), urban areas (para C6), buildings (para C7). It also identifies carbon dioxide removal as “unavoidable” (para C11).

A vital final message is contained in paragraph C12:

“ The global economic benefit of limiting warming to 2°C is reported to exceed the cost of mitigation in most of the assessed literature.”

Respondents to the World Economic Forum Global Risk Survey identified “climate action failure” as the risk with potential to inflict the most damage at a global scale over the next decade.

Climate-vulnerable countries said disasters and weather patterns driven by global warming have wiped out around a fifth of their economic growth according to research, by a consortium of 55 developing nations across Africa, Asia, the Americas and the Pacific.

Unfortunately progress is patchy:

  • No new pledges have been forthcoming since COP26, despite what was agreed
  • The Bonn conference “ended in acrimony over compensation”.
  • In a significant U-turn BlackRock, which had been at the forefront of the push to focus on ESG investing, is shying away from green activism. BlackRock will vote against most shareholder resolutions on climate change this year as they are too extreme.
  •  The Bank of England says that UK banks and insurers have made progress but still need to do much more to understand and manage their exposure to climate risks.
  • Global CO2 emissions in 2021 were only 1% less than the record levels of 2019, driven by increases in power- and industry-related emissions from China and India and a return of the carbon intensity of electricity to pre-pandemic levels, according to a paper in Nature Climate Change.
  • Climate Action Tracker suggests that there is a 50% chance that warming associated with our pledges and targets scenario exceeds 2.1°C in 2100.

There are POLITICAL actions that Governments can take:

  • Economic instruments have been effective in reducing emissions, complemented by regulatory instruments mainly at the national and also sub-national and regional level (IPPC WG3 report – para C11).
  • The UK Government announced that it is considering taxing imports from countries that don’t match the UK’s carbon emissions standards – a measure known as a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM).
  • The government accelerated the introducing of targeted business rates exemptions for eligible plant and machinery used in onsite renewable energy generation and storage, and a 100% relief for eligible low-carbon heat networks with their own rates bill.
  • President Biden has triggered the Defense Production Act, a cold war-era law used to compel businesses to ramp up production of certain materials to aid national security, to boost the output of solar panels, building insulation, transformers for power grids and heat pumps, which are used to efficiently heat and cool homes.
  • He also provided a two-year exemption to solar panel companies from tariffs on imported parts, easing the flow of technology from China and other countries for use in the US
  • New Zealand has unveiled a plan to tax methane emissions from sheep and cattle in a bid to tackle one of the country’s biggest sources of greenhouse gases.

But there are suggestions that Governments are not doing enough:

  • No new, more ambitious 2030 climate targets have been announced and participation in sectoral initiatives has stalled since COP26 in Glasgow. This goes against the clear agreement of the Glasgow Pact to update national 2030 climate targets in 2022. The world is heading to a warming of 2.4°C with 2030 targets and even higher, 2.7°C, with current policies.
  • Three campaign groups – Friends of the Earth, ClientEarth and the Good Law Project – have been given permission to bring a legal challenge in the High Court over the UK Government’s Net Zero and Heat and Buildings Strategies on the basis that they do not comply with the Climate Change Act 2008. The case is expected to be heard towards the end of 2022.
  • It is alleged that the government knew its policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would not add up to meet a key stepping stone on the path to Net Zero but kept it secret,
  • The amount of methane leaking from Australian coal mines is twice the official estimates. Australia’s new government has pledged to cut emissions faster than its predecessor, but it has not ruled out supporting new coal mines.
  • And the Ukraine war has led to several governments re-thinking plans to redude the use of fossil fuels.

SOCIETY’s attitude to reducing emissions is not yet strong enough:

  • A little over half of U.S. adults (54%) perceive global climate change as a major threat to the U.S., down from 58% in March 2020.
  • The majority of UK households (57%) are not planning to spend anything improving their home’s energy efficiency, while those that are will only spend an average of £148.
  • Just 12% of consumers would replace their current heating system with a heat pump and 60% were unaware of the government’s Heat and Building Strategy £5,000 heat pump installation grant.
  • People around the world are not very likely to make environmentally-friendly changes that would have the most impact on cutting carbon emissions. Less than half say they are likely to make changes such as eating fewer dairy products (41%), eating less meat (44%), changing their household heating system to a low carbon system (44%), despite these being some of the most effective ways in cutting carbon emissions (IPSOS Mori).

One thing people are prepared to take action on is moving to electric vehicles. For the first time more than half of those surveyed in 18 countries (52%) say they intend to choose either a fully electric, plug-in hybrid or hybrid vehicle. Consumers continue to avoid public transport when they can.

There is a surge in youth climate activism with young people striking from school and taking to the streets or social media to galvanise action against climate injustice. Children’s environmental learning, occurs through observation and role modelling family, teachers, peers, admired celebrities or public figures – and being exposed to nature – shapes how children grow up to treat the environment.

TECHNOLOGY can help:

  • Renewable energy is already the cheapest power option in most parts of the world today. Prices for renewable energy technologies are dropping rapidly. The cost of electricity from solar power fell by 85 percent between 2010 and 2020. Costs of onshore and offshore wind energy fell by 56 percent and 48 percent respectively.
  • Digital technology could deliver one-fifth of the emission cuts needed to hit net-zero by 2050. Digital twins, AI, IoT, drones and automation can all help
  • Carbon capture, use, and storage technologies can capture more than 90 percent of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants and industrial facilities. Twenty-six commercial-scale carbon capture projects are operating around the world with 21 more in early development and 13 in advanced development reaching front end engineering design (FEED). Carbon capture can achieve 14 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions reductions needed by 2050 and is viewed as the only practical way to achieve deep decarbonization in the industrial sector.

Climate futures remain one of the most critical yet uncertain issues affecting the world. Probable outcomes range from:

– Controlled: an increase in temperature between now and the end of the century of no more than 1.5°C. Current estimates are that this is at the optimistic end of possibility, and it therefore forms a good extreme for this axis. Extreme weather events would be only slightly worse than they are today.

– Runaway: an increase in temperature between now and the end of the century of up to or more than 4°C. Currently, this is the average worst case of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the A1FI scenario, which gives a range of +2.4°C to +6.4°C). This would lead to dramatic environmental change where irreversible tipping points are passed.

Written by Huw Williams, SAMI Principal 

The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily of SAMI Consulting.

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