IPCC Report lays bare dire risks of climate delay


IPCC Report lays bare dire risks of climate delay

April 4 2022, 06:43pm

IPCC Report lays bare dire risks of climate delay

Government action to reduce emissions immediately and phase out fossil fuels must begin now - not in ten years time.

Today’s UN IPCC Working Group III climate report paints a stark picture of increasing emissions and a wide gap between climate pledges and action. This Report is the third of three major UN climate reports published in the last eight months and follows the release of IPCC WG I and WG II reports which raised the alarm on climate breakdown, climate impacts and the closing window for action. Today’s WG III Report puts a focus on different models or “pathways” that could be used to address climate change. These models are very conservative; they assume that current economic systems will be retained and do not consider transformative systems change or different economic systems that could reduce emissions much more rapidly. As a result, many pathways presented in the report overshoot the crucial 1.5 degrees guardrail [1][2]. This is despite the fact that the scientific findings of WG I and WG II have unequivocally stated that breaching the 1.5°C threshold would put humanity in grave danger. Models used in the WG III Report also rely on unproven carbon removal technologies which opens up a major “moral hazard” and will distract from the need to cut emissions at source by phasing out fossil fuels and considering alternative economic systems that are compatible with reducing emissions in a faster, safer way. 

The Stop Climate Chaos coalition has noted two important developments highlighted by the Report: 

1. Renewables are cheap, fast, resilient, and offer greater price stability. Since 2010, the unit cost of solar has plummeted by 85%, wind by over 50%, and lithium batteries by 85%.Transitioning to low carbon energy systems is now as, or more, economically attractive than maintaining carbon-intensive systems.

2. The Report makes clear that we must phase out fossil fuel subsidies, and existing fossil fuel infrastructure, as well as building no new fossil fuel infrastructure. To remain below 1.5 degrees, new fossil fuel infrastructure in the energy sector will have to be cancelled, and existing installations will need decommissioning, retrofitting or reduction in use [3].

The following three findings from the Report are particularly concerning:

1. Emissions have continued to rise at an alarming pace. Average annual greenhouse gas emissions were at their highest level between 2010 and 2019. Global CO2 emissions from energy reached a record high in 2021 and are set to continue rising over the next few years. If current emission trends continue, we will have used up the remaining carbon budget in 9.5 years (with a 67% likelihood).

2. Financial flows are up to 6 times lower than levels needed by 2030 to limit warming to below 1.5 degrees. There is sufficient global capital to close this investment gap, but action is needed now. The challenge of closing this gap is most difficult for poorer countries who are already suffering most from climate impacts that have been largely caused by the emissions of rich countries.

3. All of the WG III Report’s modelling scenarios include some degree of reliance on carbon dioxide removal, even though such technologies remain unproven at scale, and would be deeply harmful if implemented at the scale needed [4]. This runs the risk of legitimizing such technologies as an acceptable part of governments’ climate action strategies which could distract from the urgent need to phase out fossil fuels, and have dire implications for frontline and Indigenous communities. Further, large-scale emissions reductions and carbon removals are suggested to come from the Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use sector despite the significant human rights and social justice implications of such measures.

Commenting on the Report, Caoimhe de Barra, CEO, Trócaire, a member organisation of Stop Climate Chaos said:

“The Report comes at a time when the world is sliding backwards on its climate commitments, when richer countries must urgently reconsider their ill-advised reliance on fossil fuels, particularly in light of the Ukraine war. It makes clear that the richest nations have not taken adequate climate mitigation actions in time.The world’s richest 10% are responsible for nearly half of all emissions, while the world’s poorest account for just 12%. Countries in the Global North must now step up to support a fair and fast transition to renewable energy, phase-out fossil fuel subsidies, infrastructure and production, while increasing climate finance flows to poorer countries. Ireland needs to adopt a much stronger leadership role at EU and international level to support these changes.”

Dr. Bríd Walsh, Stop Climate Chaos Coalition Policy Coordinator said:

“The IPCC’s Working Group II Report rang the alarm bell that breaching the 1.5°C threshold, even temporarily, could push us over a series of tipping points, setting off feedback systems that would cause irreversible impacts. We should not ignore those warnings - our window of opportunity for action is closing but there is still time to avoid the worst if we start acting seriously now. There is no justification for pursuing policies that mean Governments allow emissions to keep rising and fail to respect our Paris Agreement commitments. Any increase in fossil fuels means ‘borrowing’ emissions from the future. Frontline communities in the Global South already bear the brunt of the impacts caused by current temperature rises, suffering more than 90% of the costs of climate change, and 98% of the deaths associated with climate breakdown.”

Commenting, Caroline Whyte, Ecological Economist, Feasta, a member organisation of Stop Climate Chaos said:

“Avoiding an overshoot of 1.5°C means that we need to embrace system change and a Just Transition which can accelerate emission reductions while creating sustainable societies. The priority for our communities, movements, and decision-makers must now be to move away from the era of fossil fuels and transform our societies and economies towards sustainable systems that prioritise justice, equality, and the health of our societies and planet.” 


Notes to editor:

  1. The report’s 1.5°C modelling assumes that immediate action would have taken place from 2020 to lead to a peaking of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. It is now 2022 and we are not on that pathway i.e. the scale of action required has not taken place and emissions have continued to rise.

  2. The likelihood of remaining below 1.5 has dropped since the IPCC’s Special Report on 1.5 because emissions have continued to rise since it was released in 2017. 

  3. About 30% of current oil, 50% of gas, and 80% of coal reserves are unburnable if we want to limit warming even to 2 degrees.

  4. CDR can include Nature Based Solutions, Bioenergy with Carbon Capture & Storage, and Direct Air Capture with Carbon Capture & Storage. The report argues for the need for accelerated research, development, and incentives for carbon removal measures but climate campaigners are very concerned that this will distract from the need to cut emissions at source. Friends of the Earth International has published a number of reports discussing the dangers associated with CDR and negative emission technologies - they can be accessed herehere and here

About Stop Climate Chaos

Stop Climate Chaos (SCC) is a coalition of civil society organisations campaigning to ensure Ireland plays its part in preventing runaway climate change. It was launched in 2007 and is the largest network of organisations campaigning for action on climate change in Ireland. Its membership includes development, environmental, youth and faith-based organisations. Its members are: Action Aid, Afri, An Taisce, BirdWatch Ireland, Christian Aid Ireland, Comhlámh, Community Work Ireland, Clare PPN, Concern Worldwide, Cultivate, Cyclist.ie, Dublin Friends of the Earth, Eco Congregation Ireland, ECO UNESCO, Feasta, Friends of the Earth, Friends of the Irish Environment, Good Energies Alliance Ireland, Irish Climate and Health Alliance, Irish Heart Foundation, Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice, Just Forests, National Women’s Council of Ireland, National Youth Council of Ireland, Oxfam Ireland, Trócaire, Union of Students in Ireland, and VOICE.