The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released its final installment of the Sixth Assessment Report, Working Group III’s report on the global assessment of climate change mitigation progress and pledges “Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change” (the Report). It also released an accompanying Summary for Policymakers and Technical Summary. The Report considers and documents the scientific, technological, environmental, economic, and social aspects of mitigation of climate change and notes the growing role of non-state and sub-national actors including cities, businesses, Indigenous Peoples, citizens, transnational initiatives, and public-private entities in addressing the impacts and causes of climate change.
The Report has been highly anticipated and is the first mitigation report that the IPCC has published since 2014. It provides an unprecedented level of scientific analysis on the options to mitigate climate change, including a significant focus on carbon dioxide removals and the costs of emissions reductions.
This bulletin briefly highlights key findings of the Report.
Recent developments and current trends. The Report notes that:
- Total greenhouse (GHG) emissions continued to rise during the period 2010–2019, largely attributed to urban areas, and that the average annual GHG emissions during 2010–2019 were higher than in any previous decade.
- Reduced emissions from industrial processes and fossil fuels have been more than offset by increased emissions from rising global activity levels in industry, energy supply, transport, agriculture, and buildings.
- Global GHG emissions in 2030 associated with the implementation of nationally determined contributions (NDCs) announced prior to COP26 make it likely that warming will exceed 1.5°C during this century.
Policy, cost, deployment of low-emission technologies and finance. The Report notes that:
- The cost of low-emission technologies such as photovoltaics, onshore and offshore wind, concentrating solar power, and batteries for passenger electric vehicles (EVs) has continued to decrease since 2010, as demonstrated by an over 10-fold increase in the deployment of solar and 100-fold increase for EVs.
- Digitization is also observed as providing an important means to reduce emissions through use of sensors, Internet of Things, robotics, and artificial intelligence to support energy efficiency, improved energy management, and the adoption of many low-emission technologies, including decentralized renewable energy. However, the Report notes that digitization can also lead to added emissions by increasing demand for goods and services due to the use of digital devices.
- The alignment of financial flows towards the goals of the Paris Agreement remains slow and tracked climate finance flows continue to be distributed unevenly across regions and sectors.
Feasible mitigation options. The Report notes that:
- The feasibility of numerous mitigation options that are technically viable and cost-effective is increasing, including in: solar energy; wind energy; electrification of urban systems; urban green infrastructure; energy efficiency; demand side management; improved forest- and crop/grassland management; and reduced food waste and loss.
- Mitigation efforts that are part of wider development measures are likely to increase the pace, depth, and breadth of emissions reductions.
- International cooperation is critical for achieving ambitious climate and mitigation outcomes.
Figure SPM.7 from the Summary for Policymakers, reproduced below, provides an overview of mitigation options and their estimated ranges of costs and potentials in 2030.
Sustainable development. The Report notes that:
- Accelerated and equitable climate action in mitigating, and adapting to, climate change impacts will be critical to sustainable development and the Sustainable Development Goals may provide important metrics for evaluating climate action in the context of sustainable development.
- Limited economic, social and institutional resources often result in high vulnerability and low adaptive capacity, especially in developing countries.
- Ensuring equity when contemplating and deploying mitigation and other climate actions is essential.
Reaching Net-Zero. Finally, the Report notes that:
- Removals and carbon capture technologies are integral to reducing energy sector emissions and as well as the necessity for substantial reductions in overall fossil fuel use, the deployment of low-emission energy sources, switching to alternative energy carriers, and energy efficiency and conservation.
- Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies could allow fossil fuels to be used longer thereby reducing stranded assets which are projected to amount to around $1-$4T dollars from 2015 to 2050 to limit global warming to approximately 2ºC. The Report indicates that technical geological CO2 storage capacity is estimated to be approximately 1,000 gigatons of CO2.
- Retrofitted buildings and future buildings are projected to approach net zero GHG emissions in 2050 as a result of ambitious sufficiency, efficiency, and renewable energy measures.
- AFOLU mitigation options, when sustainably implemented, can deliver large-scale GHG emission reductions and enhanced removals, but cannot fully compensate for delayed action in other sectors.
- The deployment of removals to counterbalance hard-to-abate residual emissions is “unavoidable” and a “necessary element” for net zero to be achieved.
The below figure illustrates a carbon dioxide removal taxonomy and is included in Chapter 12 of the Report.