IPCC AR6: 5 questions to understand Chapter 4

A few weeks ago, the third part of the IPCC’s sixth report was published. Here, we answer 5 questions that may help you to understand Chapter 4.

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Week after week, we break down the different chapters of the IPCC’s latest report, in order to extract five essential questions. The idea? To help you understand in a simple way the key information in the report that everyone is talking about.

Here, chapter 4 focuses on accelerating mitigation and shifting development pathways to increased sustainability - particularly at a national scale. Please note the difference: we are not talking about mitigation pathways, but development pathways. What does that mean? Let’s have a look!

👉 If you missed the first two parts, feel free to consult our summaries of chapter 1, chapter 2 and chapter 3.

❓ What’s the problem with the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)?

There is an “emissions gap”. But what is an “emissions gap”? As defined by the IPCC, an emissions gap is the difference between the NDC’s emissions targets (planned for 2030) and mitigation pathways consistent with the temperature goals. In other words, the pathways that would allow us to limit global temperature rise under 1.5 °C or 2 °C. 

The bad news? This emissions gap is exacerbated by an “implementation gap” which refers to the difference between the goals that have been determined and the way they are achieved in practice. Here (in this report), the term specifically refers to the gap between mitigation commitments setted by the NDCs and what we can expect from the policies implemented.

In short, the magnitude of these gaps underlines the fact that current development pathways are not adequate with the Paris Agreement’s mitigation objectives.

Furthermore, “the disruptions triggered by the COVID-19 epidemic increase uncertainty over range of projections” relative to the literature that was published before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A growing number of studies carried out at the national and global level tend to show that GHG emissions’ implications of the COVID-19 pandemic depend on how recovery packages were/are designed.

📈 Why are we talking about an “accelerated mitigation”?

Considering all these gaps, we need to explore an “accelerated mitigation” - with comparison to  current NDCs and policies. In short, we need to go faster and deeper

But what does an accelerated mitigation imply? In fact, there is an increasing understanding of the technical content that would allow this so-called accelerated mitigation. 

Among the various approaches that have been suggested, we can mention technological and institutional changes including rapid decarbonisation of the electricity sector and low-carbon electrification of buildings, industry and transport. 

Although a focus on energy use and supply is essential, it’s not sufficient. More specifically, land sector and food systems are quoted as two areas to pay attention to. 

To be noted: to be efficient, the IPCC’s report specifies that this model would have to be differentiated according to national circumstances. Indeed, countries all around the world have different starting points for transition pathways, related to factors such as political and economic conditions, but also climate conditions resulting in different heating and cooling needs, endowments with different energy resources, etc.

✅ Why are “shifting development pathways” beneficial?

Shifting development pathways towards sustainability are beneficial as they would allow us to:

  • broaden the range of levers to accelerate mitigation; 
  • increase the chances of advancing towards both mitigation and other development goals. 

To be noted: the way countries develop has an impact on their ability to accelerate mitigation and achieve other sustainable development objectives at the same time. 

Even if development pathways depend on the actions of a wide range of actors, broad policies have a strong influence on the probability of success of shifting development pathways. 

In fact, some practical options would help in simultaneously reaching mitigation and other sustainable development objectives: “high employment and low emissions structural change, fiscal reforms for mitigation and social contract, combining housing policies to deliver both housing and transport mitigation, and change economic, social and spatial patterns of development of the agriculture sector, provide the basis for sustained reductions in emissions from deforestation”. 

Of course, such a strategy would involve coordinating multiple actors (individuals, collectives, corporate actors, institutions and infrastructure actors)

🏆 How is fairness a determinant of success?

Equity deals with the distribution of costs and benefits. More precisely: how they are shared through social contracts, national policy and international agreements. 

Indeed, transition pathways have distributional consequences in employment and economic structure, for example. 

For this reason, equity has to be considered in low-carbon transitions. The effectiveness of  cooperative action can be directly impacted by this condition, as the perception of fairness - or not - of such arrangements may influence broader consensus for the transformational change implied by deeper mitigation efforts

To be noted: deeper mitigation efforts are essential to tackle global warming and keep the global temperature rise under 2 °C.

Concretely, this means that the global community must accelerate decarbonisation and broaden the scope of mitigation. However, we need to consider that some decisions - shifting global behavior, for example - may take time. This is the reason why faster measures have to be undertaken such as improved access to financing.

📝 What are the 7 policy measures suggested by the IPCC for accelerating mitigation?

The IPCC’s report suggests 7 policy measures to accelerate mitigation:

  • decarbonising electricity supply to reach net zero CO2; 
  • optimizing the use of energy; 
  • electrifying end-uses including transport; 
  • lowering the use of fossil fuels; 
  • converting other uses to low-carbon or zero-carbon fuels (hydrogen, bioenergy, ammonia) in hard-to-decarbonise sectors; 
  • promoting bioenergy, demand reduction, dietary changes, incentives, and rules for mitigation in the land sector; 
  • setting ambitious targets to reduce methane and other short-lived climate forces. 

📌 What do you need to remember?

One of the main problems highlighted by Chapter 4 of the IPCC’s report is that the targets set by the NDCs are not sufficient to limit the rise in global temperature. What’s even worse the policies implemented to achieve these objectives are not even sufficient in this regard. 

If we want to go deeper and faster, our decision-makers would have to consider a broader toolbox of levers available in “domains that have not traditionally been included in climate policies”.

Moreover, it is important to underline that there is no policy can be effective unless it takes into account equity,  and consideration towards the specific needs of each country/region.

🌳 Start your journey towards sustainability: ask for your carbon footprint assessment!

What about you? Do you want your company/organization to do its part? If so, here is the opportunity: call our experts and ask for your carbon assessment!

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