IPCC AR6: 5 questions to understand Chapter 5

Individuals can fight against climate change. Here, we answer 5 questions that may help you to understand how.

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Today, we are talking about an issue that is particularly important to us: what if individuals could also contribute to the fight against climate change? Don’t roll your eyes, we know. 😉 We know - like you -  that without major structural, industrial, and political changes (the list is not exhaustive), things will remain complicated. BUT the fact is that the impact - and contribution - that people can make  to climate change is real. For this reason, if we want to get out of this quagmire, we must agree to contribute to the collective effort - even on our own small scale. You want to join us? Today, we are looking at Chapter 5 of the last IPCC’s report. What does it say about this? Here are 5 questions to simply understand its content.

👉 Feel free to consult our summaries of chapter 1, chapter 2, chapter 3 and chapter 4.

📉 Could regulating demand really have an impact on reducing CO2 emissions?

Yes, without any doubt. Both mitigating demand-side and finding new ways of providing services can help avoid, shift, and improve final service demand. Moreover, it’s important to be aware that fast and deep changes in demand make it easier to reduce GHG emissions in the short and medium term. Regardless of the activity sector.

One figure? The reduction potential of the strategies focusing on demand-side (across all sectors) is about 40-70% less emissions by 2050.  5.7 GtCO2eq for building use and construction, 8 GtCO2eq for food demand, 6.5 GtCO2eq for land transport, and 5.2 GtCO2eq for industry. 

In the IPCC’s report, these “mitigation strategies” have been classified as Avoid-Shift-Improve (ASI) options. That is to say that they embody opportunities for socio-cultural, infrastructural, and technological change. 

The biggest “Avoid potential” would come from reducing long-haul aviation and providing short-distance low-carbon urban transport infrastructures. The greatest “Shift potential” would deal with switching to plant-based diets. And the best “Improve potential” would focus on the building sector. 

❓ Are Decent living standards (DLS) consistent with climate change mitigation?

Yes, they are. 😃

Decent living standards (DLS) - that is to say material conditions for human well-being - are achievable “through the implementation of high-efficiency low demand mitigation pathways”. In fact, the IPCC’s report underlines that Decent Living Standards (DLS) overlap with many of the several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) defined by the United Nations (UN).

More precisely, providing better services with less energy is consistent with providing well-being for all.

However, it is important to keep in mind that the type of energy services that currently meet human needs - nutrition, shelter, health, etc. - vary according to local contexts, cultures, geography, available technologies and social preferences. This means that their ecological consequences may be different from one country to another. Logically, the journey to sustainability will not be the same for everyone.

In the near term, many less-developed countries and poor people will require better access to safe and low-emissions energy sources to ensure decent living standards and increase energy savings from service improvements by about 20-25%”. And this will require the support of developed countries.

💵 Are the richest people likely to contribute significantly to reducing CO2 emissions? 

Let’s be clear: everyone pollutes and emits CO2. Regardless of any income level.

However, it is true that wealthy individuals contribute significantly higher carbon emissions. For this reason, they have a higher potential for emissions reductions, while maintaining decent living standards. 

This does not mean that modest incomes should feel exempt from any form of effort. After all, sorting your waste or not throwing it anywhere does not require a budget. Right?

Individuals with high socio-economic status are able to contribute significantly to the reduction of our greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) because they are able to help in very different ways. By becoming role models of low-carbon lifestyles, for example. Or by investing in low-carbon businesses, advocating for stringent climate policies, etc.

👉 To be noted: social influencers and thought leaders can support the adoption of low-carbon technologies, behaviors, and lifestyles. Indeed, do not forget that preferences are malleable and can be influenced by a cultural shift. Sustainable shifts undertaken by famous and/or respected community members can help in supporting ecological transition.

🔍 What do we need to implement “demand-side” solutions?

Both motivation and capacity for change. 

Let’s be clear: the individuals or households’ motivation to change their energy consumption behavior is generally low. All over the world. 

Most of the time, people think that taking action in their daily life will not have a real impact. In fact, individual behavioral change is insufficient to tackle global warming unless this change is embedded in structural, cultural and global phenomena. 

The problem is that if everyone thinks that way, we will never move on. And we will meet huge disasters.

In this context, it is important to underline that different factors influence individual motivation and capacity for change. And these so-called “factors” go beyond socio-demographic and economic criteria. They also include psychological variables: awareness, perceived risk, social norms, values, etc. 

In short: we are talking about education and communication.

If we want to engage demand-side transitions, this will require coordinated changes in several domains. It is the only way to encourage the emergence of new low-carbon configurations.  And this involves moving on behavioral, socio-cultural, institutional, business, and technological dimensions. 

Conclusion? No one should shirk his responsibility in global warming. We all contribute. And we can all do something.

💪 How is collective action likely to make a difference?

Again: everyone can act and contribute to climate change mitigation as a consumer, a citizen, a professional, a role model, an investor, or a policymaker.

The report says: “Changes in social norms often start with pilot experiments led by dedicated individuals and niche groups”. People’s consolidation is essential to create entry points to prompt infrastructure and policy reconfigurations, supporting the further uptake of technological and lifestyle innovations. 

Moreover, mitigation policies sometimes allow the participation of many stakeholders, “resulting in building social trust, new coalitions, legitimizing change,thus initiating a positive cycle in climate governance capacity and policies”. 

We need collective action and social organizing to shift the public policy’s focus on climate change mitigation.

Collective action underpins system change. You know the saying? Unity is strength.

📝 What do you need to remember?

A sustainable and successful ecological transition can only happen if everyone pulls in the same direction. It’s as simple as that. Politicians, industrialists, collectives, individuals, etc. 

We are talking here about complementarity. If some initiatives or approaches can only come from the ruling classes, populations can already act at their own level - mainly in terms of consumption habits - or even support new initiatives that, If they are massively endorsed, could influence political decisions.

While it is clear that the richest populations can make wider efforts than others, it is important to remember that everyone can and must contribute to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. This inevitably involves a profound questioning of our lifestyles and consumption patterns. 

Serious changes must be made. We cannot continue to over-consume. The planet will not stand for it. And we don’t have another one. 

The idea? To undertake this changing process in the best possible conditions, before having to do it in an emergency.

🌳 What about you?

Do you want your company/organization to do its part? Call our experts and ask for your carbon assessment!

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