The live blog is wrapping up now. You can follow our rolling coverage of the IPPC report on this page.
The coverage of the IPCC’s report has mostly followed the line that an energy revolution is both necessary and that swift action could be cost effective.
Wall Street Journal: UN Urges Swift Action on Climate Change
Sydney Morning Herald: IPCC report a reminder it is not too late if we act now
Deutsche Welle: IPCC expert: Pump CO2 underground to keep the planet cool
National Geographic: UN Climate Report Charts Ways to Halt Global Warming
US Secretary of State John Kerry said:
“Unless we act dramatically and quickly, science tells us our climate and our way of life are literally in jeopardy. Denial of the science is malpractice. There are those who say we can’t afford to act. But waiting is truly unaffordable. The costs of inaction are catastrophic.”
Sir Brian Hoskins, director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change, Imperial College London, said:
“The science shows us that we need substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions if we are to limit the risks posed by climate change… Potential competitiveness issues, affecting a small number of very energy intensive industries, can be handled. We should stop wringing our hands and just get on with it.”
Professor Lord Stern of the London School of Economics, who wrote an authoritative economic analysis of climate change in 2006, said:
“The transition to sustainable low-carbon economic development and growth is an opportunity not just to avoid potentially catastrophic climate risks, but also to reap other benefits from cleaner and more efficient technologies, such as reductions in local air pollution. If we embark on such a transition, we are likely to discover new technologies and ways of organising production, consumption and cities that would bring costs down radically.”
Stephanie Pfeifer, chief executive of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, representing 88 of Europe’s largest investors worth €7.5 trillion:
“At the UN summit in September, world leaders can agree the basis for a global climate deal which signals a serious, long-term commitment to a climate framework which supports low-carbon investment. Acting now to put the world on a low-carbon growth path is achievable, economically beneficial, and will help economies avoid the substantial adaptation costs and large uncertainties faced in the event of severe climate change.”
The World Resources Institute has released a handy analysis of today’s report: 6 Things You Need to Know About Reducing Emissions. I’ll list the headlines here but they have more detail on their site.
1) Without Explicit Action, We Could See More than 4°C of Warming.
2) Limiting Warming to 2°C Is Still Possible.
3) Staying Within the Carbon Budget Requires Immediate Action.
4) We’ll Need to Phase Out Emissions Entirely in the Long-Term.
5) We’ll Need Action from All Regions of the World.
6) Shifting to a Low-Emissions Pathway Requires a Large-Scale Transformation.
UK energy secretary Ed Davey has released a statement.
“The risk is too great to stop here. We need a worldwide, large-scale change to our energy system if we are to limit the effects of climate change.
“I call for international leaders to work together with enforced vigour to reduce carbon emissions and secure an ambitious legally binding global agreement in 2015”.
The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group, a coalition of companies, including Acciona, Coca-Cola Enterprises, EDF Energy, Shell, Tesco and Unilever, said today the report was welcomed by the corporate community:
“This latest report from the IPCC is the one that many businesses have been waiting most eagerly to read – here is the latest scientific analysis of the solutions that we can employ to limit the stock of atmospheric greenhouse gases and the consequent climate change. The report contains some stark home truths about the scale of the challenge and the progress we’re making to date. Rather than slowing and declining, greenhouse gas emissions are rising at a faster rate than ever before and no country has plans in place that are sufficient to keep warming below the globally agreed limit of 2°C.
“Many leading businesses are well aware of the need for a collective wake up call. The Trillion Tonne Communiqué, already signed by over 90 companies from 5 continents, and with fast-growing support, calls for an increase in the pace and scale of action. Specifically, the signatories urge policy makers to take a number of significant actions in line with the science of the IPCC, including setting a timeline for phasing out greenhouse gas emissions before the end of the century, designing a credible strategy to transform the energy system, and creating a plan to manage reliance on fossil fuels, especially coal.”
PricewaterhouseCoopers have released an analysis of the report.
Dr Celine Herweijer, partner on sustainability and climate change, said the “Working Group 3 report on mitigation explains how to avoid the crash. But it also suggests that the brakes are not working”.
“Fundamentally, the latest IPCC reports show that not only are the costs to act affordable if we do so early, but that we all lose if we fail to respond adequately. Uncertainties due to a handful of nascent economic models are not excuses for inaction. Policy-makers and business leaders have a mandate to act under the weight of the evidence at hand. This evidence suggests urgent and bold action is a must at the national and international level.”
“The IPCC has provided some estimates on the global scale of the costs, both for reducing emissions (WG3) and for the impacts of climate change (WG2). Unfortunately they cannot be compared and used as a decision to act. What is certain is that the costs to act only become more expensive the longer we wait.”
On carbon regulation and competitiveness, PwC climate policy economist, Lit Ping Low, said:
“There is a pre-conception that carbon regulations impose undue costs on industry. But across all sectors, businesses are often faced with all sorts of regulations so carbon regulation is not exceptional. Indeed, for some companies and industries, particularly those with medium energy intensities, carbon costs are considered relatively immaterial compared to other costs, but a price signal can still drive tangible carbon reduction actions. The important thing for businesses is to have transparency, clarity and fairness in the costs they face.”
On emissions reduction, Jonathan Grant, director of sustainability and climate change, said:
“Delayed action on climate change and reducing our emissions tends to involve a substantially more difficult pathway from 2030 onwards, or have a larger reliance on carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies which are today in their infancy (i.e. bioenergy with CCS or even geoengineering). PwC’s Low Carbon Economy Index(LCEI) estimated that we could limit emissions to around 30 GtCO2e by 2030 through reducing carbon intensity by 6% a year, every year. This has never been achieved globally and even in 2012 our analysis questioned the viability of the 2 degree target without a radical economic and policy transformation.”
“A key message from the IPCC is that energy efficiency improvements and the switch from coal to gas would not be sufficient to deliver the scale of changes required. Indeed, our LCEI analysis shows that globally, almost all of the recent changes in carbon intensity can be attributed to improvements in energy efficiency, suggesting that other measures are yet to be adopted more widely. Nevertheless progress is still visible particularly for renewable energy, and more technologies are approaching technical and economic maturity to be deployed at scale. The challenge is about the rate of that deployment. Three G20 countries achieved more than 25% growth in renewable energy consumption in 2012, another 10 countries achieved between 10% and 25% growth.”
Damian Carrington, the Guardian’s head of environment, has sent this dispatch from Berlin, where the mood sounds positively jovial – a sharp contrast to the usual feeling of impending armageddon that has accompanied AR5’s previous installments.
Behind the scenes most of the IPCC people I have spoken too are pretty positive about the report and the final summary. As ever, politics intervened in the final draft with, for example, a line stating that 70% of carbon emissions comes from just 10 big countries being deleted.
Any hint of attributing blame for climate change is intensely sensitive, because the international negotiations to tackle the problem will ultimately have to decide who will cut emissions, by how much and who will pay. The IPCC people say they have set out the choices and now the politicians will have to make the choices about fairness.
Saudi Arabia, I’m told, played its customary role in objecting to any negative mention of fossil fuels, and the final language in the summary was weakened as a result. But all the statements remain in the main report.
Perhaps the reason the IPCC people are fairly upbeat is that they have had some sleep. Unlike previous IPCC report press conferences, this one was delayed a day, meaning time for recovery from the all-night negotiating sessions.
One IPCC author, Reyer Gerlagh, an economist at the University of Tilburg in the Netherlands, put the 0.06% annual cost of tackling climate change in perspective for me, by considering how accurately economic growth can be measured: “You could almost say that statistically, you can’t measure 0.06%.”
The Science Media Centre has put together a wrap of the reaction from climate scientists and those working in the mitigation field.
Dr Dan Osborn, independent consultant and former chair of the evaluation panel for the AVOID research programme, said:
“This report illustrates the challenges the world faces on mitigation but it could be good news for those businesses and countries willing to lead the way on all kinds of low-carbon technologies. Burning oil and gas will be frowned on by future generations because this resource is valuable for other purposes. The sooner we start on mitigation the lower adaptation costs will be. Relying on a non-existent Plan B is not a wise option. Time to act is limited. The world must not put its head in the sand. Global action is needed to reduce emissions whilst there is still time.”
Dr Neil Edwards, reader in earth systems science at the Open University, said:
“The WG3 SPM highlights a number of key issues: Firstly, where we are in terms of mitigation and where we need to be (to have a good chance of respecting the 2C limit) are still a long way apart. The changes needed to bridge the gap include transformative, non-incremental changes, particularly of the energy system and behaviour in areas such as energy efficiency, modes of mobility, and potentially diet changes. Such transformative changes remain eminently possible, but concerted action is needed.”
William Powrie, dean of the Faculty of Engineering and the Environment, University of Southampton, said:
“Behaviour change and economic instruments will be as important as technological innovation; all should be viewed as opportunities rather than threats. Action must be swift, decisive and above all global. The report leaves no doubt that we really are in the last chance saloon as far as addressing climate change is concerned.”
Prof Stephen Long, from the Department of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois, wrote a long and interesting critique of the report’s findings in relation to land use. I have published the full version here.
“In ‘approaches to climate change mitigation’ the report espouses high ideals to which we can all agree, and that no policymaker would dare deny. However, these ideals are far from achieved in today’s business-as-usual operations. The danger here is that we will be, and as evidenced by much legislation around biofuels and bioenergy between AR4 and AR5, holding new mitigation options to higher standards than business-as-usual. Such statements also encourage development of policies around imagined rather than proven issues. The result is obvious, maintain business-as-usual – it is so much easier.
“The section on ‘Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Uses (AFOLU)’ clearly failed to see the elephant in the room. Output of primary foodstuffs such as grain and seed needs to increase 70% by 2050 to keep pace with demand. We are failing to increase yields per unit land area to achieve this goal. If we do not address this problem first, then the result is obvious: we will spill over on to less productive and less sustainable land which will prevent or even reverse other mitigation options of afforestation, bioenergy, and soil improvement.”
Prof Godfrey Boyle, emeritus professor of renewable energy at the Open University and reviewer for parts of the WG3 report, said:
“In the light of this enthusiastic IPCC endorsement [of renewables], it is disappointing that the European Commission’s recent policy proposals for growth in renewables are unambitious and unspecific. Post-2020, the EU will abandon its existing country-specific renewable targets, aiming instead for a modest Europe-wide target of 27% of energy from renewables by 2030. So instead of setting a leading example to the world by moving rapidly towards a low carbon future, the developed nations of Europe are in danger of falling well short of the IPCC’s latest standards.”
Dr Jeremy Leggett, associate fellow at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute, said:
“It is useful to see so many experts agree that the electricity sector can be completely decarbonised as a major contribution to keeping global warming below unacceptable danger levels, but many of us on the front lines of renewable energy would say that the IPCC has underestimated the speed with which our technologies, in concert with energy efficiency, can displace fossil fuels in the years ahead.
“Similarly, growing numbers of financial analysts would say that the IPCC has given inadequate consideration to the soaring capital expenditures of carbon-fuel companies, and the extent to which that constraint can help drive capital to the declining-cost technologies that dominate the renewables family.”
Dr Shaun Fitzgerald of Girton College, Cambridge University, said:
“The report states, ‘Cutting emissions from electricity production to near zero is a common feature of ambitious mitigation scenarios. But using energy efficiently is also important.’ What is intriguing is that the energy efficiency argument is often the second point, perhaps the after-thought. The world of energy is a set of scales – demand and supply. It is obvious that by cutting demand, or at least stemming the growth in demand, the issue of how to supply CO2 friendly power is made easier.”
Prof Tim Benton, UK champion for global food security and professor of population ecology at the University of Leeds, said:
“Agriculture and forestry are responsible for about a quarter of all GHG emissions and there is significant scope to reduce this. Perhaps the most important route is via reducing deforestation – which is occurring widely for production of palm oil and soy – and increasing afforestation.
“Farming can become more ‘climate smart’ by, for example, increasing carbon storage in soils and this may have a range of other benefits for sustainability and resilience. Changing our diets, especially eating less meat, may have significant impacts, as will reducing our wastage of food.”
Mike Hulme, professor climate and culture at King’s College London said:
“This WG3 report draws attention to a range of methods for removing CO2 from the atmosphere, including afforestation, carbon capture and storage (CCS) and other means for removing CO2 from the atmosphere (CDR). It is good to see these methods analysed alongside policy measures to change the energy supply mix, since the former may have value in the future in a broad policy portfolio. The SPM makes no mention of unwelcome and risky technologies to reduce incoming sunlight through solar climate engineering – and this is a good thing. Such solar radiation management (SRM) technologies offer only chimerical solutions to the inadequate policy goal of limiting global warming to no more than 2 deg Celsius.”
The IPCC has launched its press release:
“Climate policies in line with the two degrees Celsius goal need to aim for substantial emission reductions,” working group III co-chair Ottmar Edenhofer said. “There is a clear message from science: To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual.”
The IPCC report says divesment from fossil fuels is one path for reducing their consumption.
In an article for the Guardian last week, Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote:
“We live in a world dominated by greed. We have allowed the interests of capital to outweigh the interests of human beings and our Earth. It is clear [the companies] are not simply going to give up; they stand to make too much money.”
“People of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change. We can, for instance, boycott events, sports teams and media programming sponsored by fossil-fuel energy companies.”
On divestment, Jamie Henn, 350.org strategy and communications director said:
“The report makes it clear that in order to meet their agreed goal of keeping global warming below 2°C, governments need to get serious about leaving fossil fuels in the ground. That means stopping carbon-intensive infrastructure projects, like the Keystone XL pipeline, and shifting investments out of the fossil fuel industry and into solutions.”
350.org European Divestment Coordinator Tim Ratcliffe said:
“Investors now have scientific evidence that if you put your money into fossil fuels you are complicit in wrecking our future. We know that 80% of fossil fuels need to stay underground in order to avoid a climate catastrophe. The fossil fuel industry however is spending billions every year to find yet new reserves, spread misinformation about climate change, corrupt political progress and block clean energy solutions. ExxonMobil, for example, recently spelled out that they are determined to burn through all the carbon they have and can get hold of.”
EU political reaction
EU commissioner Connie Hedegaard said:
”The report is clear: there really is no plan B for climate change. There is only plan A: collective action to reduce emissions now. And since we need first movers to set a plan into motion, we in Europe will adopt an ambitious 2030 target later this year. Now the question is: when will YOU, the big emitters, do the same? The more you wait, the more it will cost. The more you wait, the more difficult it will become.”
UK political reaction
Meanwhile, in the UK, energy secretary Ed Davey has told Sky News:
The UN climate change report is a stark warning that the world is “looking down the precipice”.
He said it showed the UK should be “should be doing absolutely everything”, although he argued the coalition has already “done more on the green economy than any predecessor” because it has doubled renewable electricity.
However, Davey acknowledged there were tensions within the coalition over green energy, including “a current discussion about onshore wind”, which the Conservatives want to cap. Any cap on onshore wind could undermine the fight against climate change and end up increasing bills.
“The danger of that is you wouldn’t be tackling climate change as effectively as you could, and actually you’d end up putting up people’s bills because onshore wind is the cheapest,” he said.
US political reaction
World leaders are declining to comment directly, passing the honour to their energy or science advisors. Assistant to the US president for science and technology John P. Holdren said:
The facts are clear—the more we and other countries do to curb climate change and prepare for the climate-change impacts that can no longer be avoided, the less suffering will be inflicted on our communities and on our children and grandchildren.
The IPCC’s new report highlights in stark reality the magnitude and urgency of the climate challenge. It shows, even more compellingly than previous studies, that the longer society waits to implement strong measures to cut greenhouse-gas emissions, the more costly and difficult it will become to limit climate change to less than catastrophic levels.
The Obama Administration is committed to leading efforts to address this global challenge, both by example and by persuasion. And through the concrete steps laid out in President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, real progress is already being made.
Democratic U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee echoed Holdren’s statement:
“The newest IPCC report shows a wide range of options to cut carbon pollution, including the use cost-effective clean energy. The longer we wait to act, the harder and more expensive it will be.”
During the press conference, Damian Carrington asked co-chair Edenhofer about shale gas’ role in the future of energy production.
Last-minute objections from rich countries scrapped a proposed section, which called for hundreds of billions of dollars every year to be paid to developing countries by developed countries, says the Guardian’s Damian Carrington. This funding would have helped countries to develop their cities and economies without massive increases in carbon emissions.
Chukwumerije Okereke, an author on the report told the BBC this was a result of the “marginalisation” of developing country views in the IPCC process. He said that poorer nations were underrepresented on the panel. Around 30% of authors for the report came from the developing world.
“The argument has been shifting away from the view that the developed countries, who have been mainly responsible for the problem, should take leadership in solving it, to this centre-ground view that we are all in it together and we all have to do our share.
“In effect, this is shifting the burden onto the developing countries and is holding them down from developing; quite frankly this is reinforcing historical patterns of injustice and domination.”
In response to the report, green groups called for climate justice. Oxfam’s climate expert Jan Kowalzig said:
“Emissions are rising fastest in emerging economies and in the interest of their poorest citizens on the front line of climate change, they must play a bigger role than in the past. But rich countries cannot simply pass the buck – they must do their fair share by both slashing their emissions faster and finally providing the financial support for climate action in poor countries they have promised.”
“If we fail to act on climate change, the chance of eradicating hunger from our world may be lost forever. This report shows cutting emissions sufficiently comes at little cost, so we have no excuse for letting that happen.
Christian Aid’s senior climate change advisor, Mohamed Adow, said:
“The world’s poorest nations are in need of economic development. But they need to be helped to leapfrog dirty energy and develop in a way which won’t entrench their poverty by making climate change worse. With technological and financial help they can harness their natural, clean, energy resources and improve the lives of millions.”
Carbon capture and storage is on of the more divisive aspects of today’s report and generated some discussion in the last week because the leaked final draft contained the lines:
“Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies could reduce the life-cycle GHG emissions of fossil power plants (medium evidence, medium agreement).”
“Combining bioenergy and CCS (BECCS) could result in net removal of CO2 from the atmosphere (limited evidence, medium agreement).”
“Bioenergy could play a critical role in stabilizing climate change…The scientific debate about the marginal emissions of most bioenergy pathways, in particular around land-mediated equilibrium effects (such as indirect land use change), remains unresolved (medium evidence, low agreement). The potential, costs and risks of BECCS are subject to considerable scientific uncertainty (low evidence, medium agreement).”
The technology is currently not developed, leading to large uncertainty about its potential to contribute to emissions reduction. It involves catching carbon dioxide as it is produced by an industrial process and storing it indefitely underground. When used in bioenergy production, such as the burning of wood, this has the advantage of actually removing CO2 from the atmosphere.
But many green groups don’t like the technology. Almuth Ernsting, co-director of bio-energy watchdog Biofuelwatch told the Guardian this week:
“The technology is the dangerous spawn of two very bad ideas: it brings together the false premises and injustices of the bio-energy debacle with the risky, costly and unproven notion that we can bury carbon dioxide out of sight. That hardly seems a hopeful formula for calming the climate crisis. Such techno-fix fantasies will be welcomed by oil companies because they distract attention from the obvious solution of cutting fossil fuel use.”
Neil Edwards, reader in Earth Systems Science at the Open University, said today:
“Such transformative changes remain eminently possible, but concerted action is needed. In particular, BECCS (bio-energy with carbon capture and storage) is a critical component of most strong mitigation scenarios, allowing negative effective emissions, but is still not demonstrated at large scale.”
Stuart Haszeldine, Professor of carbon capture and storage at the University of Edinburgh, said:
“Extraction and combustion of fossil carbon can only continue if that easy energy is matched, tonne for tonne, by the recapture and storage of carbon. It doesn’t matter if that is by Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), by Bio Energy Capture and Storage (BECCS), by direct air capture, or by enhanced mineral weathering – all of these will be needed.”
Dr Hannah Chalmers, lecturer in power plant engineering and carbon capture at the University of Edinburgh, said:
“The scientists of the IPCC have produced an excellent overview of the importance of developing and deploying a broad range of low carbon technologies. The UK has well-advanced plans to accelerate the deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) as part of its wide-ranging reforms of the UK electricity market. This report confirms that this support is timely and has an important role to play in global CO2 emissions mitigation efforts.
“The increased emphasis given to the likely role of ‘negative’ emissions technologies that draw CO2 from the atmosphere is important. They could be essential to allow climate change mitigation to be delivered in ways that are acceptable to society. Some technologies are available today, but there is scope for improvement and also scientific breakthroughs in this area. Members of the UK CCS Research Centre are among the scientists currently working hard to ensure that priority technologies and effective strategies for using them are rapidly developed and implemented.”
Transport Environment says the IPCC confirmed today that transport will become the largest source of CO2 emissions by 2050 in a business-as-usual scenario, making it a key area for policy considerations. Transport accounted for 27% of final energy use in 2010 and could double by 2050 due to demand growth in emerging economies.
A TE spokesperson said:
“Thanks to EU regulations CO2 emissions from new cars are now falling, but the progress on trucks and vans is glacial. The IPCC report stresses the urgency of taking new initiatives to tackle vehicle emissions, but the European Commission’s response is to repeatedly delay promised strategies to regulate car and van emissions after 2020 and to start addressing soaring emissions from trucks.”
Green groups reaction – “The age of renewable energy starts now”
This report is being heralded as vindication for many green groups because the UN panel has found that the renewable agenda supported almost unequivocally by the environment movement is the road to climate redemption. They are queuing up to ram home the message.
Kaisa Kosonen, senior political advisor for Greenpeace International, said:
“Renewable energy is unstoppable. It’s becoming bigger, better and cheaper every day. Dirty energy industries are sure to put up a fight but it’s only a question of time before public pressure and economics dictate that they either change or go out of business. The 21st century will be the ‘age of renewables’.”
Samantha Smith, leader of the WWF’s Global Climate & Energy Initiative said:
“The IPCC report makes clear that acting on emissions now is affordable, but delaying further increases the costs. The energy sector is by far the largest emitter of greenhouse gases and, therefore, is the key battleground of change.
“We know more effort is needed, and quickly. Delaying new mitigation efforts will make it much harder to transition the world’s energy systems to a sustainable, equitable and low-emissions future.”
Friends of the Earth executive director Andy Atkins said:
“Bold international action to cut our use of fossil fuels is urgently required to steer the planet away from catastrophic climate change.
“If we’re to avoid levels of climate change that will be impossible to adapt to, governments must stand up to the fossil fuel industry and plug in to the huge potential of clean renewable power.
“Rich nations must take the lead by rapidly weaning themselves off coal, gas and oil and funding low-carbon growth in poorer countries.
“The IPCC report is clear: we already have the technologies to make the journey to safe, clean energy. But the clock is ticking, we must act now.”
Li Shuo, climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace China, said:
“China could break the deadlock in UN climate talks by presenting an ambitious new target with binding emission cuts. If China leads, the US and the EU will have no excuse for not being more progressive. The test of whether governments are willing to act on the IPCC’s findings or turn their backs on public concern will come during next year’s climate treaty talks in Paris.”
Karsten Smid, climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace Germany, said Germany, which plans to cut carbon emissions by 40% by 2020, was setting the pace in the new age:
“Germany’s energy revolution is a practical reality and an example to the world. Clean energy owns the future. Politicians and investors need to catch up.”
Jennifer Morgan, World Resources Institute’s climate and energy program director and a review editor on the report said:
“We have the tools—now we need to use them. The report shows that by phasing out fossil fuels and significantly ramping up investments in renewable energy, we can reduce climate risks. At the same time, these actions would deliver benefits like cleaner air, new jobs, and more reliable domestic energy sources.
“World leaders can take decisive actions, like limiting power plant emissions in the United States to capping coal use in China. In the lead up to the UN climate summit in September, government officials can announce concrete steps to shape a low-carbon future. Governments can deliver strong commitments that will lead to an ambitious, universal climate agreement by 2015.”
As reaction begins to flow in, the Guardian’s reporters have already published a series of articles analysing various aspects of the report.
Damian Carrington says: IPCC climate change report: averting catastrophe is eminently affordable
Catastrophic climate change can be averted without sacrificing living standards, according to a landmark UN report published on Sunday. It concludes the transformation required to a world of clean energy and the ditching of dirty fossil fuels is eminently affordable.
Robin McKie and Toby Helm said in the Observer: UN urges huge increase in green energy to avert climate disaster
Guardian US environment correspondent Suzanne Goldenberg looked at the role cities would have to play in reducing emissions: At-risk cities hold solutions to climate change: UN report
It is already taking shape as the 21st century urban nightmare: a big storm hits a city like Shanghai, Mumbai, Miami or New York, knocking out power supply and waste treatment plants, washing out entire neighbourhoods and marooning the survivors in a toxic and foul-smelling swamp.
Who is responsible for carbon emisssions?
AP reporter Karl Ritter has done some number crunching from the report on the key issue of past and present responsibility for emissions. This will be a major factor in discussions between nations at the UN climate confernce in Paris in 2015, which will seek to establish who’s responsibility it will be to pay for the transition to a low carbon world.
At the time of the IPCC’s previous climate assessment, in 2007, the U.S. was the world’s top carbon polluter. It has since been overtaken by China, which now accounts for one-quarter of global emissions because of its rapidly expanding economy. The U.S. is No. 2 with 17 percent, followed by India (6.6 percent), Russia (5.1 percent) and Japan (3.7 percent).
If you count back to when the Industrial Revolution started in the 18th century, the U.S. is the undisputed No. 1, accounting for nearly 28 percent of the world’s cumulative emissions from energy and industry. China’s share is 9.9 percent, Russia’s 6.9 percent, Britain’s 5.9 percent and Germany’s 5.6 percent. Western countries rank high because they have been burning coal and oil for much longer than the rest of the world.
Putting emissions in proportion to population size also puts Western countries – and oil and gas-rich Gulf states – at the top of the table. In per capita emissions, Australians, Canadians and Americans exceed 20 tons of carbon per year – more than twice as much as the Chinese. “Overall, per-capita emissions in the highly industrialized countries … remain, on average, about five times higher than those of the lowest income countries,” the draft report says.
The main way of counting emissions is by looking at where they are released. But some say you get a better picture of what’s driving emissions by looking at consumption patterns. As the IPCC puts it: “A ton of steel produced in China but exported to the United States results in emissions in China when the fundamental demand for the steel originated in the U.S.” Accounting for emissions based on where a product is consumed rather than where it’s manufactured still puts China at the top, but with a narrower gap to the U.S. China accounts for 21.9 percent of global consumption emissions, while the U.S. accounts for 18.1 percent.
Energy production is the biggest source of emissions, representing about one-third of the world total. Of the fossil fuels, coal generates the highest emissions, followed by oil and then natural gas. Agriculture, forestry and other land use accounts for 24 percent of total emissions. Other big sectors include transport (13 percent) and buildings (7 percent).
The IPPC gives a range of trajectories for global emissions, but doesn’t break them down by country. However, it notes that nearly all growth in emissions is expected to occur in developing countries, as their populations grow and they try to catch up economically with the industrialized world. Developing countries say that’s why they shouldn’t have to face as strict emissions targets in a new treaty as industrialized nations. The latter say at least the biggest developing nations, including China, India and Brazil, must also make significant cuts. Both sides will likely point to selected statistics and projections in the IPCC report.
The press conference has now ended but stay with us as we gather reaction from climate scientists, policy makers and the media.
Pachauri was asked twice which areas of contention lead to materials being left out of the 29 page summary for policy makers published today. Twice he has dodged the question. But Damian Carrington said today:
Objections from rich nations saw the complete removal of a section stating that hundred of billions of dollars a year would have to be paid by developed countries to developing countries, to ensure they grow their cities and economies in a non-polluting way.
Other objections, from major fossil fuel producing nations including Saudi Arabia, led to the weakening of statements that ending the huge subsidies paid for oil, gas and coal would help reduce emissions. But the final document retained the conclusion that policies to cut carbon could devalue fossil fuels reserves.
Edenhofer is asked which scenarios required a carbon price.
“The carbon price was not an assumption, it was a result of some of the scenarios.” Meaning some of the scenarios required a carbon price to achieve their results.
Q: What happens if some major polluters do not take action, should the rest of the world carry on?
Pachauri says this is the role of the UNFCC negotiating process. It is not the role of the IPCC to take the failure to act into consideration.
Edenhofer is asked why the report avoided recommending particular reductions for particular countries.
He says the IPCC felt it would be inappropriate to prescribe specific allocations to countries because the goals can be achieved under many different burden sharing scenarios. He said it would be up to countries to find the most effective and just way to achieve emissions reductions.
Pachauri says the cost estimates are consistent with the AR4 report.
Edenhofer: “The IPCC has not said that carbon capture and storage is without cost and without uncertainties – such as uncertainties over the global storage capacity.”
You can get you copy of the report here.
There is a question on the main points of contention. Pachauri says it saying the strength of the IPCC process comes from the interaction between the policy and scientific communities.
Damian Carrington from the Guardian asks about the 0.06% cost mentioned in the report – is it affordable?
Edenhofer says we cannot say in the report if it affordable or not. You have to carry out a cost-benefit analysis, which is difficult because of the uncertainties around the impacts, the ethical considerations and the risks. But what we can say is that these cost numbers are within the range of other economic policies. He says it is up to the public and decision makers to decide if it is affordable or not. But he would say: “It does not cost the world to save the planet.”
Pachauri says the question of affordability is very difficult to answer because it is difficult to assess the cost of a human life or the benefit of avoiding climate change.
Edenhofer is asked by the BBC what his major message is and why we should feel hopeful.
“My first message is, emissions are still increasing and they are increaing with an increasing growth rate.”
While the report is not policy prescriptive, he says: “We need an international carbon price and internation cooperation.
On hope, he says: “We are not saying this is a free lunch, but climate policy could be a lunch worthwhile to buy.”
Edenhofer says: “We need a new investment flow in particular sectors. In particular energy, renewables and in some parts of the world, nuclear.”
This is a global commons problem, he says: “Effective mitigation will not be achieved if individual agents, countries, firms, individuals, advance their interests independently of others.”
“This report shows there are some steps to resolve this issue… It provides hope, modest hope.”
Edenhofer says the business-as-usual scenario will lead to 3.7C to 4.8C rise in temperature before 2100.
If we are to stay within 2C,” we need to bring the mitigation train on track”. This would involve a fundamental upscale of low and zero carbon emission energy sources. It would also strongly depend on the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere.
Putting off mitigation action will make it more difficult to achieve less than 2C warming later. It will lead to greater reductions requirements and greater costs.
Reaching 450ppm of carbon in the atmosphere by 2011, which is considered to be a safe level of carbon, will only lead to a reduction in global consumption growth by 0.06% per year.
235 authors from 58 coutries have contributed to the report says co-chair Ramon Pichs-Madruga.
Co-chair Ottmar Edenhofer is presenting the report’s key findings.
He shows the graph I posted earlier saying the last decade has seen a growth in the rate of emissions – despite efforts to reduce them. CO2 emissions have more than doubled since 1970. This is driven by economic and population growth.
The Guardian’s head of environment, Damian Carrington, is in Berlin covering the conference. He says the IPCC has concluded that “catastrophic climate change can be averted without sacrificing living standards”.
The authoritative report, produced by 1250 international experts and approved by 194 governments, dismisses fears that slashing carbon emissions would wreck the world economy. It is the final part of a trilogy that has already shown that climate change is “unequivocally” caused by humans and that, unchecked, it poses a grave threat to people and could lead to lead to wars and mass migration.
Diverting hundred of billions of dollars from fossil fuels into renewable energy and cutting energy waste would shave just 0.06% off expected annual economic growth rates of 1.3%-3%, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report concluded.
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