IEMA's Digital Journalist Tom Pashby discusses the recent IPCC report on mitigating climate change.

The latest report from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change, paints an extremely stark picture of the state of human-created greenhouse gas emissions, the global heating they cause, and the options we have left to mitigate and adapt to the climate emergency.

The IPCC is formed of 195 national governments, meaning the vast majority of global society has some level of representation within the report’s creation. The Summary for Policymakers, the shortest form of the report, is formally signed off by all member governments. That summary, abbreviated to SPM, is still 63 pages. The full report runs to 2913 pages and forms a complete synthesis of the latest findings of the world’s leading climate scientists on how to mitigate existing global warming.

With that volume of information, it would be impossible to summarise the reports’ findings in one blog, so I recommend you try to take the time to read the SPM. However, there are some points that are particularly relevant to the IEMA community, and everyone, of course, has a role to play in avoiding climate chaos. It is also worth considering the fact that some commentators have raised concerns about some key parts of the full report not having made it to the SPM between the government approval phase, such as the failure to mention intensive lobbying by the fossil fuel industry to maximise fossil fuel extraction and combustion.

The SPM opens by stating it will assess the “literature on the scientific, technological, environmental, economic and social aspects of the mitigation of climate change”. The breadth of investigation couldn’t be much wider. It notes an “evolving international landscape” and “the growing role of non-state and sub-national actors including cities, businesses, Indigenous Peoples, citizens including local communities and youth, transnational initiatives, and public-private entities” all working to deliver climate action.

It summarises the state of greenhouse gas emissions and mentions the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic did cause a significant downturn in emissions from fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes, but said that emissions have substantially rebounded. There are numerous graphs that illustrate various emissions pathways such as existing climate pledges, going further, or rolling back on climate action. All show that extremely steep emissions reductions are needed in all sectors of the economy if we are to achieve 1.5C or even 2C. The report says that with current climate pledges in the form of NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions, which are part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change process), we are still on track to 3C warming, which would be catastrophic.

Throughout the SPM, it mentions ways in which society is already, with varied success, mitigating and adapting to our changing climate. But it also makes clear that with every increment of additional warming, every increment of additional greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and with every year that goes by without appropriate action, our options become increasingly limited and we will have to rely more heavily on unproven technologies such as negative emissions techniques.

As IEMA’s CEO Sarah Mukherjee MBE said in her quote reacting to the report yesterday – “it’s imperative that there is an immediate increase in investment in the green jobs and skills required for a successful transition to a sustainable global society.” It’s clear that the environment and sustainability profession will continue to play a pivotal role in delivering on the ambitions of the Paris Agreement.


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