Commenting on the findings of the IPCC’s global warming report published today, Jonathan Grant, Director of Climate Change at PwC UK, said:
“Three years ago in Paris, governments adopted a new, more ambitious, target to limit warming to 1.5°C. They also asked the IPCC to prepare a report on the benefits of 1.5°C compared with the ‘old’ 2°C goal and explore pathways to get there. The IPCC published this report earlier today and its findings are deeply worrying. Broadly, projected climate change impacts are substantially worse at 2°C compared with 1.5°C. This applies to impacts on ecosystems, heat stress in cities, droughts, crop yields, flooding and storm damage (among others).
“An earlier draft of the report noted “there is no simple answer to the question of whether it is feasible to limit warming to 1.5 degrees and adapt to its consequences”. All 1.5°C pathways imply rapid emissions reductions to net zero, with a 40-50% reduction on 2010 levels by 2030 and 70-90% reductions by 2050. In addition to ‘Natural Climate Solutions’ (forest & soil carbon), after 2050 we will need to rely on carbon dioxide removal technologies to achieve deep net negative emissions. Some refer to these technologies as carbon unicorns as they are currently unproven at scale and allow for a more creative pathway to 1.5°C. The report is clear that changes in behaviour and lifestyles, technology development and deployment, finance, international cooperation and policy are all needed to keep 1.5°C in reach.
“There are two missed opportunities in the report. First, there is limited detail on the impacts of three or more degrees of warming which is what we are currently on course for. The report aims to justify raising ambition to 1.5 degrees, but there doesn’t appear to be adequate political will even to limit warming to 2 degrees. Our 2018 Low Carbon Economy Index, published last week, shows the gaps between current progress and the 2 degrees goal across the G20. A summary of expected impacts of more significant global warming (that are actually more likely given our current course) would make a much more compelling case for climate action. But this didn’t form part of the terms of reference for the report.
“Secondly, the Summary for Policymakers (SPM) gives limited detail on the value of those impacts. There are only a few references to GDP or economic growth. For example, the SPM describes the impact on crop yields for maize and wheat but doesn’t give details about the implications for prices or availability. These are the things that motivate politicians and business leaders to take action. The only dollar signs relate to the level of energy-related mitigation investment needed to achieve a 1.5C pathway. Also, the timing of the impacts is generally around 2050 and beyond and yet it is rare that people in companies or politicians seriously think beyond 2030.”
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