CO2 emissions soar; climate panel calls for rapid scale-up of low-carbon technology

IPCC report on mitigation says that the current level of ambition not enough to stop climate change. Prescribes a few controversial solutions

By Arnab Pratim Dutta
Published: Monday 14 April 2014

The IPCC report says to contain CO2 eq  to 450 ppm by 2100, the increase in zero and low carbon energy systems like renewables will have to increase three to four times of what it was in 2010

There is both good and bad news in the final volume of the three-part report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on Sunday in Berlin. The report, titled “Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change”, says the release of green house gasses (GHG) have almost doubled in the decade between 2000-2010 but that with rapid and appropriate mitigation measures, it is still possible to keep global temperature increase below 2°C.

“Climate policies in line with the 2°C goal need to aim for substantial emission reductions,” said Ottmar Edenhofer from Germany, one of the three co-chairs of the IPCC working group III, which is looking at ways to mitigate climate change. “There is a clear message from science to avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual.”

In 2010, the primary drivers for high emissions were production of electricity and heat (about 25 per cent), followed by agriculture, forest and land use (about 24 per cent).


A drastic cut of 40-70 per cent of emissions would be required over the 2010 levels by middle of this century, and this will need to fall to zero at the end of the century, to keep global temperatures from soaring beyond globally agreed threshold of 2°C, says the report.

If the new report is to be believed, cost of mitigation to keep GHG concentration in the atmosphere at 450 ppm—a scenario in which a 50 per cent chance exists of staying temperature increase under 2°C—the cost of transition will only reduce annual economic growth by 0.06 per cent. Under business as usual scenario, the annual economic growth is between 1.3 to 3 per cent, says IPCC.

Low carbon energy only way

Business as usual means that the world can see a temperature rise of 3.7 to 4.8°C compared to pre-industrial levels. To achieve 450 ppm of CO2eq by 2100, the increase in zero and low carbon energy systems will have to increase three to four times of what it was in 2010.

“At the global level, scenarios reaching 450 ppm CO2eq are also characterized by more rapid improvements of energy efficiency, a tripling to nearly a quadrupling of the share of zero and low carbon energy supply from renewable sources, nuclear energy and fossil energy with carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS), or bioenergy with CCS (BECCS) by the year 2050,” the report says.
While the report emphasises on renewables like wind and solar energy because of its falling costs, it also prescribes controversial energy sources and mitigation measures like nuclear power and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BICCS) as viable alternatives.

IPCC says that to keep GHG concentration at 450 ppm almost all energy by 2100 will have to come from clean sources

In the transportation sector, the report says that biofuels could play an important role, but acknowledges the inherent risks of undermining food security if more and more land is used for growing biofuels.

Land use and land use change is another key highlight for the 2°C goal. Slowing deforestation and planting forests have stopped or even reversed the increase in emissions from land use.
Substantial investments required

To upscale mitigation, substantial investment would need to flow between now and 2029, says the report. But it does not point out how much would be enough. In the coming two decades, IPCC projects that investment in to conventional fossil fuel-based energy systems will decline by about $30 billion a year while investment in low carbon energy systems like renewables and nuclear is likely to increase by an average of $ 147 billion annually. Currently, the annual average investment in energy is about US $1,200 billion. In addition, investment in energy efficiency measures in transport, buildings and industry sectors is projected to increase to $336 billion for modernisation of existing equipment.

IPCC says there is no agreed definition on what constitutes climate finance. Figures thrown up by IPCC clearly demonstrate that private investments have far exceeded public aid. While estimates of public climate aid was in the range of $35-49 billion a year, in 2011 and 2012, private investments including equity and loans flowing into developing countries was in the range $10 to 72 billion a year. Foreign direct investments in form of equity and loans made a bulk of this private money-flow, accounting for about $10-37 billion.

National mitigation plans not good enough

There has been a substantial growth in national and sub-national plans to tackle climate change. In 2007 about 45 per cent of GHG emissions were focused by these plans, but in 2012 the number of national policies had increased taking into account 67 per cent. IPCC, however, says that there has not been much in the way of a downward deviation of emissions because of these national strategies. “These plans and strategies are in their early stages of development and implementation in many countries, making it difficult to assess their aggregate impact on future global emissions,” says the new report.

The new report sounds a warning by saying that the pledges that were made in Cancun in 2010 are not adequate to stay within 450 ppm or 2°C temperature increase. With the Cancun pledges, the global temperatures could go as high as 3°C.

Report: Climate change 2014: mitigation of climate change

Report: Climate change: evidence & causes

Report: Greenprint: three big changes for countries to take action on climate change

Report: India: taking on climate change - 24 recent initiatives related to climate change

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.