IPCC sets out energy options for 'liveable future'

04 April 2022

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report says that without "immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, limiting global warming to 1.5°C is beyond reach".

Countries agreed to take action to cut emissions to try to limit the rise in temperatures when COP26 was held in Glasgow last year (Image: Jonathan Cobb)

It says that although 2010-2019 saw average annual global greenhouse gas emissions at their highest levels, "the rate of growth has slowed” and “there is increasing evidence of climate action".

The report says there are options in all sectors to "at least halve emissions by 2030 … limiting global warming will require major transitions in the energy sector. This will involve a substantial reduction in fossil fuel use, widespread electrification, improved energy efficiency, and use of alternative fuels (such as hydrogen)".

It also identifies that "when switching to low-carbon energy sources - renewable sources, nuclear power, and fossil or bioenergy with CCS [carbon capture and storage] - electricity is expected to become a more pervasive energy carrier".

Sama Bilbao y León, World Nuclear Association director general, said it was clear "that nuclear energy has an important role to play now and in the long-term mitigation of climate change".

She said there were three urgent actions needed to maximise that contribution: extend the life of existing nuclear reactors; provide access to finance and streamlining licensing and regulatory processes for new nuclear power plants; and investing in the development of new nuclear technologies such as low carbon district heating schemes and enabling the clean production of hydrogen at scale.

The IPCC Working Group III report, Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of climate change was approved on 4 April by 195 member governments of the IPCC. It is the third instalment of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report, which will be completed this year.

"We are at a crossroads. The decisions we make now can secure a liveable future. We have the tools and know-how required to limit warming," said IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee.

"I am encouraged by climate action being taken in many countries. There are policies, regulations and market instruments that are proving effective. If these are scaled up and applied more widely and equitably, they can support deep emissions reductions and stimulate innovation."

Among the areas suggested to reduce emissions, the IPCC report suggests cutting energy consumption in cities by making them more compact and walkable as well as electrification of transport - cars and buses and electric scooters and bikes - using "low-emission energy sources". It also says that for industry to reach net-zero, there will need to be "new production processes, low and zero- emissions electricity, hydrogen and where necessary, carbon capture and storage".

The report estimates that if global warming is to be limited to around 1.5°C "global greenhouse gas emissions need to peak before 2025 at the latest and be reduced by 43% by 2030; at the same time methane would also need to be reduced by about a third".

It adds that the global temperature will stabilise when carbon dioxide emissions reach net-zero. For 1.5°C, this means achieving net-zero carbon dioxide emissions globally in the early 2050s, for 2°C it is in the early 2070s.

The IPCC is the UN body for assessing the science related to climate change. It was established by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organisation in 1988 to provide political leaders with periodic scientific assessments concerning climate change, its implications and risks, as well as to put forward adaptation and mitigation strategies.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News