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Urgent climate action is critical to sustainable development, suggests new IPCC report

April 4, 2022

While emissions in the last decade were the highest in human history, many emissions reduction opportunities are available at low cost, and emission reductions and development can both be realised by shifting development pathways, says a recently released report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Among the IPCC Report’s authors are three researchers from the Delhi-based public policy think tank, Centre for Policy Research (CPR): Prof. Navroz K. Dubash, Coordinating Lead Author for Chapter 13 (‘National and sub-national policies and institutions’), co-author of the Summary of Policymake0072s, and Professor, CPR, and Adjunct Senior Research Fellow, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore; Prof Lavanya Rajamani, Coordinating Lead Author for Chapter 14 (‘International Cooperation’), co-author of the Summary for Policymakers, and Visiting Professor, CPR, and Professor of International Environmental Law, Faculty of Law, University of Oxford; and Parth Bhatia, Contributing Author for Chapter 13 (‘National and sub-national policies and institutions’) and Associate Fellow, CPR. They are among 14 Indians who have been involved in developing the report.

“The unavoidable reality is that human emissions over this past decade have been the highest in history. Limiting warming to 1.5 deg C is out of reach without immediate and substantial short term measures by 2030, in addition to longer term efforts to reduce emissions to net-zero,” said Prof. Navroz Dubash.

“This Report is a sobering reminder of how much we still need to do to prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system,” added Prof. Lavanya Rajamani.

The Working Group III (WGIII) report is the third report of the IPCC’s AR6 assessment cycle, with two previous reports on ‘The Physical Basis’ (WGI) and ‘Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability’ (WGII) released in recent months. WGIII focuses on climate change mitigation. The WGIII report is co-authored by 278 authors from 65 countries, has 354 Contributing authors, and is approved by 195 governments.

Prof Navroz K. Dubash on March 25, 2022, amidst the two-week approval plenary of the IPCC WGIII Report. Photo by IISD/ENB.

The Report suggests a broadening in how we look at the relationship between development and climate action. “Development choices about urban, energy and land systems shape can shift development pathways toward sustainability. And, because of growing impacts, sustainable development isn’t possible without accelerated mitigation and adaptation. Climate and development can no longer be seen as separate issues – development decisions are climate decisions, and vice-versa,” Prof. Navroz Dubash said.

However, bringing climate and development together is challenging, and has potential consequences, such as changes in employment as well as new opportunities such as sunrise sectors. The IPCC report therefore goes beyond scenarios and pathways to spell out concrete approaches and options to address climate change in conjunction with development.

“By discussing global experience with laws, institutions and policies, the Report lays out what it will take to build a ‘climate-ready state’” said Prof. Navroz Dubash. “Many countries have developed dedicated knowledge bodies and coordination bodies, with good effect.”

There is also good news on the policy front, Dubash added. “Globally, emissions could be reduced by more than 25% by 2030 at under USD 20 tCO2-eq, with a further 25% at under USD 100CO2-eq.

These options span a wide range of opportunities across energy, land, buildings, transport and demand shifts. For countries with growing emissions, it is also important to be attentive to whether new investments will lock-in high emissions.”

The Report also suggests a rethink of the way in which countries approach climate policy-making.

“A ‘policy package’ approach is better able to support sectoral transitions, such as toward low carbon transport and decarbonised electricity, than individual policies, while stimulating job creation and promoting equity,” said Parth Bhatia, Associate Fellow at CPR. “Stimulus packages that were put in place by countries in response to COVID represent the kinds of opportunities when climate goals can be achieved alongside other important development goals.”

Prof. Lavanya Rajamani on March 25, 2022, amidst the two-week approval plenary of the IPCC WGIII Report. Photo by IISD/ENB

The news on the international front is more mixed. “While there is evidence that international agreements like the 2015 Paris Agreement are working to enhance national target setting, policy development and transparency of action and support, there are significant shortfalls in the availability of support which will make it increasingly challenging for developing countries to implement current commitments and take on more ambitious national contributions over time,” noted Prof. Rajamani.

“Financial flows are a factor of three to six below what is required by 2030 to limit warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius, and closing this gap is particularly hard for developing countries,” added Prof. Dubash.

This Report pays far more explicit attention to equity and justice – internationally and domestically –than previous IPCC mitigation reports. “The report recognises that equity remains a central element in UN climate negotiations, despite shifts in understanding of differentiated responsibilities of countries over time and challenges in assessing what is a fair contribution of different countries,” stated Dubash. Moreover, “attention to distribution of emissions and impacts within countries also affects social cohesion and the acceptability of climate measures, suggesting the need for explicit attention to equity and just transitions in national and local policymaking,” Prof. Dubash said.

Important Links

Access a summary and the full report online: https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg3/ 

About the Centre for Policy Research (CPR)

The Centre for Policy Research has been one of India’s leading public policy think tanks since 1973.  CPR is a non-profit, non-partisan independent institution dedicated to conducting research that contributes to the production of high quality scholarship, better policies, and a more robust public discourse about the structures and processes that shape life in India.

The Initiative on Climate, Energy and Environment at the Centre for Policy Research (CPR-ICEE) aims to stimulate an informed debate on the laws, policies and institutions shaping climate, energy and environmental governance in India. For live updates on our work, follow us on Twitter, or email us at climate.initiative.cpr@gmail.com

About the IPCC:

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change. Every seven years, the three IPCC working groups publish a new Assessment Report (AR).