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Exeter experts comment on IPCC report

University of Exeter researchers have commented on the new report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Published 4th April 2022

The report comes from IPCC Working Group III, which focusses on climate change mitigation, assessing methods for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

The report’s authors found increasing evidence of climate action, and said emissions could be halved by 2030 – but only if we act now.

Here’s what Exeter’s experts, including members of the Global Systems Institute, have to say:

 

Professor Catherine Mitchell, Coordinating Lead Author in Chapter 13: National and sub-national policies and institutions, said a multiple factors must combine to tackle the climate crisis.

These include various groups – including business, youth, labour, media and Indigenous Peoples – engaging to influence decision-makers.

“To shift towards equitable, low-emission futures, we need policy and economic packages that can keep short-term economics going but also work in the long term to improve the environment,” Professor Mitchell said.

“There are mitigation options which are feasible to deploy at scale in the near-term. Barriers to feasibility need to be removed or reduced, and ‘enabling conditions’ need to be strengthened.

“Policies are important, but they are only one of six enabling conditions.

“To really make a difference, all six enabling conditions have to be harnessed: finance, technological innovation, strengthening policies, institutional capacity, multi-level governance and changes in human behaviour and lifestyles.”

 

Professor Patrick Devine-Wright, Lead Author in Chapter five: Demand, services and social aspects of climate mitigation, said: “For too long, demand for energy has been comparatively overlooked in comparison to supply issues such as whether we go for nuclear or wind.

“But if we can reduce demand, we also reduce risks associated with where we secure our energy from and how many new power stations we need.

“For the first time, this IPCC report recognises the importance of demand and the value of social science in understanding how to change demand.

“If we can tackle demand effectively, we can not only reduce emissions, but boost health, wellbeing and equity at the same time.”

 

Professor Gail Whiteman, Professor of Sustainability at the University of Exeter Business School, said: “There are no silver bullets or shortcuts in the fight against climate change, and while new technologies to undo the damage humans have inflicted on the planet are well-intentioned, we are taking huge risks with our shared future if we allow our focus to shift from emissions reductions, allowing businesses, government and investors to take a business-as-usual approach.

“We are already seeing energy firms relying unrealistically on negative emissions technologies and huge offsets requiring a new forest the size of Brazil.

“Some of these technologies may prove useful, but to bet the house on them would be a costly mistake.”

 

Professor Tim Lenton, Director of the Global Systems Institute, said: “It is great to see IPCC’s Working Group III recognising the potential as well as the necessity to halve global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

“To bend the curve of emissions and achieve such a fast reduction requires a spectacular acceleration of current progress.

“The only way we can achieve that now is to find and trigger ‘positive tipping points’ across all major sectors of the economy.

“Happily, we see examples of such positive tipping points starting to unfold faster than anyone predicted, and the new report points to some of these.”

 

Professor Ian Bateman, Director of the Land, Environment, Economics and Policy Institute (LEEP) and the South West Partnership for Environment and Economic Prosperity (SWEEP), said: “The greatly enhanced detail of the new IPCC report has direct relevance for the Government’s plans to decarbonise the UK.

“For example, its plans to plant nearly two million acres of new woodlands to help reduce carbon in the atmosphere need to allow for the increased chances of summer droughts.

“Planting drought-sensitive trees such as some fast-growing conifers could result in large-scale forest losses just at a time when the chances of wildfires will be increasing.

“Planting the right tree in the right place becomes ever more essential in a warming world.”

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