What your organisation needs to know about the AR6 WGIII report

What your organisation needs to know about the AR6 WGIII report

In August of 2021, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the first part of its Sixth Assessment Report, also called AR6. At the beginning of April 2022, the IPCC  released the third part of the AR6, called Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change, the Working Group  III contribution or AR6 WGIII.

As the name suggests, this report delivers a revised examination of the current climate change mitigation progress and government pledges worldwide. It also details the sources of global emissions.

This latest report is massive, sitting at nearly 3,000 pages with 17 chapters. In this piece, we have taken a deep dive and summarised the main points of the report to help you make sense of it and take action quickly.

Here is everything you need to know about the AR6 WGIII report.

The WGIII report begins with an overview of the current developments and trends in the international drive to mitigate climate change.

The global climate landscape is changing for the better

The AR6 report outlines the many different changes occurring on the international stage regarding climate change mitigation.

Specifically, there have been changes to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process, the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the evolving roles of international cooperation, finance, and innovation.

While much more action is needed to avoid climate catastrophe, these shifting landscapes will make it incredibly accessible and feasible for more significant mitigation efforts to occur on a larger scale.

The diversity of climate actors and mitigation methods is increasing

More so than ever, non-state actors such as cities, businesses, indigenous peoples, citizens, transnational initiatives, and public-private entities play a vital role in mitigating the worst effects of climate change.

Not only that, climate mitigation policies and methods spread throughout the world. The costs of low emission technologies and renewable energy have fallen dramatically since 2010.

There are strong links between mitigation, adaptation, and development pathways

The WGIII report highlighted how the development pathways of countries at all phases of economic development influence their particular level of GHG emissions. These development pathways also define the mitigation challenges and opportunities of varying countries and regions.

Ultimately, the report details how climate change mitigation efforts designed and implemented with a context of sustainable development, equity, and poverty eradication in mind while also being embedded in the development goal of the countries or regions they are occurring in will be more acceptable, enduring and effective.

Recent developments and current trends

The AR6 report outlines the recent developments & current trends regarding climate change mitigation efforts. The key takeaways of these sections are:

The total GHG emissions from human activity have risen since 2010

Source: Summary for Policymakers IPCC AR6 WG III
Figure SPM.1: Global net anthropogenic GHG emissions (GtCO 2-eq yr -1 ) 1990–2019

One of the primary and most startling concerns shared in the AR6 WGIII report is that humans have been emitting more and more greenhouse gases since 2010. The average GHG emissions per year from 2010 to 2019 were higher than in any past decade.

The AR6 WGIII report stated that the global net GHG emissions were 59±6.6 GtCO2-eq (gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent) in 2019. This figure is 12% (6.5 GtCO2-eq) greater than net emission in 2010 and 54% (21 GtCO2-eq) greater than 1990.

This increase in GHG emissions has occurred across all major sectors worldwide. A significant portion of those GHG emissions come from urban areas and dense cities.

Nevertheless, 18 countries have reduced their GHG emissions while maintaining economic growth and development. These are the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Italy, Ukraine, France, Spain, Greece, Netherlands, Mexico, Finland, Singapore, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Belgium, Poland, Romania, and Sweden

The Cost of Low Emissions Technologies Has Dropped Since 2010

Source: Summary for Policymakers IPCC AR6 WG III
Figure SPM.3: Unit cost reductions and use in some rapidly changing mitigation technologies

Low Emission Technologies are those technologies that seek to reduce the GHG emissions of those processes and activities that release them. For instance, vehicles naturally release GHG emissions during their operation. Therefore, a hybrid vehicle is considered a form of low emission technology.

Since 2010, many policies have been aimed at reducing the cost of such technologies to help make rapid cuts in GHG emissions while transitioning to renewable forms of energy.

Some progress has been made since the publication of AR5

Since the publication of AR5 in 2014, the world has made consistent progress in its mitigation efforts. Policies and laws have emerged worldwide to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.

The latest AR6 report states that these policies and laws have impacted and reduced GHG emissions that the world would have otherwise produced.

Nevertheless, there are still significant gaps in these mitigation efforts. While investments in low-GHG tech and green infrastructure have increased since 2014, much more climate financing is needed.

"The World is currently on track to exceed the 1.5°C target"

Source: Summary for Policymakers IPCC AR6 WG III
Figure SPM.4: Global GHG emissions of modelled pathways (funnels in Panel a. and associated bars in Panels b, c, d) and projected emission outcomes from near-term policy assessments for 2030 (Panel b).

A significant point in the AR6 report is that the world, as it currently stands, will likely exceed 1.5°C in warming. Therefore, limiting warming to 1.5°C or 2°C requires a rapid acceleration of mitigation efforts and GHG emissions reductions.

System transformations to limit global warming

The trends and developments outlined in the WGIII report suggest that rapid and widespread system transformations need to occur to mitigate the worst effects of climate change and limit global warming.

The report states that every global modelled pathway that limits warming to 1.5°C with no or limited overshoot (along with those limiting warming to 2°C) requires rapid and substantial (or even immediate) GHG reductions in every sector.

Achieving this would demand a transition from fossil fuels without Carbon, Capture, and Storage (CCS) to energy sources that emit low or no GHG emissions. Such sources include renewables or fossil fuels with CCS. It is also necessary to reduce non-CO2 emissions (such as methane) and use carbon dioxide removal tech to address residual GHG emissions.

Source: Summary for Policymakers IPCC AR6 WG III
Box SPM.1, Figure 1

The world must rapidly reduce GHG emissions across the entire global energy sector. Needless to say, this will require significant transitions and transformations.

There needs to be a considerable reduction (if not outright cessation) in fossil fuels, the deployment of low-emission energy sources (renewables or nuclear), a transition to alternative energy carriers, and increased energy efficiency and conservation.

The good news is that the WGIII report outlines how urban areas can provide the opportunities necessary for many of these system transformations. Urban areas can increase resource efficiency while significantly reducing GHG emissions at the same time.

Linkages between mitigation, adaptation, and sustainable development

The WGIII report found a substantial link between sustainable development, vulnerability, and climate risks. Therefore, without adequate economic, social, or institutional resources, a region/country would be at greater risk of the effects of climate change. Not only that, it would have a more challenging time adapting to the impact of global warming. This is especially common in developing countries.

Suppose developed countries, in particular, emphasise equity and the broad and meaningful participation of all relevant actors in mitigation-related decision-making at every scale. In that case, social trust between all actors will be developed. Such trust is necessary for the support and implementation of these transformations.

This linkage was a highlight of the COP26 conference in Glasgow. Many developing countries called on the world's developed countries to uphold their promises regarding increased climate finance to support this necessary sustainable development for mitigation and adaptation.

Strengthening the Response

Source: Summary for Policymakers IPCC AR6 WG III
Figure SPM.5: Illustrative Mitigation Emissions Pathways (IMPs) and net zero CO 2 and GHG emissions strategies

While many of the findings of the AR6 report may seem disheartening, it does point out that there are feasible and practical mitigation choices that we can deploy at scale in the short term and within the timelines necessary to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. Nevertheless, what is and is not practical varies depending on the region, country, and sector.

No matter what country or region we are considering, the mitigation efforts in question must align with that country's broader development context and objections. This alignment can increase the pace and depth of emission reductions.

Strengthening the global response to climate change would require additional climate governance. Acting through laws, strategies, and public/private institutions defined by specific national circumstances can help sustain climate mitigation efforts. In addition, this kind of climate governance can provide the necessary frameworks that the various actors need to develop and implement mitigation actions.

Mitigating the worst effects of climate change would require the engagement of civil society actors, political actors, businesses, youth, labour, media, indigenous peoples, and local communities.

How your organisation can take action

The primary takeaway from the IPCC AR6 WGIII Report is that greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced profoundly and as soon as possible in all sectors. Therefore, your organisation must adopt a net-zero plan with rapid timelines now.

While this may seem monumental and intimidating, especially for larger businesses or organisations, it is possible and feasible to do so (as the report states) through various means.

Learn more about the top 10 ways companies can reduce their carbon footprints.

Nevertheless, the latest AR6 report, as we have seen, has many pertinent takeaways that should guide your organisation's sustainability efforts.

Here are some of the most critical actions your organisation can take in light of the AR6 WGIII report:

Quantify your impact

It’s hard to take action if you do not understand your impact and the magnitude of the challenge that faces your organisation. Calculating your carbon footprint is a critical initial step that must be taken to inform and create a viable carbon reduction strategy.

Adopt renewable energy as soon as possible

The report highlights that the cost of low emission technologies and renewables has fallen substantially since 2010. In fact, renewables were the cheapest form of energy in 2020, and their price continues to drop year after year.

Not only is transitioning to renewables crucial for rapid reductions in GHG emissions, but it is also financially prudent to do so.

Suppose you and your organisation want to take action in light of this latest AR6 report, you can get some inspiration from major corporations like Ikea and HP, both of whom have made public pledges to transition to 100% renewable energy sources for their companies.

Ultimately, adopting renewable energy sources is a consequential action organisation can take to help reduce global GHG emissions. Therefore, this adoption should happen as soon as possible.

Contribute to global climate finance

One vitally important but often overlooked aspect of IPCC reports is the trends regarding climate finance. As the AR6 WGIII states: "progress on the alignment of financial flows towards the goals of the Paris Agreement remains slow, and tracked climate finance flows are distributed unevenly across regions and sectors."

In short, there is currently not enough financing for countries to achieve their Paris Agreement goals.

While it is true that global climate financing has been increasing steadily over the past ten years, it is not enough to avoid the worst impacts of global warming. According to the Climate Policy Initiative, annual international climate financing will need to increase by nearly 600% to limit warming to 1.5 C as agreed in the Paris Agreement.

If you remember, this issue was a cornerstone of the COP26 in Glasgow in 2021. As a result, many developing countries insisted that developed nations need to contribute more financial assistance to help reduce GHG emissions.

Your organisation can help do its part to meet these necessary climate financing goals by shifting its business investments in this direction.  

Like transitioning to renewable energy, climate financing is not only doing right by the planet but is another prudent financial decision as well.

This could entail investing in solar, green tech, sustainable food production etc.

Participate in global climate activism

The AR6 report states: "Climate governance is most effective when it integrates multiple policy domains, helps realise synergies and minimise trade-offs, and connects national and sub-national policy-making levels. Adequate and equitable climate governance builds on engagement with civil society actors, political actors, businesses, youth, labour, media, Indigenous Peoples, and local communities."

However, the report also states that "policies implemented by the end of 2020 are projected to result in higher global GHG emissions than those implied by NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions), indicating an implementation gap."

In other words, current government policies are expected to fail to meet the goals agreed to in the Paris Agreement.

The dichotomy between these two findings is indicative of the opportunity and power of corporate climate activism.

One of your organisation's most meaningful actions, besides those previously mentioned, is participating in global climate activism to help bridge this implementation gap.

The best example of corporate climate activism done right is Patagonia. The company imposes an "Earth tax" of 1% of its sales that it uses to provide support to environmental nonprofits around the world. The company also provides grants to grassroots environmental groups whose work "addresses the root causes of the environmental crisis and seeks to protect both the environment and affected communities."

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