Thomas de Groot, Consultant Energy & Sustainability, reflects on the IPCC’s Climate Change 2022 report.
It has been a month since the IPCC published the third part of its sixth assessment report, “Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change.” In previous IPCC reports, much has been said about the necessity to act now and the consequences of failing to do so, but this report really focuses on the options we have to solve the climate crisis. The message is dire, but from what I am seeing in my daily operations, there is room for optimism.
In my perspective, the main takeaways of the report are:
- Emissions are still rising, but slightly slower
- More than 3 degrees of warming will occur without extra policy
- 1.5 degrees warming is still possible, if emissions fall before 2025
- Each sector requires a specific approach
- The cost of doing nothing is higher than the cost of climate policy:
- Rapid price reductions help to meet our targets:
In the first three takeaways, the need for more action and policy is highlighted, which unfortunately is a common theme in all communications from the IPCC over the last years. Luckily this is what is now occurring every day. In the United States, the SEC proposed a major new ruling on climate reporting and disclosure. In the Netherlands, my home country, at the time of writing this blog, a ban on replacing conventional gas fired boilers with new conventional boilers is proposed. This is significant in a country where over 60% of the building stock’s energy consumption is related to natural gas.
The last three takeaways are really about the work we as Arcadis are doing every day, and what we are seeing from our day-to-day operations. There is one specific graph in the report that captured my attention since it really shows what we need to do.
In this graph we see a wide range of decarbonization options, where the wideness of a bar shows the mitigation potential, and the colour shows the mitigation costs. So, in essence, to tackle climate change we should invest in the blue bars, and make sure the red bars become blue. The analysis shows great overlap with the work done at project Drawdown. A stunning conclusion is that more than 55% of global emissions could be reduced in 2030 for 100 $/ton or less, a price which is by no means unrealistic since the EU ETS carbon price peaked on 101$ on February 4th and currently swings between 85-95$ since the start of 2022. ~30% of global emissions can even be mitigated for less than 20$/ton.
Life as a sustainability consultant
One of the benefits of being a sustainability consultant is that decarbonization is a topic that is relevant to everyone, and you therefore get to work in several sectors which all have their own challenges and roadmaps to net zero (see also takeaway #4). The last month I participated in two major sectoral conferences. One related to the water sector (SIWW) and one related to logistics (Smart Freight Week). I was happily surprised, not being a water nor a logistics expert, that the emphasis on both conferences was on climate change. In break-out sessions on, for example, floating PV-fields on drinking water basins, capturing methane emissions from wastewater, biofuel availability for shipping and scaling up electric trucks, details and challenges were discussed. You can really see that experts from all sectors are debating and working on the bars that the IPCC shows. Investing in blue and making sure red becomes blue.
We are definitively not there yet, but the momentum is building and is here to stay.