Climate change report raises hot debates

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IN the days following the release of the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) last week, the temperature of the debate on limiting the impact of emissions has been rising. The argument has been over whether the world will be able to keep global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (1.5°C) by 2030 in order to stop natural disasters.

In the case of Africa, Oxfam has warned that rising temperatures will push millions of people into poverty and hunger unless governments take swift action.

Apollos Nwafor, Pan-Africa Director of Oxfam International, said: ‘The faster governments embrace the renewable energy revolution and move to protect communities at risk, the more lives and livelihoods that will be spared.

‘Oxfam calls for increased, responsible and accountable climate finance from rich countries that supports small-scale farmers, especially women to realise their right to food security and climate justice.

‘While time is short, there is still a chance of keeping to 1.5°C of warming.’

The IPCC report was commissioned over three years ago in Paris by the world’s governments to take a much closer look at the impact of emissions on the environment – especially the effect an increase would have on human existence.

Climate negotiators from almost 200 countries are due to meet in Poland in December at the next annual round of talks where the IPCC report is certain to be cited and quoted by negotiators from various countries.

One of the claims in the global warming debate has been that extraction of fossil fuels has played a major part in stoking up the temperatures.

Coal has come in for special attention but there is continued argument on this issue.

For instance, supporters of coal-fired electricity point out that technological advances have made coal production less of a threat to the environment.

Australia, for example, which relies heavily on the coal industry, has said that it would continue to exploit this fossil fuel.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said that this was because Australia’s coal industry provided 60 per cent of the country’s electricity and 50,000 jobs.

In South Africa, coal has been dominant in the production of electricity for decades, with the fossil fuel producing 88 per cent of the country’s power in 2017.

South Africa, as the world’s seventh largest coal producer, submitted its climate pledge, or ‘nationally determined contribution’ (NDC), for the Paris climate talks in September 2015.

The document noted the ‘overriding priorities to eliminate poverty and eradicate inequality’ in the face of ‘acute energy challenges that hamper economic development.’

Experts have acknowledged that cheap and reliable electricity is fundamental to tackling poverty.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim has said that ‘everyone in the world should have 20 hours a day of electricity, instead of being able to get electricity only when the sun is shining.’

But the Bank has stopped financing clean coal technology projects in developing countries that will make them self-sufficient in electricity production, which is vital to help grow their economies and reduce poverty.

US President Donald Trump has called for multilateral development banks such as the World Bank to remove restrictions on funding clean coal production.

The IPCC report acknowledges that limiting warming to 1.5°C will require the use of ‘negative emissions technologies’ (NETs) – methods that remove CO2 from the atmosphere. In the report, these techniques are referred to as ‘carbon dioxide removal’ (CDR).

Experts say that NETs take more CO2 out of the atmosphere than they put in.

They point out that no one single technology can solve climate change, but many have been proposed that could contribute to reducing atmospheric CO2.

The World Coal Association (WCA) said it ‘believes that any pathway that does not emphasise the importance of carbon capture and storage (CCS) is not realistic, given the world’s continued reliance on fossil fuels.’

It noted that some 75 per cent of the world’s energy ‘still comes from fossil fuels and with the world’s energy demand set to rise, fossil fuels – including coal – will continue to power up many economies.’

Reacting to the IPCC report, the WCA said: ‘Given the continued role of fossil fuels, it’s essential that we support countries to use zero emission technologies, like CCS, which allows them to meet climate targets while at the same time meeting economic imperatives.

“The IEA notes that faster deployment of CCS could support the shift from 2°C to the Paris Agreement target of well below 2°C.’

The WCA continued: ‘We’ll be more successful in meeting climate targets if we focus on addressing emissions instead of trying to get rid of a fuel that many rely on for economic development.

‘Governments need to direct efforts to advancing CCS technology, which the IPCC itself sees as one of the critical solutions to decarbonising energy systems.

‘The IPCC has stated in previous reports that without CCS, it will be 138 per cent more expensive to meet the 2°C climate goal.’

The IPCC report said that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require ‘rapid and far-reaching’ transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities.

‘The good news is that some of the kinds of actions that would be needed to limit global warming to 1.5ºC are already underway around the world, but they would need to accelerate,’ said Valerie Masson-Delmotte, Co-Chair of the IPCC Working Group I.

‘This report gives policymakers and practitioners the information they need to make decisions that tackle climate change while considering local context and people’s needs.

‘The next few years are probably the most important in our history,’ she said.

Jim Skea, Co- Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III, said: ‘Limiting warming to 1.5ºC is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes.

The IPCC itself will now turn its attention to two more special reports before it publishes its sixth assessment report in 2021. In September 2019, at a meeting in Kenya, it is due to finalise a special report on the “ocean and cryosphere in a changing climate.’

At the same time, it will also finalise a special report on ‘climate change and land.’

The IPCC is a body of scientists and economists – first convened by the UN in 1988 – which periodically produces summaries of the ‘scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation.’

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