The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Working Group III report on mitigation today. Among other recommendations, the report calls for more diverse analytical frameworks that consider the full scope of the climate challenge, underscoring the importance of advancing a broad portfolio of mitigation strategies and carbon-free technologies to meet the world’s climate goals. The report also highlights the importance of rapidly reducing methane emissions to avoid near-term climate tipping points.
“The new IPCC report does not mince words,” said Armond Cohen, Executive Director, Clean Air Task Force. “We are far from where we need to be, the current approach is not working, and we need to shift the paradigm to reckon with the full scope of the challenge. That means considering the full scope of the challenge and pulling every available lever to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while rapidly developing and deploying a full suite of carbon-free technologies and other climate solutions at scale. It also means asking the hard questions, like how can we decarbonize our global economy while meeting growing energy demand? How can we reconcile the need to build out huge amounts of clean energy infrastructure with our growing land constraints? How do evolving geopolitical dynamics play into a decarbonizing world economy? Creating a net-zero emissions global energy system isn’t achievable without finding our way through these sorts of complex challenges and trade-offs. It is encouraging to see the IPCC recognizing the need to identify risks and bring more diverse analytical frameworks into our climate mitigation planning.”
“CATF is particularly pleased to see the IPCC formally recognizing the importance of an advanced set of climate solutions like carbon capture, hydrogen, and nuclear energy. This problem is bigger than any one sector or solution. It is a fundamental re-tooling of our energy system in record time and we’re going to need more options on the table, not fewer. It’s past time we acknowledge the full scope of the challenge and get to work advancing the full set of solutions we need to meet it. We’re also encouraged to see the importance of reducing methane emission in the report, which is critical to reducing global warming immediately to avoid passing climate tipping points.”
On methane, the IPCC Working Group III report noted the imperative of reducing methane emissions, calling for a 33% reduction in global methane emissions by 2030. It also acknowledged the importance of carbon capture and storage and carbon removal technologies to decarbonize both the electric power sector and hard-to-abate industrial emissions like steel manufacturing, heavy transport, chemical production, waste management, and cement production. Finally, the report highlights the importance of clean firm power sources to complement the rapid growth of wind and solar power. CATF advocates for the advancement of a diverse array of options in this category, including nuclear energy, low-emission hydrogen, carbon capture, and superhot rock geothermal.
CATF’s experts from across the organization’s work areas provided the following perspectives:
Sarah Smith, Program Director, Super Pollutants:
“The IPCC’s recognition of the urgent need to slash methane emissions is a strong signal for the growing movement dedicated to this work around the world. We have the scientific consensus that fast action is needed, and we know that a huge chunk of methane emissions can be eliminated with existing technology. What we need now is a concerted effort from world leaders to build on the promises made during COP26, ensuring tangible action to prevent warming in the near term.”
Lee Beck, International Director, Carbon Capture:
“The IPCC Working Group III report acknowledges the need for technology options to prevent path dependency and emphasizes that those options will vary based on regional and political economic circumstances. That’s a major step forward. The report also makes clear that we cannot afford to build any new unabated infrastructure and must transform existing assets to be climate-aligned, or indeed retire them. The report clearly states that to achieve deep decarbonization, every sector needs actionable options. Carbon capture and storage and permanent carbon removal solutions are two of these critical climate mitigation options. To deploy these technologies at the required scale and speed, we must create enabling conditions that provide adequate policy and regulatory instruments and political support.”
Magnolia Tovar, Zero-Carbon Fuels Policy Director, Europe:
“We’re pleased to see the IPCC report recognize the importance of decarbonized fuels such as hydrogen to limit global warming. To decarbonize hard-to-electrify sectors, we must transition from carbon-intensive fuels to decarbonized molecules such as hydrogen produced through a suite of climate-beneficial technologies that can satisfy the energy demand of these sectors. The IPCC report also recognizes the challenges of deploying these fuels, which include high costs and infrastructure development. There is a pressing need to provide the adequate regulatory framework to overcome the current challenges identified across the hydrogen value chain so that the climate benefits of these fuels can be realized.”
Jonathan Lewis, Director of Transportation Decarbonization:
“Eliminating climate- and health-damaging pollution from a growing transportation sector requires smarter regional planning, new modes of mobility, and perhaps most importantly a wholesale transition to carbon-free energy carriers like electricity and hydrogen. As the IPCC recognizes, hydrogen and hydrogen-derived fuels can help decarbonize the aviation, marine shipping, and heavy-duty trucking sectors while also delivering air quality improvements and other co-benefits. The IPCC also notes that to realize the benefits of hydrogen-powered transportation, ‘production process improvements and cost reductions’ are needed – a timely reminder that multiple electrolytic- and carbon capture-based pathways for making low-carbon hydrogen must be pursued.”
Carlos Leipner, Director of Global Nuclear Energy Strategy:
“The IPCC report reinforces the need for an aggressive and pragmatic approach to decarbonizing the global energy matrix by midcentury. This energy transition and transformation should leverage all the technology solutions currently available, rather than focusing on a more limited strategy. From this perspective, the IPPC report fails to include adequate consideration of carbon-free energy solutions such as nuclear technology, which currently provides a significant share of carbon-free, reliable generation around the world. The deployment of advanced nuclear reactor technologies in the coming years will enable further decarbonization of hard-to-abate sectors such as marine shipping, industrial application, zero-carbon fuels production and other segments which are difficult to electrify. Avoiding the inclusion of nuclear energy in decarbonization strategies not only misses a key opportunity, but could place achieving net-zero goals at risk.”
Bruce Hill, Chief Geoscientist:
“It’s encouraging to see the IPCC highlight the need to develop additional clean firm technologies, as well as its acknowledgment of the need to factor in land-use constraints into decarbonization pathways. We’re surprised, however, to see next-generation geothermal – and particularly superhot rock geothermal – missing from the report’s recommendations. Superhot rock geothermal has the potential to provide competitive energy-dense, baseload, zero-carbon renewable energy virtually everywhere on the planet, as well as the potential to generate zero-carbon hydrogen at the scale needed to decarbonize heavy industry. Finally, this groundbreaking technology could help the world transition to a carbon-free energy system by pivoting the fossil fuel industry – something the report’s authors make clear is necessary to addressing climate change.”
Lily Odarno, Director of Energy and Climate Innovation, Africa:
“The evidence is clear. We need urgent and radical action to avert catastrophic climate change. At the same time, the IPCC report is clear about the fact that poverty eradication, equity, and development cannot be sidestepped on the road to protecting our climate. More than ever before, African countries need the right menu of options to develop their energy systems and grow their economies within climate limits. We need a complete toolbox that includes clean firm power alternatives, intermittent renewables, strategies for carbon management in fossil-rich African economies, and renewed efforts to strengthen Africa’s grid infrastructure and regional energy markets. Anything short of this holistic approach is likely to miss the mark.”
Kathy Fallon, Director of Global Land Use and Climate Change:
“The IPCC report makes plain that we’ve entered a new phase in the quest to stay below 1.5 degrees C of warming. We must now crank down on the faucet to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and open the drain to remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as soon as possible.
Forests and other landscapes offer an existing, cost-effective option for carbon dioxide removal. But accounting challenges and risks of re-emission from events such as wildfires exist. So it’s important to establish strong guardrails and develop a portfolio of removal options that evolves toward greater durability of carbon storage over time. In the near-term, structural flaws in the carbon crediting system must be addressed if shovel-ready land-based removals are to play a useful role in climate mitigation. One important step in that direction is to establish rigorous disclosure requirements for carbon credits used by corporations and governments in the U.S. and around the globe to meet their climate commitments.”
Troy Shaheen, Communications Director, U.S., Clean Air Task Force, [email protected], +1 845-750-1189
Rowan Emslie, Communications Director, Europe, Clean Air Task Force, [email protected], +32 476 97 36 42
About Clean Air Task Force
Clean Air Task Force (CATF) is a global nonprofit organization working to safeguard against the worst impacts of climate change by catalyzing the rapid development and deployment of low-carbon energy and other climate-protecting technologies. With 25 years of internationally recognized expertise on climate policy and a fierce commitment to exploring all potential solutions, CATF is a pragmatic, non-ideological advocacy group with the bold ideas needed to address climate change. CATF has offices in Boston, Washington D.C., and Brussels, with staff working virtually around the world.