Energy Justice: Mitigation, Adaptation, AND Sustainable Development Goals in the IPCC Special Report

Cooking in MyanmarOver three billion people rely on wood, charcoal or dung for cooking, with primarily women spending 15-30 hours per week collecting these resources. Household Air Pollution (HAP) results in over 4 million deaths a year. The second most impactful climate change pollutant is black carbon and HAP contributes 25% of black carbon. Clearly, we can integrate mitigation, adaptation, AND sustainable development.

The first sentence of the Global Warming of 1.5°C IPCC Special Report references the Paris Agreement’s enhanced objective “to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.” (Article 2) The IPCC report references and builds on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) approved and adopted by national leaders in September 2015. The SDGs consist of 17 goals and 169 targetsSustainable Goals developed as a sustainability framework. Top goals include the elimination of poverty and hunger; an increase in health, education, and gender equality; and access to clean water, sanitation and affordable energy. Additional goals address economic growth, industry, innovation and infrastructure, sustainable cities and responsible consumption, life below water and on land, climate action, peace, justice and strong institutions, and partnerships for the goals.

Screen Shot 2018-09-30 at 1.29.54 PMThe IPCC report highlights one of the largest differences between 1.5°C and 2°C as the disproportionate impact on poor and vulnerable populations, furthering inequities. However, addressing these inequities through sustainable development can also become a positive. One bright spot in an otherwise dire report is the potential for significant synergies between sustainable development with mitigation and adaptation strategies. But ONLY IF we think about the issues holistically and find mechanisms to cooperate internationally. Article 6 of the Paris Agreement recognizes “the importance of integrated, holistic and balanced non-market approaches” and mentions supporting and promoting sustainable development in Paragraphs 1,2,4, and 9. A failure to consider mitigation and adaptation strategies in the context of sustainable development and the SDGScreen Shot 2018-09-30 at 1.28.58 PMs could result in the opposite effect of creating long term negative impacts on the health and survival of those populations that contributed the least to the problem and have extremely limited resources to weather the consequences.

Let’s strengthen our sustainable development goals through enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions and provide some accountability with some teeth in Katowice.

Getting serious about 1.5°C

ap_611245925978_wide-0d885fdde8a9b22d1501efec383f5eb03654796c-s900-c85As we reported earlier, the historic Paris Agreement of December 2015 established a long-term temperature goal to keep global temperature increase “well below 2°C” and to undertake efforts to limit that increase to 1.5°C, “recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.”

The COP21 decision adopting the Agreement included an invitation to the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) “to provide a special report in 2018 on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways.”Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 4.44.05 PM

The impacts on lives, livelihoods, and ecosystems is likely be quite different between a 2°C and a 1.5°C increase. And, while scientists have been characterizing the former for some time, too few studies have focused on a 1.5°C hotter world. So, this report will be very critical for policymakers.

The IPCC accepted the COP’s invitation in April and established an 11-member Steering Committee for the Special Report from among its top officials. A scoping meeting of more than 80 experts nominated from around the world was held in Geneva last week (August 15-18) to draft a Scoping Paper “describing the objectives and an annotated outline of the Special Report as well as the process and timeline for its preparation.” Carbon Brief, in reporting occgraph1n the meeting, characterized part of the message from Dr. Hoesung Lee, IPCC Chair, to the gathered experts this way: “[T]he report will need to spell out what’s to be gained by limiting warming to 1.5°C, as well as the practical steps needed to get there within sustainability and poverty eradication goals.”

Outcomes of the 1.5°C Special Report scoping meeting will be presented to the IPCC’s 44th Session in October, and once the report structure is approved, “a call for authors” for each chapter will go out.

It has become clear for many, though, that limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5°C is pretty much impossible at this point. In fact, based on IPCC carbon budget data (originally crunched in 2015) and assuming current levels of CO2 emissions, Carbon Brief concludes that there is a 66% chance we’ll reach that 1.5°C increase in just 5 years.carboncountdown

This IPCC report certainly won’t come too soon!