Masking the true scale of action needed to avert Climate Change is increasingly obvious to many observers around the world. Here is Kevin Anderson, University of Manchester with his own perception of the issue.
IPCC’s conservative nature masks true scale of action needed to avert catastrophic climate change
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) synthesis report recently landed with an authoritative thump, giving voice to hundreds of scientists endeavouring to understand the unfolding calamity of global heating. What’s changed since the last one in 2014? Well, we’ve dumped an additional third of a trillion tonnes of CO₂ into the atmosphere, primarily from burning fossil fuels. While world leaders promised to cut global emissions, they have presided over a 5% rise.
The new report evokes a mild sense of urgency, calling on governments to mobilise finance to accelerate the uptake of green technology. But its conclusions are far removed from a direct interpretation of the IPCC’s own carbon budgets (the total amount of CO₂ scientists estimate can be put into the atmosphere for a given temperature rise).
The report claims that, to maintain a 50:50 chance of warming not exceeding 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, CO₂ emissions must be cut to “net-zero” by the “early 2050s”. Yet, updating the IPCC’s estimate of the 1.5°C carbon budget, from 2020 to 2023, and then drawing a straight line down from today’s total emissions to the point where all carbon emissions must cease, and without exceeding this budget, gives a zero CO₂ date of 2040.
A full description of the above chart is available here.
Given it will take a few years to organise the necessary political structures and technical deployment, the date for eliminating all CO₂ emissions to remain within 1.5°C of warming comes closer still, to around the mid-2030s. This is a strikingly different level of urgency to that evoked by the IPCC’s “early 2050s”. Similar smoke and mirrors lie behind the “early 2070s” timeline the IPCC conjures for limiting global heating to 2°C.
IPCC science embeds colonial attitudes
For over two decades, the IPCC’s work on cutting emissions (what experts call “mitigation”) has been dominated by a particular group of modellers who use huge computer models to simulate what may happen to emissions under different assumptions, primarily related to price and technology. I’ve raised concerns before about how this select cadre, almost entirely based in wealthy, high-emitting nations, has undermined the necessary scale of emission reductions.
In 2023, I can no longer tiptoe around the sensibilities of those overseeing this bias. In my view, they have been as damaging to the agenda of cutting emissions as Exxon was in misleading the public about climate science. The IPCC’s mitigation report in 2022 did include a chapter on “demand, services and social aspects” as a repository for alternative voices, but these were reduced to an inaudible whisper in the latest report’s influential summary for policymakers.
The specialist modelling groups (referred to as Integrated Assessment Modelling, or IAMs) have successfully crowded out competing voices, reducing the task of mitigation to price-induced shifts in technology – some of the most important of which, like so-called “negative emissions technologies”, are barely out of the laboratory.
The IPCC offers many “scenarios” of future low-carbon energy systems and how we might get there from here. But as the work of academic Tejal Kanitkar and others has made clear, not only do these scenarios prefer speculative technology tomorrow over deeply challenging policies today (effectively a greenwashed business-as-usual), they also systematically embed colonial attitudes towards “developing nations”.
With few if any exceptions, they maintain current levels of inequality between developed and developing nations, with several scenarios actually increasing the levels of inequality. Granted, many IAM modellers strive to work objectively, but they do so within deeply subjective boundaries established and preserved by those leading such groups.
What happened to equity?
If we step outside the rarefied realm of IAM scenarios that leading climate scientist Johan Rockström describes as “academic gymnastics that have nothing to do with reality”, it’s clear that not exceeding 1.5°C or 2°C will require fundamental changes to most facets of modern life.
Starting now, to not exceed 1.5°C of warming requires 11% year-on-year cuts in emissions, falling to nearer 5% for 2°C. However, these global average rates ignore the core concept of equity, central to all UN climate negotiations, which gives “developing country parties” a little longer to decarbonise.
Include equity and most “developed” nations need to reach zero CO₂ emissions between 2030 and 2035, with developing nations following suit up to a decade later. Any delay will shrink these timelines still further.
Most IAM models ignore and often even exacerbate the obscene inequality in energy use and emissions, both within nations and between individuals. As the International Energy Agency recently reported, the top 10% of emitters accounted for nearly half of global CO₂ emissions from energy use in 2021, compared with 0.2% for the bottom 10%. More disturbingly, the greenhouse gas emissions of the top 1% are 1.5 times those of the bottom half of the world’s population.
So where does this leave us? In wealthier nations, any hope of arresting global heating at 1.5 or 2°C demands a technical revolution on the scale of the post-war Marshall Plan. Rather than relying on technologies such as direct air capture of CO₂ to mature in the near future, countries like the UK must rapidly deploy tried-and-tested technologies.
Retrofit housing stock, shift from mass ownership of combustion-engine cars to expanded zero-carbon public transport, electrify industries, build new homes to Passivhaus standard, roll-out a zero-carbon energy supply and, crucially, phase out fossil fuel production.
Three decades of complacency has meant technology on its own cannot now cut emissions fast enough. A second, accompanying phase, must be the rapid reduction of energy and material consumption.
Given deep inequalities, this, and deploying zero-carbon infrastructure, is only possible by re-allocating society’s productive capacity away from enabling the private luxury of a few and austerity for everyone else, and towards wider public prosperity and private sufficiency.
For most people, tackling climate change will bring multiple benefits, from affordable housing to secure employment. But for those few of us who have disproportionately benefited from the status quo, it means a profound reduction in how much energy we use and stuff we accumulate.
The question now is, will we high-consuming few make (voluntarily or by force) the fundamental changes needed for decarbonisation in a timely and organised manner? Or will we fight to maintain our privileges and let the rapidly changing climate do it, chaotically and brutally, for us?
DW takes us to the hottest area to tell us how local people are putting their hands together for a better future for everyone at a time when realising that energy cooperation is a necessary step; it is about Israelis, Palestinians, and Arabs jointly tackling climate change.
The Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA) region is one of the most vulnerable to climate change. It’s already being hit disproportionately by rising temperatures, water scarcity and desertification. And the outlook for the future is grim.
These are all compelling reasons for experts in the region to collaborate more, say the organizers of a conference on agriculture, water and food security. The conference, which was attended by experts from Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories and several Arabic and Muslim countries, aimed to develop practical programs to address regional challenges.
“So much can be done in this region by cooperating across borders,” said William Wechsler, senior director of the N7 Initiative which organized the conference held last week in the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi. The initiative promotes collaboration between Israel and Arab and Muslim nations that have signed the Abraham Accords, a deal brokered in 2020 to normalize relations between Israel and several Arab countries, including Morocco, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
“For example, water can be made more available, food prices can be lowered, and people’s lives can be made more secure,” said Wechsler, listing the advantages of potential cooperations.
Wechsler believes agriculture is an ideal basis for climate change collaboration. Not only is it a field where progress can be made quickly, it could also have a big impact on people’s lives across the MENA region.
“If we miss the opportunity to address climate change now, the window of opportunity will eventually close,” Wechsler warned.
Although there are challenges to establishing governments and private sector cooperations, Wechsler believes those actively involved in tackling climate change and its effects are keen to work together.
“At the end of the day, scientists and engineers are practical people who are interested in solving problems, no matter where they are from,” Wechsler told DW.
Difficult to find funding for joint projects
For conference participant Faouzi Bekkaoui, the director of Morocco’s National Agricultural Research Institute, Israel has much to offer his country.
“Israeli expertise relates in particular to water usage efficiency, such as irrigation systems and developing more resilient crops and varieties,” he told DW.
Morocco is among the world’s most water-stressed countries, according to a World Bank 2022 report, and its agricultural sector is badly affected by the water shortage and climate change.
“Israel also made significant progress in biotechnology or genomics, and all these areas could be beneficial for Morocco, as well,” he said.
But funds for joint Moroccan-Israeli projects or academic exchanges are limited. Bekkaoui has now applied to the US-based Merck Foundation, which funds projects between Israel and the Arab countries that signed the Abraham Accords, for a grant.
The region lacks a tradition of cross-border academic cooperations.
“Most national research administrations … have limited pathways to grant research funding to foreign organizations,” said Youssef Wehbe, a researcher at the National Center of Meteorology in Abu Dhabi, in a recent podcast by the Middle East Institute.
Finding funding for cross-border projects to combat climate change is even more complex. During the World Climate Summit COP26 in Glasgow in 2021, richer nations agreed to provide adaptation funds worth $40 billion (€37.3 billion) annually for low- and middle-income countries from 2025 onwards.
But most of this finance is awarded in the form of loans for mitigation projects to reduce fossil fuel usage, such as installing solar panels or wind farms, which return a profit to lending nations, explained Wehbe.
In contrast, financing for adaptation schemes is low as they are “harder to fund and are less attractive to funding nations compared to the loan model, which returns a profit for these lending nations,” Wehbe said.
He calls for more globally oriented research programs targeting climate change “to solicit ideas from the international scientific community.”
Tackling climate change to reduce conflict
Agriculture and climate change expert Jamal Saghir, a professor at Canada’s McGill University and former World Bank director, also regards collaboration across borders as the best solution.
“Regional cooperation is always a win-win situation and much better than national or bilateral projects,” he told DW. “Most of the Mideast countries are not doing enough yet and climate change is much faster.”
The Middle East is warming at twice the global average. This is expected to fuel competition and conflict over dwindling resources – making it essential for the region to tackle climate change and its consequences such as more migration and unrest.
However, Saghir believes the region can leapfrog these issues through technology. Here he seesIsrael and the Gulf countries in a position to take a lead.
“Israeli technology is leading in desalination and irrigation and the region would benefit a lot from these methods,” he said. The United Arab Emirates, beyond their thriving oil business, have also made significant investments in renewable energies, he pointed out.
“Joint collaboration will lead to new ideas in research and development, which can then be implemented by several countries,” he said. “What are they waiting for? This could happen now.”
Building a basis of trust
Tareq Abu Hamad, executive director of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in Israel, believes tackling climate change together with other scientists across the region could turn into “a great opportunity to build trust.”
“We live in a small region that is considered as a hotspot when it comes to climate change, and we do not have any other option than cooperating with each other to deal with these challenges,” he said.
Alex Plitsas, who is involved in the N7 Initiative, was struck by one scene at the conference that filled him with hope.
“The most extraordinary thing I witnessed … in Abu Dhabi was when a male Arab diplomat from a Gulf state wearing traditional thobe & donning a kaffiyeh sat with a female Israeli entrepreneur and I late at night,” he wrote on Twitter, “as they worked to figure out how to make people’s lives better.”
UN secretary general, António Guterres, said: “This report is a clarion call to massively fast-track climate efforts by every country and every sector and on every timeframe. Our world needs climate action on all fronts: everything, everywhere, all at once.” [EPA-EFE/JUSTIN LANE]
IPCC report says only swift and drastic action can avert irrevocable damage to the planet, reports The Guardian, EURACTIV’s media partner.
Scientists have delivered a “final warning” on the climate crisis, as rising greenhouse gas emissions push the world to the brink of irrevocable damage that only swift and drastic action can avert.
The comprehensive review of human knowledge of the climate crisis took hundreds of scientists eight years to compile and runs to thousands of pages, but boiled down to one message: act now, or it will be too late.
The UN secretary general, António Guterres, said: “This report is a clarion call to massively fast-track climate efforts by every country and every sector and on every timeframe. Our world needs climate action on all fronts: everything, everywhere, all at once.”
In sober language, the IPCC set out the devastation that has already been inflicted on swathes of the world. Extreme weather caused by climate breakdown has led to increased deaths from intensifying heatwaves in all regions, millions of lives and homes destroyed in droughts and floods, millions of people facing hunger, and “increasingly irreversible losses” in vital ecosystems.
Kaisa Kosonen, a climate expert at Greenpeace International, said: “This report is definitely a final warning on 1.5C. If governments just stay on their current policies, the remaining carbon budget will be used up before the next IPCC report [due in 2030].”
More than 3bn people already live in areas that are “highly vulnerable” to climate breakdown, the IPCC found, and half of the global population now experiences severe water scarcity for at least part of the year. In many areas, the report warned, we are already reaching the limit to which we can adapt to such severe changes, and weather extremes are “increasingly driving displacement” of people in Africa, Asia, North, Central and South America, and the south Pacific.
All of those impacts are set to increase rapidly, as we have failed to reverse the 200-year trend of rising greenhouse gas emissions, despite more than 30 years of warnings from the IPCC, which published its first report in 1990.
The world heats up in response to the accumulation of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, so every year in which emissions continue to rise eats up the available “carbon budget” and means much more drastic cuts will be needed in future years.
Yet there is still hope of staying within 1.5C, according to the report. Hoesung Lee, the chair of the IPCC, said: “This synthesis report underscores the urgency of taking more ambitious action and shows that, if we act now, we can still secure a livable sustainable future for all.”
Temperatures are now about 1.1C above pre-industrial levels, the IPCC found. If greenhouse gas emissions can be made to peak as soon as possible, and are reduced rapidly in the following years, it may still be possible to avoid the worst ravages that would follow a 1.5C rise.
Richard Allan, a professor of climate science at the University of Reading, said: “Every bit of warming avoided due to the collective actions pulled from our growing, increasingly effective toolkit of options is less worse news for societies and the ecosystems on which we all depend.”
Guterres called on governments to take drastic action to reduce emissions by investing in renewable energy and low-carbon technology. He said rich countries must try to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions “as close as possible to 2040”, rather than waiting for the 2050 deadline most have signed up to.
He said: “The climate timebomb is ticking. But today’s report is a how-to guide to defuse the climate timebomb. It is a survival guide for humanity. As it shows, the 1.5C limit is achievable.”
John Kerry, the US special presidential envoy for climate, said: “Today’s message from the IPCC is abundantly clear: we are making progress, but not enough. We have the tools to stave off and reduce the risks of the worst impacts of the climate crisis, but we must take advantage of this moment to act now.”
Europeans trail the pack in trusting their governments to take the necessary actions to fight climate change, while an overwhelming majority fears a climate catastrophe if they fail to step up, an EIB-BVA poll that compared responses from across the …
Monday’s “synthesis report” is the final part of the sixth assessment report (AR6) by the IPCC, which was set up in 1988 to investigate the climate and provide scientific underpinning to international policy on the crisis.
The “synthesis report” contains no new science, but draws together key messages from all of the preceding work to form a guide for governments. The next IPCC report is not due to be published before 2030, making this report effectively the scientific gold standard for advice to governments in this crucial decade.
The final section of AR6 was the “summary for policymakers”, written by IPCC scientists but scrutinised by representatives of governments around the world, who can – and did – push for changes. The Guardian was told that in the final hours of deliberations at the Swiss resort of Interlaken over the weekend, the large Saudi Arabian delegation, of at least 10 representatives, pushed at several points for the weakening of messages on fossil fuels, and the insertion of references to carbon capture and storage, touted by some as a remedy for fossil fuel use but not yet proven to work at scale.
In response to the report, Peter Thorne, the director of the Icarus climate research centre at Maynooth University in Ireland, said next year global temperatures could breach the 1.5C limit, though this did not mean the limit had been breached for the long term.
“We will, almost regardless of the emissions scenario given, reach 1.5C in the first half of the next decade,” he said. “The real question is whether our collective choices mean we stabilise around 1.5C or crash through 1.5C, reach 2C and keep going.”
Industrialization, population growth, and urbanization are all trends driving the explosive growth of the construction industry. Creating buildings to house people and operate industry, together with building infrastructure to provide public services, requires prodigious quantities of energy and materials. Most of these virgin materials are non-renewable, and resource shortages caused by the development of the built environment are becoming increasingly inevitable. The gradually evolved circular economy (CE) is considered a way to ease the depletion of resources by extending service life, increasing efficiency, and converting waste into resources. However, the circularity of construction materials shows heavy regional distinctness due to the difference in spatial contexts in the geographical sense, resulting in the same CE business models (CEBMs) not being adapted to all regions. To optimize resource loops and formulate effective CEBMs, it is essential to understand the relationship between space and CE in the built environment. This paper reviews existing publications to summarize the research trends, examine how spatial features are reflected in the circularity of materials, and identify connections between spatial and CE clues. We found that the majority of contributors in this interdisciplinary field are from countries with middle to high levels of urbanization. Further, the case analysis details the material dynamics in different spatial contexts and links space and material cycles. The results indicate that the spatial characteristics can indeed influence the circularity of materials through varying resource cycling patterns. By utilizing spatial information wisely can help design locally adapted CEBMs and maximize the value chain of construction materials.
Significant demand for natural resources has arisen with the massive expansion of the cities and the rising population worldwide. The development of the built environment is the largest consumer of resources, consuming approximately 35–45% of materials and contributing 40% of global GHG emissions associated with material use (Hertwich et al. 2020; Mhatre et al. 2021). The ensuing resource exploration and related environmental impacts have intensified. It is estimated that the global consumption of building materials has tripled from 2000 to 2017 and produced 30–40% of the world’s solid waste and nearly 5 Gt CO2 emissions, or 10% of global annual emissions (EMF 2015; Pomponi and Moncaster 2017; Hertwich et al. 2020; López Ruiz et al. 2020; Huang et al. 2020).
The built environment is the physical surroundings created by humans for activities, ranging from personal places to large-scale urban settlements that often include buildings, cultural landscapes, and their supporting infrastructure (Moffatt and Kohler 2008; Hollnagel 2014). Opoku (2015) points out that the built environment is not only the physical environment but also the interaction of people in the local community and their cultural experiences. The physical constituents of which differ significantly from other products in that they are characterized by long lifetimes, numerous stakeholders, and hundreds of components and ancillary materials interacting dynamically in the spatial and temporal dimensions (Hart et al. 2019). The inherent complexity within the built environment is seen as a challenge for sustainable urban transition (Pomponi and Moncaster 2017).
Circular economy (CE) is one of the essential conditions and solutions for fostering and promoting sustainability (Geissdoerfer et al. 2017). The CE is an economic or industrial concept that distinguishes itself from the traditional linear economy of unsustainability. It is often understood as a restorative and regenerative economic model that includes three types of business models (CE business models/CEBMs): (1) those that increase resource efficiency and reduce resource consumption (narrowing); (2) those that promote reuse and extended service life through repair, remanufacture, upgrades and retrofits (slowing); and (3) those that convert waste into resources by recycling materials (closing) (Stahel 2016; Kirchherr et al. 2017; Figge et al. 2018; Geisendorf and Pietrulla 2018; Gallego-Schmid et al. 2020). It is also well known that urban systems often exhibit linear material flows and inefficient use of resources (Huang and Hsu 2003). Turning linear practices into circularity and maximizing the utility and value of resources is becoming a new model for production and consumption to protect the environment, mitigate climate change, and conserve resources (Cheshire 2019; Harris et al. 2021; Zeng et al. 2022). But incorrect policy formulation and thoughtless pursuit of CE strategies can negatively affect (Corvellec et al. 2021). Many voices currently argue that CE lacks any actual consensus on the magnitude of the economic, social, and environmental “win–win-win” benefits (Aguilar-Hernandez et al. 2021) and even leads to more significant environmental impacts, economic unsuccess, and employment losses (Spoerri et al. 2009; Schröder et al. 2020; Blum et al. 2020).
Circularity in the built environment refers to an approximation in terms of the materiality of immobile elements of the built environment, such as buildings and infrastructures, and their dynamics. These elements are predominantly composed of bulk building materials, mainly non-metallic mineral materials (Schiller et al. 2017b; Gontia et al. 2018; Yang et al. 2020). Despite few products are manufactured, purchased, disposed of, and recycled in the same geographic location in today’s global market (Skene 2018), the transportation distances of these bulk building materials are limited compared to other types of products due to their low specific value-added (Schiller et al. 2017a). Therefore, Schiller et al. (2017a) point out that analyses on (also circular) material flow in the built environment should be applied regionally, which also applies to studies of the availability and security of the supply of natural raw materials in the built environment (Schiller et al. 2020). It can be concluded that the regional context or the spatial context in the geographical sense (Scholl et al. 1996), in which the built environment is integrated, has a decisive influence on material flows in general and their circularity in particular.
Space is a central concept in geography that broadly consists of two distinctive interpretations: a fundamental attribute of reality (often used with time) and a counting term that denotes human conceptual constructs borne of individual experience and societal factors (Newell and Cousins 2015; Grossner 2017). Spatiality and space are two frequently confused concepts. In contrast to space, spatiality is spatial practices rather than an exogenously given and absolute coordinate system that refers to the ongoing processes and imaginations of making space/materials, regulating behaviors, and creating experiences (Mayhew 2015; Kobayashi 2017). Space is a more relevant core term than spatiality in discussing the built environment in the physical sense rather than the formation process. The importance of space in the circularity of the built environment has been implicitly mentioned in many studies on spatial structure and land use planning (Remøy et al. 2019; Lanau and Liu 2020; Gallego-Schmid et al. 2020). Additional studies have also provided fragmented evidence on characteristics of spatial distribution patterns in the built environment that impact the circular flow of materials (e.g., residential and housing density) (Condeixa et al. 2017).
(TAP) – On 16/03/2023, TUNIS/Tunisia. The Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) launched a call for applications to finance projects aimed at promoting employment and entrepreneurship in the green economy sector. The aim is to support the environmental transition of the economies of 7 Mediterranean countries, including Tunisia.
According to information published Thursday by the UfM, this call for applications is intended for NGOs working to support vulnerable populations disproportionately affected by the consequences of climate change and by the evolution of the socio-economic context.
Eligible for this call for applications are non-profit NGOs active in the field of environmental transition of economies in an inclusive manner and with respect for social justice. These NGOs must be based in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Mauritania, Palestine or Tunisia, with priority given to regional projects. The deadline for applications is May 29, 2023.
The selected candidates will benefit from financial support ranging from 150,000 to 300,000 euros (which represents a sum varying between 500,000 and 1 million dinars) per project, as well as from the UfM’s technical expertise, which will give them greater visibility.
Funded by the UfM with the support of the German Development Cooperation (GIZ), on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), this initiative, in its first edition, launched in 2020, helped 18,000 people, mainly young people and women, from seven UfM member states (Greece, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Malta, Morocco and Tunisia).
These projects address employment challenges in the areas of entrepreneurship, women’s empowerment, sustainable tourism, and education and research.
The green economy, as well as “green” jobs, are set to play a key role in the sustainable recovery of the Mediterranean region from the COVID-19 pandemic.
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