Hey! Welcome to the end of term summary of my Climate Newsletter. If you’ve signed up to receive regular editions of Climate Soup, there’s nothing new in this summary, I just haven’t had time to get new content together. If, however, this is new content to you, and anything catches your interest, you can read more about it on Climate Soup (linked below).
Topics covered in this newsletter:
IPCC WG3 Report
A new chapter in Climate reports? Yes, it’s chapter 5.
“Demand that renewable energy is introduced now at speed and at scale. Demand an end to coal-fired power. Demand an end to all fossil fuel subsidies.” - António Guterres
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Working Group 3 has released its Sixth Assessment report: Mitigation. This report bears both good and bad news. I’m just going to say this up front: 1.5 is looking less and less alive. I’ll explore this in more detail later, but unless we peak emissions in 2025 at the latest, we will overshoot 1.5C. Despite this bad news, the report also confirms that it is really is never too late to mitigate.
Each assessment cycle the IPCC produces 4 main reports: WG1, WG2, WG3 and SYR which summarises the findings of AR6. This cycle we have also seen special reports such as SR15 which brought to light to the whole world the scale of the incentive to keeping warming to 1.5C. The only unreleased report in AR6 is the Summary. WG3’s report can be broken down into 5 sections: Introduction and frameworks, emissions trends, scenarios and pathways, sectors, institutional dimensions, and conclusions.
“We are not talking about business as usual if we are going to address the challenge of climate change.” - Professor Jim Skea, Co-Chair of WG3
Since 2010, we have seen 85% reductions in costs of solar energy and batteries as well as a 55% reduction in cost of wind power. Some sources of renewable energy are now cheaper than fossil fuels. The report devotes a lot of time to setting out how in each sector emissions can be cut by 50% by 2030. In this way, it is one of the most specific reports to date, setting out economically sound feasible plans for industry as well as for the first time mentioning coal by name in the Summary for Policy Makers. While we should be proud of such steps forward, we can see that even the IPCC report struggles to get past vested interests.
“High-emitting governments and corporations are not just turning a blind eye; they are adding fuel to the flames.” - António Guterres
Our emissions in the past decade are about the same as the budget for keeping warming to 1.5C, says the report with medium confidence. This is alarming because emissions are still increasing each year (although the growth rate has - fortunately - fallen from 2.1% in 2000-9 to 1.3% in 2010-9). This continued rise which is also shown in all major groups of GHGs shows that the leaps forward in renewables “have been largely wiped out by increases in demand for goods and services”.
That fact is that the developed world has “not managed to reduce GHG emissions substantially”. However, there the most developed areas are the places with the most potential for reduction, with the wealthiest 10% responsible for 34-45% of consumption based household emissions across all continents. The report points to a tax on absolute wealth that would not compromise wellbeing to address this in Chapter 5.
Chapter 5 of WG3’s report, for the first time, addresses demand-side methods for tackling Climate Change. Scientists who worked on this section unpicked how changing our consumption patterns could help us deal with the Climate crisis and how governments could work to encourage these behavioural changes.
The biggest reduction could come from food with a shift to avoid animal protein, a reduction in food waste, and reduced over consumption. All the shifts could cut emissions by a huge 40-70%. However, this is likely infeasible and won’t work alone since current enthusiasm for these kinds of socio-cultural changes is low.
This section concludes that there is only medium evidence that consumption changes will have a significant impact on emissions and that individual behavioural changes won’t be enough unless embedded in structural and cultural change. This is a fact that we have long known: change is probably going to have to come top down, but at least we can push on the top and enact our own changes which can have a substantial impact on an individual’s emissions. Think ASI: Avoid, Shift, Improve. For example: Avoid unnecessary travel, if you can’t avoid it, Shift to public transport, and if you can’t shift it, Improve your car by buying an electric one.
Scenarios and Illustrative Pathways
The report splits the scenarios into 7 Illustrative Pathways (IPs). They show that it is definitely possible to limit warming to 1.5C, but to do so emissions must peak before 2025 and be reduced by 43% before 2030. If you allow an overshoot before temperature comes down later in the century, emissions can peak in 2030. These dates are now looming very close. Scenarios modelling Current Policy place us at between 2.2 and 3.5C of warming in 2100, which is simply not low enough. Without any further stronger policy, we cannot even rule out 4C. However, there are IPs which keep warming within 1.5 or 2C. Including IMP-LD which focuses on a low demand scenario (lots of behavioural change slows the need for transition in all sectors), IMP-Ren which models a rapid reduction in fossil fuels and IMP-Neg which focuses on CDR and a gradual decarbonisation elsewhere.
Governments must work to reduce the emissions gap of 19-26 GtCO2e/yr to keep 1.5 remotely likely (or 10-16 GtCO2e/yr for 2C, which will also be a challenge with our current NDCs).
Carbon Brief: In depth Q&A
IPCC: WG3 Press Conference
Outrage + Optimism: It’s Not Too Late to Mitigate
O+O can also be found on your podcast app of choice. A full transcript is available on their website.
Winchester Action on the Climate Crisis, or WinACC, is a Winchester District based group helping cut Winchester District GHG emissions to net-zero by 2030 as committed to by the Winchester City Council (WCC).
All the data WinACC had access to producing this report was up to 2019 so none of the figures here have been affected by COVID19.
Introduction and Summary
One note before we jump into things: Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is the only GHG included in emission numbers. This is shown by units like kgCO2 and not kgCO2e where the “e” stands for equivalent.
In June 2019, the WCC declared a Climate Emergency and committed to net-zero in Winchester District by 2030. They also pledged to have a carbon neutral council by 2024.
In 2019 782 ktCO2 were released, which is a 31.0% reduction from 2005 (1134 ktCO2). However, this is mostly due to reduction in emissions from energy generation at a national scale and will not be enough to reduce emissions to net-zero. All coal will be phased out by 2024, so Winchester District will stop seeing emissions reductions in electricity then. Excluding emissions from electricity we can get a more accurate few of emissions in Winchester District: Emissions have plateaued since 2011 and have fell by only 17% from 2005-19.
Road transport was responsible for 58% of district-wide emissions in 2019. In other non-domestic sectors there is a distinct lack of data which makes some actions hard to recommend with any certainty and leaves some questions unanswered, for example: why do just two “rural business parks” produce 5% of the district’s commercial emissions? These are the kinds of questions that can only be answered with greater transparency.
The highest impact actions from the different sectors as calculated in this report are:
- In finance: “Always apply for national funding on climate mitigation” and then use those funds on carbon neutrality!
- In transport: Encourage people to work from home 3 days per week. The council should set an example with their own staff and there is also room for individual businesses to change their policy to allow more staff to work from home more often.
- In gas: Domestic gas emissions are 18% of the district’s, so reductions here are essential. Reductions could come from: central heating, improving energy standards, setting high standards for new buildings and retrofitting older buildings.
- In electricity: the WCC should promote and support large-scale renewable energy generation projects within the district even though the direct effect on the district’s emissions are relatively low.
While there have been positive changes since 2005/6 no sector other than electricity has fallen more than 25%. Electricity has fallen by more than 60% if national grid decarbonisation is included. Not counting electricity gives a better perspective on what’s happening in the district itself and doing this shows that emissions decreased till 2011 but have plateaued since then.
In good news, no sectors or sub-sectors have increased emissions since 2005. Total emissions have fallen from 1134 (913) ktCO2 to 782 (603) ktCO2 where () exclude motorways, which is a decrease of 31% (34%) since 2005. In perhaps less good news, to reach net-zero, starting 2021 Winchester District would need to reduce emissions by 30% each year.
The Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE) includes more emissions sources than BEIS and these data show Winchester District’s top 3 sources of emissions as: meat and fish, domestic mains gas and private transport. CSE’s total for the district was 1084 ktCO2e (note the inclusion of non-CO2 emissions sources). These are all areas WCC can influence or make changes.
“Ask ‘have you considered the cost of doing nothing? How much will that be?’ As former World Bank chief economist Lord Stern estimates, inaction could cost a third of the world’s wealth. Once the terrible cost of doing nothing now is understood, climate action today is a bargain.” - WinACC Greenhouse gas emissions in Winchester District: Part XI
For all the actions that WinACC suggests, none of them are carbon offsets. In fact, WinACC says that there are many arguments against offsets and they should only be used as a last resort. Due to a lack of data, emissions reductions in some areas have not been calculated or it was too difficult to figure out what useful changes would be. In these cases, the reduction is either included in a separate list or is not in the report at all. This is not a judgement of the quality of the action and potential reductions are limited only by imagination.
The proposed changes lead to a drop of 191 ktCO2 by 2030 which is both a huge reduction and far from the necessary reduction to reach net zero. These changes would drop total emissions from 603.1 ktCO2 to 380.5 ktCO2 (excluding motorways) which is 63% of original value. Fortunately, many more changes than are set out in this report are possible by 2030 if there is support from the government and national legislation. Equally, many numbers rely on a predicted % change, simple ratios can show the potential reduction if more or fewer people than proposed take up the change.
Project Drawdown’s top 4 emissions reductions are the following: Refrigeration, onshore wind turbines, reduced food waste and a plant rich diet. The latter 3 of these could be applied to Winchester. The HCC has produced an action plan for carbon emissions till 2025.
Data transparency is going to be hugely important moving into the future. It is in (almost) everyone’s best interest to report carbon emissions. Public emissions reporting allows councils and governments to make better-informed decisions, informs companies where they can improve first, and let’s the public know who to support and where to put pressure. Many times throughout this report WinACC have been unable to make a recommendation or draw a conclusion about an issue because of lack of data. The climate crisis being as important as it is, this is not good enough. I hope that we’ll see more legislation mandating reporting and in the meantime, also more businesses coming forwards to report their own emissions. The report emphasises the benefit to Winchester of being seen as a climate leader, and this applies to businesses too.
Despite an encouraging Council target Winchester still has a long way to go before net zero. Without serious changes in public and government support, I do not think Winchester will reach net zero by 2030, but I hope to be proven wrong. I do think we will see a significant increase at least in public support as pretty soon almost all news is going to be about climate change in one way or another. IPCC WG3’s latest report does expect changes in culture to have no measurable effect from emissions globally and this suggests that WCC should not rely on behavioural changes to reach net zero.
Big Oil Reality Check
On May 24 Oil Change International released their updated Big Oil Reality Check. This truly damning report walks through the current status of the oil industry and their pledges and evaluates them relative to Paris-aligned (or more recently IEA 1.5 aligned) goals.
Companies that have fossil fuels emissions as a part of their business and have done the most to cause the Climate Crisis cannot be trusted to solve it alone, despite their marketing. This year, oil demand has returned to pre-pandemic levels of 99.5 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (mboe/d) and at the same time oil prices have spiked in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, delivering record profits for companies. 40% of public money for the energy sector (as part of COVID relief efforts) went straight to fossil fuels and banks have funnelled USD 742 billion into fossil fuels in 2021 alone.
In a March 2022 report the International Energy Agency (IEA) said that to limit warming to 1.5C we need “immediate and deep cuts in the production of all fossil fuels.” Here’s the thing, the IEA is an organisation that has been often relied on by oil companies to advise their plans for the future. Now, even the IEA has produced a 1.5-aligned report. This report, World Energy Outlook 2021, still includes a 4,000% increase in Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), a huge increase that we would ideally not be relying on at all for the energy sector.
All but two of the companies surveyed plans to increase production by 2030 and this is happening while every fraction of a degree of warming makes climate extremes worse worldwide and the IPCC’s report showed that emission need to peak in 2025.
If I were an oil company right now, I would focus on slowly turning down production rather than creating new projects and getting money back to shareholders. If I were a shareholder, I would also be pushing for a plan like this, that is both aware of a just energy transition and accepts a realistic change in our energy grid in the next decades.
Oil Change International: Big Oil Reality Check
UNEP School Survey
Felix also put together a great MS form which when we finalised the slides for the tutor hour had 172 submissions, since then it has grown to 198 submissions. Here’s some of the data we showed in the tutor hour:
A graph showing the responses to each question on the form by year (clustered columns) and the average of all responses (white spot).
From this data we can see that:
- In general, people thought that sustainability was important (7.5), but didn’t feel Wincoll’s impact was so important to them (6.3).
- This perhaps has something to do with people’s perception of the school’s sustainability which they gave a 5.3 and the lack of awareness of school efforts (4.0). This is certainly a place where sustainability society aims to improve considerably next term.
- JP (5.3) and VI1 (6.5) feel the most able to make their own changes. In VI1 this is probably because they’ll soon be moving on from the school which gives them a little more control over their life but I am unsure as to why JP feels the same given their overall education is similar to the average and (5.5 and 5.3 respectively) and they assign the environment roughly average importance (7.7 and 7.2).
- People are generally willing (5.6) to eat less red meat and more white meat but much less willing to eat more vegetarian food (4.1). I think this reflects generally poor quality vegetarian food being served in some houses and the poor reception of vegetarian days. It is not trivial to go from a omnivorous diet to a vegetarian but it is clear (as I have outlined in a previous edition) that it should be simple for Wincoll to cut down on food emissions through reduced meat consumption significantly since the majority of the UK eats less meat.
The written answers
At the end of the survey there was an optional question for written responses. Big shout-out to the people that simply said “Ja” and “/”.
Question: “What do you think the school could do to address sustainability?”
This was my answer:
- Report emissions.
- Set targets, at minimum in line with net-zero by 2030 including Scope 3.
- Per house incentives (e.g. competitions with perhaps a cash prize per house) to reduce emissions.
- More time for education about Climate Change and recent news for all years, perhaps through div or tutor hours. Where syllabuses don’t exist, this could be achieved by better informing dons about Climate Change.
- Make very visible changes for motivation.
- Clear and consistent communication from the school (to pupils/parents) about ongoing initiatives.
And some others (all the submissions were anonymous):
Get rid of the economics department
nothing. let’s be part of the problem
give me better food
Now, to be fair, the majority of the submissions were more thoughtful. They tended to focus on:
- Less red meat.
- Better vegetarian options.
- Heating/insulation improvements.
- Electrification of transport.
- More PVs (solar panels).
- More pupil involvement.
- Recycling and switching off lights.
- Improve communication and the message the school sends.
Outrage + Optimism
It must have been… 1.5 years since I started listening to O+O. Dr Clayton introduced it to me when he gave our set a toytime to find an episode of O+O that interested us and have a listen to it. I chose episode 85. The Future of Shipping in case you’re curious. Since then, I’ve been hooked, although I’ve probably missed a couple episodes.
Most episodes take the form of an introductory discussion followed by an interview and then a closing discussion and music (+ secret chats with Clay). It is always engaging and manages to cover all the latest news and do other, deeper dives at a speed that, frankly, never ceases to amaze.
One thing that really stuck out to me, was O+O’s response to criticism in the way they handled their interview with then CEO of Shell, Ben van Beurden. Their response was mature, and they made changes to the way they thought about interviews because of it. Despite what I’d like to be able to say here, this is not a common trait in media so this kind of engagement with their mistakes is a point in their favour.
Christiana Figueres (one of the hosts) has been an amazing source of positivity and an inspiration for me. In fact, I have The Future We Choose by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac out from Moblib (haven’t read it yet!).
O+O’s The Stubborn Optimist’s Playlist Vol. 3 was what encouraged me to make The Stubborn Optimist’s Spotify playlist, which is simply a compilation of music they’ve featured in episodes.
If you only listen to one podcast from this list, listen to Outrage + Optimism. For O+O, just look through the latest episodes until something catches your attention and have a listen. There is no canonical order or first episode you must listen to.
Pricing Nature is one of those rare podcasts that clearly has little interest in profits or releasing on a rapid schedule and the result of this is wonderful. Season 1 is a well-produced crash course in cap-and-trade and carbon taxes and Season 2 (airing now!) promises to reach beyond that.
I honestly can’t remember how I first found Pricing Nature (I do these.. climate podcast crawls occasionally where I just go searching for them) but in the absence of a proper story here I’ll give you a fantastical one: Fantasy-world me found Pricing Nature through Hank Green’s video (of Crash Course fame) where he explains Carbon Pricing and then recommends the podcast. And why is this the fantasy reason I found Pricing Nature? Well good question, of course, Hank’s video is wonderful as usual, but also Hank Green was just a guest on Pricing Nature! Oh, how the turns have tabled (not really I’m sorry but I had to say it)! The conversation they have in this episode is actually really interesting and I would say it could be listened to out of order…
But Pricing Nature is like a series of lessons, even if they contain current references they still primarily build on the previous episode. Listen to Pricing Nature and listen to it from the beginning.
See you next edition,