The IPCC Big Edit: finance, net zero, and the human factor
IPCC Sixth Assessment Working Group 3 experts: Christa Clapp (Chap 15 finance & investment, Lead Author), Glen Peters (Chap 3 Long-term emissions pathways, Lead Author), Joyashree Roy (Chap 5, Demand, Services and Social Aspects, Coordinating Lead Author).
This is a special edition of the podcast, the Big IPCC edit.
IPCC reports are notoriously hard to read – they are long and very technical. This means that few people actually read them.
But they matter to all of us – the insights from these reports affect the way we vote, invest, consume and just generally how we live our lives.
To make this bumper episode, I talked to three different authors from three chapters in the latest Working Group 3 report on mitigation solutions.
Demand-side solutions, a brand new chapter and really the good news chapter of the entire report.
Finance and investment, still a relatively new area in the IPCC
Long-term emissions pathways
In the second segment, I talk to Joyashree Roy, Coordinating Lead Author for the new chapter on demand, services and social aspects of mitigation. This is a big deal, as previous reports focused mostly on supply-side solutions like renewable energies. But this report shows with high confidence that demand-side strategies can reduce 40-70% of emissions across all sectors.
But first, I talk to Christa Clapp and Glen Peters from the CICERO Centre for International Climate Research in Norway.
Our conversation is a really important primer for anyone who wants to get their head around net zero.
Among the highlights: why the “three more years to reduce emissions” thing is wrong. Why peak emissions are an important signal for the oil and gas sector, and why does the report have an entire chapter on finance and investment, yet the IPCC doesn’t target financial decision makers with its report?
We also talk about climate twitter – how is it changing and what does that mean for the IPCC and its reports?
What we talked about:
Part One: Christa Clapp and Glen Peters
2.35 The finance chapter is 3 times bigger than in the previous assessment. A lot is happening, but we still don’t know the impact of that activity
6.31 Why “three more years to reduce the emissions curve” is an error, one that sends the wrong signal about having more time
10.02 What is “peak emissions” and why does it matter? In fact, what matters most is the reduction after the peak. (Glen)
11:59 The language around peak emissions matters to the oil and gas sector because it affects decisions around when to reduce production. Most oil and gas majors in their scenarios have emissions peaking between 2030 and 2040.
15.44 Emissions were back at 2019 levels in 2021. So we’re essentially at a new peak emisssions.
18.20 War in Ukraine is driving new interest in nuclear, and we’re starting to see nuclear energy deals being labelled as green.
22.08 Everyone agrees climate specialists from different areas such as finance and carbon cycle specialists should communicate and collaborate more, but there are many barriers.
27.08 Glen says that an Integrated Assessment Model is like a jack of all trades but a master of none.
28.22 The finance sector is a whole new consumer group for climate scenarios, and sometimes this means they use the scenarios in a way they weren’t intended. We should be clearer about what the models are doing and not doing, and provide extra information.
29.21 The IPCC doesn’t target financial decision makers as an audience with their reports.
30.18 One thing the scientific literature shows is that all the activity in the finance sector is focused on financial regulation around climate risk transparency, which builds capacity within institutions but does not, for the moment, drive emissions reductions.
34.33. Glen talks about climate twitter and how it’s changed in recent years.
Part Two: Joyashree Roy
42:02 Literature on demand solutions has proliferated since the Fifth Assessment, especially from the social sciences.
44.38 Lifestyle and behaviour changes can reduce energy demand and our carbon footprint without reducing our wellbeing
49:07 Demand-side strategies can reduce 40-70% of emissions across all sectors.
53:53 A big focus of the literature is human desire for health and wellbeing over accumulation of material goods. In order to drive more sustainable consumption patterns, we need social movements, role models to support social acceptability of these new patterns of consumption.
57:06 Policies can change behaviour, for example putting a tax on status consumption items.
1:05 We need to set wellbeing as our goal and not income and material accumulation.
Christa Clapp is a co-founder and Managing Partner of CICERO Shades of Green Ltd., a global leader in green ratings for bonds, and a subsidiary of the climate research institute CICERO. She has over 20 years of experience in climate policy and economic analysis, holding previous positions at CICERO, the OECD and the US EPA. She is a Lead Author for the IPCC 6th assessment report on mitigation for the investment and finance chapter, and sits on the Editorial Board for the Climate Policy Journal.
Dr Glen Peters is a Research Director at CICERO. He performs research on the causes of recent changes in carbon dioxide emission trends at the global and country level, and how these changes link to future emission pathways consistent with global climate objectives. He is a Lead Author for the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report on emission scenarios (WG3 Chapter 3) and on the Executive Team of the Global Carbon Budget.
Joyashree Roy is the inaugural Bangabandhu Chair Professor and the Director of Centre on South and South East Asia Multidisciplinary Applied Research Network on Transforming Societies of Global South, Thailand and professor of economics as well as founder of two multiyear research programs at Jadavpur University in India. She is the Coordinating Lead Author of WGIII report of the IPCC Sixth Assessment cycle. She was one of the scientists on the IPCC panel that was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 and she was the recipient of the Breakthrough Institute’s Paradigm Award in 2021.
Denise: Hi, welcome to New Climate Capitalism. This is a very special edition of the podcast, we’re calling it the Big IPCC edit.
IPCC reports are notoriously hard to read – they are long and very technical. This means that few people actually read them.
But they matter to all of us – the insights from these reports affect the way we vote, invest, consume and just generally how we live our lives.
To make this bumper episode, I talked to three different authors from three chapters in the latest Working Group 3 report on climate mitigation solutions.
In the second segment, I talk to Joyashree Roy, Lead Coordinating Author on the demand chapter – all about the human element.
But first, I talk to Christa Clapp and Glen Peters from the CICERO Centre for International Climate Research in Norway.
Our conversation is a really important primer for anyone who wants to get their head around net zero.
Among the highlights: why the “three more years to reduce emissions” thing is wrong. Why peak emissions are an important signal for the oil and gas sector, and Why does the report have an entire chapter on finance and investment, yet the IPCC doesn’t target financial decision makers with its report?
Rather topically, we also talk ant climate twitter – how is it changing and what does that mean for the IPCC and its reports?
Don’t miss this very frank and candid conversation.”
Christa: I am Christa Clapp. And, uh, I have been leading the climate finance research work at, at Cicero and, and now, uh, I’m a co-founder of the subsidiary that rates green bonds.
Glen: I’m Glen Peters. Um, most of my research I’ve been doing, being a researcher for, I guess, about 20 years now.
Most of my research in the recent period is related to emission trends, the global carbon cycle and emission scenarios. So where do we need to go in the future?
Denise: Um, so can I ask both of you to share perhaps one key insight from your chapter
Christa: Sure. Well, I think when one of the interesting things coming out of the investment and finance chapter is that it was three times the number of pages as it was in the assessment report eight years ago. Uh, and, and most of that new content was really what’s happening and what’s happening in capital markets in terms of, uh, central banks and investors and other financial actors paying attention to climate risk.
New innovative, uh, products and financing schemes, including green bonds, but not limited to that. Um, and so, and so there’s just been this tremendous, you know, raising of awareness in the financial sector. So a lot of that is covered in the chapter. And that’s new. What’s a little bit surprising though, is because the IPCC is an assessment of the existing global literature.
Most of the literature that we found on that topic is inconclusive at this point, I think because a lot of it is the new regulations, new initiatives, like the EU taxonomy or reporting requirements. Um, and we, we don’t have enough, um, consistent data to make, uh, actually assessments.
So where the literature is focused is what are the pricing differences, for example, on green labeled bonds rather than environmental impact.
Glen: Yeah, maybe I’ll have a rather more provocative answer. And I’ll say that there’s nothing new.
And why would I say that? So to solve the climate challenge is still the same challenge as it was yesterday. It’s not as if you know, this report finds well, you know, if you do things differently, then we can all of a sudden get to 1.5 degrees much more easily. Um, so it’s sort of in a sense, going more deeply into what we know. One big framing in the background is there’s now the Paris agreement and countries, uh, pretty much all signed up to it.
Countries have emission pledges. So the climate problem has sort of moved into a new space now. And I don’t think the IPCC has necessarily caught up. It’s more in a solutions space and opportunity space. And so if you think about maybe what’s new, if I just pick out one figure from the report and the summary for policymakers, which is, um, showing different mitigation options, how much they cost and what their potential are.
And there’s the sort of, uh, you know, the quote that comes from that table or something along the lines of, um, we can reduce emissions by 50% by 2030 for less than a hundred dollars a ton. And of that half those reductions are less than $20 a ton. So in short, it’s cheap and easy to reduce emissions by 50%.
So I’d say that’s sort of the new message, a bit more of an opportunity framing as opposed to, you know, we’re heading for climate doom type framing.
Christa: But this old messaging is an issue in the finance chapter too. And I think that’s one of the challenges for the media coverage. Um, not just in our chapters, but maybe for the IPCC in general. Is that the story on financing of, uh, fossil fuels, both in the public and private sector is an old story that we need to turn around.
That it’s a big barrier to the green transition and to climate action and financing of the action. Uh, it’s playing an old record. And it’s hard. How do you make that message new and get it to the right sorts of people? Um, that’s a real challenge. Um, and there was reasonably good media coverage of the IPCC report coming out.
I think that despite other things going on in the world that are also deserving of our attention, um, but the messages are really not that new. We need to stop fossil fuel financing. So it’s a challenge in the messaging and in the media coverage of IPCC.
Denise: So, uh, Glen, I wanted to ask you something, uh, that you raised on Twitter this particular point came up actually here in France last week, uh, during the presidential elections, uh, where the journalist asks the both candidates, Macron and Le Pen.
Uh, said a few days ago, the IPCC reminded us that we have three years left to keep global emissions to an acceptable level. Uh, can you explain in plain language what’s wrong with this question
Glen: Yeah. So it feels quite typical that now these big reports come out with, oh, we still have a few years left.
Oh, if we do things next year it’s okay. So I think this is broadly, um, problematic. I would say this, you know, “we have three years left” is a mistake. It’s a sort of error. Although maybe authors would not agree with that. Um, you know, we don’t really have three years left. We have to start doing stuff dramatically today or yesterday.
So the reason that this came up is the models that are used to sort of calculate how much do we need to reduce our emissions. They often have five-year time steps. So the model was solved in 2020 and 2025, 2030, and so on. And there was a concern amongst some authors that if we’re in 2022 and we say emissions needed to peak in 2020, uh, then, oh, well our scenario is no longer relevant.
Um, and so they said there’s ambiguity. And when the peak year actually is because the time step is from 2020 to 2025, and that ambiguity stretched out to we have until 2025. If you look at the scenarios, emissions peak in either 2015 or 2020, 1.5 degrees. Uh, and they starting to drop dramatically 20 or 30% reductions by 2025 already.
So I think it just gives the wrong signal, the wrong message that, you know, there’s a little bit more time. We can, you know, organize things in the background. Um, but you know, in a sense, we should have been doing that 20 years ago. So it’s sort of 20 or 30 years of lost action. Not that we have three years left.
So I think it would have been a powerful message to actually say, well, emissions should have peaked already. I think that would be a more powerful message than to say, well, maybe you can go to 2025 because of this ambiguity.
Christa: This is a real challenge though in IPCC communications and in the media coverage where you see different takes that are a little more positive, or a little more negative on whether we can actually achieve the Paris agreement, or if we can, um, hold global warming to 1.5 at the lower end of the Paris agreement targets. Um, and that challenge, I think, was apparent even in the messaging from Working Group One, the physical science report that came out last fall. But whether you interpret that you could probably probably read between the lines and a couple of different statements in different ways
Either we have a little bit of time, but the window is closing, we need to act now to sort of motivate or to say time’s up. We already missed the boat for 1.5 and now we need to regroup for, uh, even 2, if we’re lucky. Um, and that’s, uh, that’s a challenge, not just with IPCC, but I think in climate change work broadly speaking is how, how much do you try to, you know, Uh, policymakers to do something or decision makers to do something.
Um, and at the same time, you know, reflect that actually, uh, if we look across, uh, the scenarios that Glen is much more familiar with than I am, um, the, the odds are quite slim that, that we can, we can turn it around.
Glen: Yeah, there’s different audiences too. And I think that’s a important thing. So one message might work well for one audience.
So, you know, we peaked already. Maybe that motivates some people, uh, whereas other audiences may be, well, the peak time is in the future. So you still have time. Maybe that motivates others. So this is extremely complex space.
Denise: Could you explain why the peak is so important?
Glen: The peak is probably not that important per se. It’s actually a good question. What is a peak? You can split it down. The Paris agreement has this text, you know peak emissions as soon as possible, rapid reductions thereafter, and then net zero in the second half of the century or something to that effect.
So probably much more important than the peak is the reduction after the peak. The peak is a bit of a, um, a distraction and you would expect, you know, if emissions were slowing down, that will slow down a little bit, then the up and down a little bit. Um, and then we’ll start to decline and then hopefully decline rapidly and so, you might not know when the peak is.
So I think the most of the emphasis really should be on the necessary reductions required, you know, just looping back to the three years left 2025. Emissions need to be down by 20 or 30% by 2025. Not emissions need to peak before 2025. If you peak in 2024 and you still need to get down 25%, then that’s pretty heroic in one year.
So, and this is maybe a bigger picture overall broadening out a little bit here with countries, having net zero pledges and so on. You know, we’re talking 2050. Um, you know, depending on the country, that’s 10 elections away or something like that. And, you know, even going out to 2030, where we have the nationally determined contributions, the country pledges out to 2030, that’s still eons away f.or many actors.
And so we need some way to really bring climate action to today. And the now. What are we doing right at this minute? Um, Get to wherever we want to go in the future.
Christa: I think that the peak, uh, the language around, uh, peak emissions is especially pertinent to the oil and gas sector. Um, maybe they’re not paying attention as much to IPCC versus other sources of information like the IEA, but, um, but at the same time, um, the language around peak emissions, I think is really important.
When you start thinking about, do you need to start reducing production or can you adjust by time and do it?
Glen: Yeah. So that’s a good point. Maybe I need to ask the person in the finance chapter, but I guess from a investment perspective, you know, if your industry is starting to go into decline, it’s actually most oil majors, I think, correct me if I’m wrong in their scenario is they have oil production peaking, you know, somewhere 2030, plus or minus whatever, maybe 2040.
But then after that, how do investors view an industry which is in decline? So even if it’s in slow decline, you know, if your industry is going down one or 2% a year, and if anything, that decline is only going to accelerate. How would investors view that? And would that then cause a rapid decline because people start to take their money elsewhere.
Um, so I don’t know, Christa, do you have an answer?
Christa: I definitely don’t have an answer and I’m wondering how many investors are thinking that long term. I think few. If you are looking that long term, if you’re a pension fund, and your job is to manage wealth over generations, for example, then you do need to look that longterm.
Um, and then it’s the question of like, what does that mean for those oil and gas majors? And I guess they have a little discussion previously at one point about, does that mean that there’s only going to be a few companies surviving or does that mean that the whole sector is completely, um, you know, completely shifting, um, and nobody has a crystal ball and, and, and knows that information.
But I think asking questions for financial sector actors that are either lending out or investing in oil and gas companies have to be starting to ask those questions about how do you view that net part of your net zero. Does that just mean you have a, you know, a sudden jump off the cliff and you’re relying on offsets or you’re relying on CCS that is growing at a magic rate. So there’s no easy answer.
Denise: Um, sort of going back to the peak a little bit, but, um, uh, you know, Glen, you you’re involved with global carbon project and you put out these annual figures on global emissions trends.
And, um, if I recall correctly, like, um, you know, have we peaked, was the curve flattening? This was sort of starting to become a thing around 2019, right? Um, and then we saw the 2020, um, the dramatic drop. Um, but now, and in fact, uh, uh, Vladimir Putin said it himself in an oil and gas meeting the other week, he said, ah, the west is now ditching its commitment to carbon neutrality and there is a dash back into dirty energy. Um, I was wondering if there’s any data at this point to back that up or is it way too early to say.
Glen: Yeah, I think it’s too early, but you were correct in 2019, the sort of discussion around town was, uh, well, will emissions peak this year, or maybe next year.
And you know, there’s a few sort of physical reasons that, that might’ve been the case. Um, essentially, you know, renewables starting to take effect and so on.
Then of course we had corona. Um, so, you know, my next 10 years research agenda was destroyed because now we’re not looking for peak emissions because the emissions record has now got this big disruption in it.
So now we’re back, emissions are back to 2019 levels in 2021. And I would expect that they will grow again in this year 2022. So essentially we’re at a new peak emissions. What’s going to be the fallout of the whole Ukraine Russia situation is just so hard to tell. I think, you know, you’ll expect there’ll be a depressed global economy, how depressed, um, we’ll have to wait and see.
There will be huge regional impacts. Russia and Ukraine, you would expect to have impacts of a substantial size, but they’re relatively small players, uh, overall, except for Russia.
Um, then what will be the spillover effects in Europe? Well, they get by with a little bit of gas here and there. Will they go back to a little bit of coal? Uh, it’s so hard to see at this stage.
I’m just guessing, but throughout the year, we’ll gradually get more and more data, um, to try and get a handle on those questions. I don’t think I’ve had enough time yet, but yeah, maybe in the second half of the year, we’ll start to see some, some signals.
Denise: Christa, how are you seeing this play out in, um, in your work with green bonds.
Christa: Part of the story is what Glen’s talking about on how each country is handling energy security. And that can go in either direction, depending on where you’re sitting in the world and what resources you’re sitting on. I can point to two different trends that we’ve seen, and this has nothing to do with IPCC. This has to do with my role as a green bond rater in the Shades of Green company, and only anecdotal evidence based on inquiries and phone calls that we get. Um, so, so one is that, you know, the financial markets are in a bit of a turmoil state at the moment, and we’ve seen, uh, you know, a delay in some of the processes we’re involved in for green labels.
What we haven’t seen is anyone turning away from doing, um, a greenish sustainability label. Uh, so that’s, that’s at least promising. We’ve just seen delays. We want to wait for the market to settle down before we move forward, before we do an issuance. Um, but we haven’t seen our, our activity or interest level in, uh, what’s being labeled green as slowing down.
So that’s reassuring, um, with just a timing difference with the financial markets, but then the second trend that, that is kind of interesting. If I had measured the number of phone calls I get, then, uh, you could see a spike in the interest in nuclear energy financing under a green label.
Uh, part of that could be related to, uh, events in Ukraine. But, uh, it, I think it’s also related to the controversy right before the Christmas holidays, where we saw the commission put forth a proposal to include nuclear in the taxonomy.
Denise: Um, thanks to very rigorous French lobbying.
Christa: Yes. And it, and it rather unfortunately, came alongside a proposal to include natural gas with some caveats, of course, on both nuclear and natural gas.
Uh, but then it, because there were lumped together, I think it made it very, an easy target. Uh, for environmentalists and, and, and researchers, uh, like to say that this isn’t based on science. So, um, the view that we take, which I think is very well grounded in climate science is that nuclear energy, if the risks and there’s a lot of risks, but the social and environmental are managed very carefully, it is possible to include it under a green label.
And, uh, we were involved in reviewing one of the nuclear energy deals that was labeled green. Um, so of course there’s some controversy in how people perceive that. Uh, we, uh, we went through a scientific review and are staying out of the politics of it. Um, but, but that timing is also interesting.
So there’s some discussion at the EU level. There’s some discussion in the financial markets. Now that we have the first green label on a nuclear energy refurbishing project. And then we have the war in Ukraine. Uh, so for some countries that puts more pressure on increasing nuclear, if they want to reach their climate targets, and also reduce reliance on imported energy.
So it’s, it’s a mixed bag, but that’s an interesting thing to watch and see how it plays out.
Denise: I mean, but basically it’s, if I’ve understood correctly, you were saying. There’s controversy, but essentially, um, nuclear is green.
Christa: If, if those risks are managed. So there’s a report that came out from the JRC, um, that was commissioned by the European commission, uh, for awkward phrasing, to look into what the potential was for a significant harm in, uh, outside of climate, on other environmental and social objectives and the report’s conclusion.
I think we’re pretty clear that, uh, there are these risks that they can be managed. And so we, we were looking at it on a case by case basis. We happened to review one case for a refurbishment of a nuclear plant, um, under Canadian regulations, uh, you know, a good safety records with sourcing of uranium that had social safeguards on the mining activities, um, that has a lot of regulation around the temporary storage of the waste, et cetera.
So, so that if it is a really important caveat, um, there could be other cases where it’s not green. Um, but if it’s well managed, it’s possible.
Denise: Um, I’d like to move on to another subject, which is about the way the two of you and your disciplines in general, uh, can or can all to do or don’t collaborate. You know, cross-fertilize talk to each other, use each other’s work.
Um, now Glenn, your chapter, chapter three, uh, make some explicit references to other chapters in the IPCC report, uh, where there were linkages and, you know, uh, interconnection. Uh, but there is no explicit connection between your two chapters, a chapter three and the chapter on finance and investment. So, um, I wonder if you could, um, both sort of, you know, comment on that is, is, is, uh, is more dialogue and collaboration necessary, um, or, um, Yes.
Glen: Yes. It’s necessary. Uh, I guess you have to answer that question. Most definitely more collaboration is necessary. How you go about it and how it happens is a different question. So, one thing from the IPCC process, which surprised me a little bit, and this might vary by chapter, um, is even within the chapter you end up in silos, know, this is your section, and this is your section.
And you work over there on that section. And of course you have meetings and so on, but yeah. At least I didn’t find that there was close collaboration, even amongst authors within a chapter. Um, maybe other chapters have different experiences and I’m not sure what the culture is over time in. IPCC my sense in working group one, the physical sciences, there’s a lot more collaboration, a lot more argument and discussion.
The fight over ideas and the ways of framing things, and is this medium confidence or high confidence and, you know, heated discussions, you know, in a good way. Um, you know, I didn’t really see much of that happening in working group three and certainly not in the chapter.
Just if I have another example I mentioned earlier, this figure that has, um, a hundred dollars a ton or less will get you 50% reductions. If you look at the scenarios, the median, the average scenario, um, has a carbon price of about $200 a ton, very few, have a hundred dollars a ton.
It’s all over that. Um, and that’s, you could say top down scenario perspective. Quite different to the bottom up the sectoral perspective, but you know, where’s the connection are there? What is the connection? Are the, yeah. What are the issues there, if any? So I think that’s quite interesting.
Christa: this was apparent in the finance chapter too, where we took investment numbers from some of the less than 1200 models that Glen was referring to, um, and use them to try to come up with a range of investment needs for climate mitigation.
Uh, but there’s so much margin of error in those estimates. they’re only so useful as well. I mean, I think they’re useful as a benchmark, but not, um, with precision because they’re coming from models that aren’t designed to model what’s happening in the financial sector.
And that’s true for land use, it’s true for every other sector that you need to also think about what’s happening up in either in a bottom-up model or a different type of structure that is more related to the specific of what’s happening in that sector.
But, uh, but the IPCC similar to research funding, um, as, as designed, you know, a little bit along silos and a little bit along disciplines as well. One of the challenges that we had in finance is that there’s a whole separate report on adaptation, and it’s really hard to discuss financing for climate change without looking at the cost of the impact of climate change with extreme events, um, et cetera. And, uh, and the, the financing of adaptation or built-in resiliency and infrastructure projects. At the same time, you’re talking about financing renewable energy. It’s really hard to separate those. And, um, and that’s what the report does, but it’s hard to cover everything all at the same time when you were volunteering your time for IPCC and, uh, living through a pandemic and spending a lot of hours on zoom.
Denise: I mean, I, I guess one question that’s sort of been bothering me ever since the 1.5 degree report in 2018 was that, um, uh, you know, one of the authors I spoke to back then said, you know, finance is kind of the big unknown, and yet.
As an actor, it’s not represented in the climate models that you use, Glenn, you know, for the scenarios. Uh, and so, and the Paris agreement makes a huge deal out of, you know, the potential of the finance sector to help deliver, um, uh, you know, the, the Paris agreement itself. So, um, it just feels like an important disconnect.
Glen: Um, Yeah, that’s true. You can think about other aspects as well. So that scenarios, particularly some of the most advanced models developing these scenarios are extremely complex, you know, thousands of technologies and yeah, it would just blow your mind away. They miss things like finance, they don’t include adaptation.
Um, they’re often not economic models, so don’t consider general equilibrium effects of investment cycles and so on. Um, they’re not really modeling oil markets. So, you know, oil price from one of these models, what do you do with it? So despite the incredible comprehensiveness and complexity, they’re still very narrow when you come to looking at solutions and on the ground practical stuff.
Um, now when, when Christa was talking, I was just thinking, came into my head a scenario, model, an integrated assessment model is like a jack of all trades, but a master of none. They have everything, but don’t necessarily do it good. And this is maybe not recognized, but sort of, I think this actually also comes back to your very first question on 2025.
Scenarios are now being used in a place that they weren’t really designed to be used.
Scenarios are meant to be long-term, you know, 50, 100 years.
What are the trade-offs between short-term action, long-term action, removing a technology from the model. Now we’re talking about these big long-term scenarios, uh, should emissions peak in 2024 or 2025. It’s just not what the scenario was designed for.
Um, but we don’t say, hang on why the scenario wasn’t designed for that? We try and get the attention and say, well, our scenario, our model can do this. Um, and also keep making it more complex. So you bring up, t doesn’t have financial actors in the scenario. Well someone will try and do it and you’ll have an even more complex model that you don’t know what’s going on.
Um, there’s lots of challenges.
Christa: I think your point about models being used in a different way than they were intended as a really important one. And we’ve talked a little bit about this over the years, too. There’s a whole new consumer group for climate scenarios in the finance sector.
And maybe they’re using some of the results in a way that they weren’t intended. And I think when one of the challenges is looking at either peak emissions or looking at, um, the timing of the phase out of oil and gas or coal and using that to interpret how they, um, how they can, how companies can justify what they want to do on net zero.
And sometimes I think it makes sense. And other times I really question is that really the right interpretation, because I think anyone can say that they’re Paris-aligned depending on how they design their net zero target. So that’s, it’s a real challenge, but I don’t think the solution is to put more financial sector detail into every integrated assessment model. I think rather we need to be clear about communicating what the models are doing and not doing, and then, and then supplement with, with other information. Um, and, and the way Denise that you phrased the question about the financial actors being really important.
And I think there’s a real reason to have attention on the financial actors, but at the same time, the IPCC assessment does not target the audience of financial decision makers, it’s targeting policy makers and not financial policy makers either. I think it comes back to something that, that is my, my phrasing of a key message in the report, which is that the financial sector can’t resolve the climate crisis alone.
It’s not that the finance finance sector isn’t going to save us all. Um, so sometimes there’s a little bit of an over-emphasis, I would say because without the climate policy and environmental policy, you can’t have the finance sector solving much, but we do see a lot of action, and I talked about why we have so many more pages in the finance chapter.
This assessment report, because there is so much happening in the financial sector. Um, but we can’t solve this through financial regulation or the financial regulation that we see right now is, is focusing on climate risk transparency, which at least according to literature to date is building up capacity within institutions.
But it’s not yet attached to emission reduction. So we can’t make that causal link yet in the literature. Um, and, and maybe we will in the future, but we’re not reducing emissions yet just through financial sector activity. There’s just a lot of activity, which I think is hugely important, but still has to be seen in the context of everything else that we need to be doing that is going to be driving emissions down.
Denise: I mean, you make a really important point that the IPCC is not targeting actors in the financial sector yet it is assessing literature that is relevant to what they’re doing on a day-to-day basis. And for long-term kind of, you know, risk assessment and planning, um, what has to be done about this? It’s a bit odd.
Christa: It’s one of the challenges that we had in the chapter too. Um, if you look back on the special report the IPCC did for 1.5, I think it was over a year after that publication, that there was movement to draft a summary for financial decision-makers completely separate from the report.
It was not actually an IPCC report, although IPCC was involved in reviewing it, it was a completely separate thing very far after the fact. So not in the design of what was being done. I’m not sure that IPCC is the right place to do this. Um, I think maybe there are actors that are better set up for more nimble, um, you know, timely reports that could be addressing the financial sector.
So even the fact that we don’t talk about interest rates in the finance chapter. When I talked to. Banks, they find that very funny. Well then what, what are we doing? What are we doing in the finance chapter? Uh, we’re not really talking about what is important to them on a day-to-day basis. Um, so I think it’s, it’s just, you know, it has, it has a usefulness in that we’re reviewing the literature on finance, which is very much geared towards pricing and not much on the environmental aspects and highlights a huge research gap.
Uh, but it doesn’t answer all those questions and it doesn’t answer all those questions on what they need to know from climate scenarios. And actually think there are other actors that are maybe a little bit better about communicating scenario results than than IPCC is.
Glen: What is the role of Working Group 3 in the sense of connecting with users?
Um, so if Working Group One, which is the physical sciences, Working Group Two, which is the impacts, maybe you can see a much clearer picture. Like it sort of doesn’t matter what they do, it’ll be relevant because they’re analyzing the science, assessing the science and so on and so forth.
Whereas Working Group Three. Now you’ve got researchers that are doing their nice research and having a good time in their academic careers. And producing stuff that they think is relevant for users, but we don’t really know if that is hitting the target. So for example there’s no co-design mechanism or something like that.
So if we were hearing from what’s the financial sector or whatever other sectors, uh, I dunno, steel industry or, uh, local communities, local governments, what they wanted, then it had that dialogue and interaction. Then maybe it would be a much more targeted report. Although then you’re not talking about the IPCC anymore. That’s quite a different beast.
Christa: Um, and I think that could be, there could be some reason to justify splitting out parts of the IPCC. Parts of it are really well attuned to literature review other parts of it. Maybe need more active tools or, yeah, I think it could be worth rethinking.
Denise: Um, and I should point out that we are speaking on the day after Elon Musk, uh, announced that he was going to buy Twitter.
Glenn, you are really an influencer on climate Twitter. You’ve got 44,000 followers at last count at last count, and you’re well known amongst the science and the policy community for your very technical threads, explain threads, lots and lots of interesting charts. So I wondered if, um, you could maybe say a few words about, uh, who you feel you’re talking to when you communicate on Twitter and, um, are there some people that you aren’t reaching, um, that, that you could reach perhaps?
Glen: Yeah. That’s a good question. Or be sort of interesting to have a super detailed technical analysis of who’s following you and who’s interacting. And so. But yeah, just taking a backward step when I started on Twitter, I dunno, I guess 10 years ago or something. Um, I just, when I decided I decided I’m going to use it and I’ll use it in a sort of academic sense, I wasn’t sort of just experimenting and playing around or whatever.
So, you know, I started, you know, tweeting figures and technical stuff from the start. And so that will be reflected probably in the bulk of my followers that I have, I would think. Although I have noticed in the last, I dunno, a couple of years, at least that the whole dynamics on Twitter seems to changed.
That’s a lot more, I guess, interested community activists, um, strongly opinionated people and so on. So, and it’s getting much harder to have a technical discussion. So if I tweet some technical thread now trying to describe 2025, that I’d seem to get a lot less interaction today than what I would a few years ago.
Um, that’s my sense. And I don’t feel that I have changed so much, but I feel that the Twitter space has changed underneath me in a sense.
Yeah. So I’d say, let’s say us climate communicators to use that word, maybe have not adapted with the times. So what is the real need today and, um, is that Twitter? Um, maybe not. So, you know, maybe if I actually, I give quite a few presentations, um, I think, um, last year sort of average, probably about one per week.
So that’s about 50, 40 or 50 presentations per year. If you allow for holidays, um, And that’s much more, one-on-one, much more interactive and so on. And maybe that contribution is much more impactful than the 40,000 Twitter followers, that it’s the same people that retweet your tweets, um, each day. So, you know, you’re preaching to the converted.
Um, and so maybe we really need to think about what the best way to use our time is. Um, what’s the best use of our resources to reach an audience and you know, it’s not at all obvious that Twitter is the answer. I’m hesitating because I don’t know the answer. I was just gonna say, you know, you could think maybe, you know, more in the media op ed, um, blog, commentary type pieces, um, maybe it’s even going back to research.
Um, maybe it’s trying to, um, push a more proactive direction so the IPCC takes in broader literature etc. So it’s a little bit unclear to me what the best use of your resources to get. Uh, the most value or for people to get the most value from your knowledge base or whatever, I’m happy for answers or suggestions in that direction.
Denise: So, one quick concluding question. Um, is there something that makes you hopeful, uh, on the climate change question today in 2022?
Glen: Um, I guess this would probably be an unpopular one, particularly in Twitter sphere. But probably technology will move along faster than we expect. Um, you know, of course you get into these debates about lifestyle, behavior, technology, and whatever, but you know, either way, if you have behavioral change, you still need technology change underneath.
I’m pretty confident that, you know, let’s say engineers can figure out how to build this, that or the other. And, you know, marketers can figure out how to sell this level, the other. And so sort of, I think we have the, let’s say the human capacity to make things to happen. Um, and you know, things sneak up on you.
Mobile phones are a classic example, you know, 20 years ago, or even things like Twitter didn’t exist 20 years ago. Um, and suddenly it’s something which consumes your life. And now we’re worried about whether Elon Musk should buy it or not. Um, so, you know, it’s those sorts of surprises, those things that you don’t see coming that, um, make me sort of hopeful.
So, you know, we’re all in our little narrow view and it’s the outside shot that might be the one that gets us to where we want to go. Um, so I guess it’s, um, then it becomes important to make sure you have that diversity and the opportunity for those sorts of outside shots to, to play a role.
We’ll just switch this off.
Denise: I hope you’ve enjoyed our conversation so far, next tup we’ll hear from Joyashree Roy about the very exciting potential for changes in human behaviours an lifestyle to make big reductions in emissions. So stay tuned.
So today we’re talking about chapter five of the IPCCs six assessment report on climate mitigation solutions and chapter five is distinctive and interesting for a number of reasons. First it’s a new chapter in the IPCC assessments. And it is in many ways, the good news chapter of the entire report, as it looks at the high potential for reducing emissions coming from the demand side, which is, um, really everything to do with human behavior, lifestyle consumption.
And this is the one area where. Uh, normal people like you and I can really make a difference with our choices. So I’m very excited to welcome, uh, Joyashree Roy, uh, coming to us from Bangkok in Thailand. She is coordinating lead author of this chapter. Uh, so could we kick off, um, by talking a little bit about.
How this chapter came to be and, um, why it took so long. I mean, we’re already in the sixth assessment of the IPCC and I guess it’s not news that, uh, the way we live as humans is an important variable.
Joyashree: Um, I think, uh, we need to, uh, understand that the IPCC makes an assessment of the available literature.
So if I just go back to fourth assessment report, I said that there was one paragraph on lifestyle change, et cetera, because then it was more focused on the technology. How technology can supply a cleaner energy and efficient energy and land use change. In fifth assessment report. How, what demand can do with supply was there, but it was sprinkled all over the chapters in bits and pieces.
So there was no comprehensive assessment, but I would say that from the fifth assessment report to the sixth assessment report, there has been a proliferation of literature, especially in the social science field. Starting from psychology, behavioral economics, sociology, political science, um, everybody wanted to see what can actually, the social behavior of people, uh, can deliver.
So what people can do, what individuals can do to make a difference to the climate. And how far individuals can actually do that is also a very important question to be answered.
So I think when the scoping meeting was, um, organized, uh, there was a demand from the delegates, from the researchers, that, uh, we need, uh, to make an assessment, a comprehensive assessment which shows how, uh, the behavior changed and social, um, uh, social-cultural factors can make a difference. And what enables this social cultural differences because the literature has been growing. So I think there was, um, there was, there is more information now available and there is a need to understand what people can do, how much quantified, uh, numbers, if we can come up with.
So all these led to, uh, this chapter.
Denise: So, um, can I ask you, um, what do you think is the most important insight of this chapter?
Joyashree: I would say that the most important insight is what individuals and people can do and cannot do. So this is something very important. And also another aspect I would say broadly is how inequity in consumption plays out.
What we can promote for enhancing well being of people. Uh, but at the same time, we can do better for the climate. Because what we tried to show is that changes to our lifestyle and behavior can reduce energy demand and our carbon footprint, uh, without, uh, without reducing our well being. That is the most important, uh, message from this chapter.
We can provide many of these services, which we use daily, with less energy and less resources. Um, but all these things definitely I’ll just give one example that, uh, for example, increased number of cyclists in the cities where bike lanes have been put in place following the COVID-19 pandemic is a good illustration of how lifestyle change occur very quickly. And we assessed 60 actions that can be taken at an individual level. And the biggest contribution comes from walking and cycling wherever possible. And of course, using electrified transport.
So compact city design which allows people and individuals to access all the services, the needs in their daily life or without getting into automobiles so they can actually just walk or cycle to all these work places, to education places to health services.
So design of the city is very important. So what we are trying to say is that human behavior or social cultural practices gets shaped by what kind of infrastructure is in place. That’s why we are saying that, um, we do need investment, uh, for making this transformation and providing, uh, more options to people so that they can make right kind of low carbon options for the lifestyle. You can’t imagine walking and cycling if there is a ban in a mega city for walking and cycling in the city center. You cannot walk in a city where there is no walkway. So you need a walkable city and a cyclable city to make your lifestyle low-carbon.
Also, we have seen that, you know, we can change our consumption pattern to sustainable consumption patterns.
Like we can look for longer lived repairable products and we need to go for recycled products. We can repurpose or remanufacture many of the products, which gives it longer life and reduces the waste because we have seen that, you know, just not only the material waste, but food waste is a huge thing.
And we have shown that by reducing food waste and by our sustainable consumption pattern and dietary choices, actually the social cultural change can help reduce emissions to a very large extent. Even without maybe access to the technology also, but you need to have recycling facility and all those so that there is scope for the individual to have more options to express their desire for low carbon lifestyle.
Denise: One statement from the summary for policymakers that, uh, I mean, I think one of the conclusions that’s really surprising is that these types of demand side strategies can reduce 40 to 70% of emissions across all sectors. And they’re saying, you are saying this with high confidence. So, I mean, that’s really, you know, kind of, uh, you know, pause and reflect.
It’s a very big number. Um, uh, Based on what you just said. It sounds like we know in theory that we can do many of these things, but sometimes there are obstacles such as institutional arrangements, governance, you know? Does the literature assessed in chapter five give us the, the, the hope and the expectation that we can significantly improve our chances of meeting at the 1.5 degrees target.
Joyashree: We tried, um, uh, to evaluate or assess a hundred thousand literature to see whether through these demand-side interventions, uh, mitigation can be achieved as well as human wellbeing can be achieved and sustainable development goals can be achieved. So we found that mostly they are synergistic.
But there are some, um, uh, trade-offs, which are also possible to which I will come later so that which can be managed by, or which can be reduced by, um, policy intervention. But one thing is very clear that, um, in the food and nutrition sector, more contribution comes from the, yeah. Uh, individual choices, lifestyle change, social cultural practice change, because as I said, food waste and sustainable consumption pattern really makes a difference.
Right? So most of it comes from these changes. And as you change your consumption choices, um, and food waste is reduced. You free up many land, which is used for, providing the food supply. So that land can be used for reforestation, afforestation. So we look into a much bigger picture and then try to see how the total emissions, uh, can be mitigated.
And if you look into the, um, industry, human settlements, spatially, the buildings and the land transport, then you can see that it’s really the access to the infrastructure which matters. So when we are talking about the barrier, it is about infrastructure to put the infrastructure in place.
So it is true that individual behavior alone cannot deliver the full potential, but we do need, uh, infrastructure and technology access so that people can make the right choices. And also how you present the demand choices to people also matters. Just to give an example, um, in a grocery store, um, how you display your low carbon product, say for example, the, uh, featuring more plant-based products, nuts etc , which has nutritional value, but has low emissions potential. So how you put these choices in front of people also matters, but this big number is based on all the 500 studies, which we have looked into very carefully and where they are giving these numbers.
And then we try to see that if they are scaled up, then what happens. But again, I’m saying that it’s not just individual choices, there needs to be access to the right kind of infrastructure and access to different efficient appliances and service provision systems. We can provide many end-use services through different alternative technologies, and with the different, um, uh, efficiency level.
We show also in our chapter that 45% of the primary energy needs can be reduced by making the end user technologies more efficient. For example, water is delivered with more efficient technology. You deliver the mobility service with more efficiency, comfortable public transit system.
We have ample examples to show from all over the world that have public transit system, make it comfortable, make it secure, people opt for these. So looking into those, we have come up with this number and we have very high confidence in these numbers.
Denise: The chapter also, uh, uh, gives a very interesting statement that, um, the wealthiest 10% of people are responsible for the 34 to 45% of consumption-based household emissions and this on all continents.
Uh, so this really sounds like a lock-in, uh, that will be very difficult to address. After all, the behaviors of the wealthiest 10% are celebrated in the media, and in all forms of popular culture. And it’s often what the people who are less wealthy aspire to in terms of their material aspirations.
So can you talk a little about that.
Joyashree: Yeah, we are saying that the contribution of this chapter is that we are saying what people, we have looked into the literature, and we have tried to see that what people really want. People want better health. People want to nutrition.
People want a good life. It’s not just about accumulation of material goods. So if you look into the human wellbeing, constituents of the human wellbeing, then we see that the narrative really needs to change. So it is not accumulation of materials, which make people happier. What people need is better health, et cetera.
So we are trying to show how you can deliver better health, better nutrition, climate benefit. So all these things, how you can deliver together. Now, if we know that some of the consumption patterns are unsustainable from resource and climate point of view, we are saying that narrative needs to change because what is socially acceptable.
Now we are seeing that there are many social movements which are talking about what is socially acceptable consumption pattern. That also creates a major change in social acceptibility and that influences what the behavior is going to be. So setting a new norm, we are saying that the status consumption, which is just to keep up with what others are doing and not looking into what benefit and what wellbeing are you getting.
So we are saying that addressing inequity and status consumption can help mitigation. So I think there is a very important need for changing the narrative and that can happen through, uh, we have shown in the literature, you know, that, um, uh, the social acceptability is becoming a very, um, uh, uh, um, a new social norm.
And also another thing which I would like to say is that these wealthy individuals actually have the capacity to bring change because they can become the role model of sustainable consumption patterns. They can invest in, um, low carbon, um, uh, I mean, uh, investments, um, uh, uh, put their money in, um, uh, green infrastructures.
They can become more proactive by setting themselves as role models. Uh, so creating those narratives is extremely important and which we have highlighted very much. And also it is important how, as I said, the policy infrastructure, these are also very important. Are there policies for putting taxes on the status consumption items.
And so those can also change behavior. So that’s why I said individuals by themselves can do, but they can. I mean, they can ask for changes as citizens, as political, um, uh, citizens, but also there is need for policy, and infrastructure and investment to be in place and the narrative needs to change.
Denise: Are some of these low demands scenarios, um, could they aggravate existing soci0-economic inequalities?
Joyashree: Um, I think we are very clear in this chapter that, um, that 25% of people, uh, looking into, um, through the lens of income classification, do not have a adequate access to, um, nutrition, um, mobility and housing.
So, what it simply means is that providing those services to them is the priority. But we also show from the assessment of the literature that these can be provided with more modern technologies and infrastructure. So they do not lead to very high emissions to provide the best and decent living.
This implies that, uh, there will be some increase in emission because of providing, uh, access to services to these bottom 25%. But there is also the possibility of providing the services in a much more efficient way for the rest of the high consuming section of the people, so that, that can also be reduced enough.
We have shown that there is a scope for reducing emissions through better service provision in the global north. And there is provision of providing more services and better services with some increase in emissions. But as a whole globally, if you add up, you can see that these can provide 45% primary energy demand reduction.
So it simply means that there will be some reduction at high consumption level because of service provision modes you are going to provide. And in the bottom 25%, there’ll be some additional emissions, but they will still provide 40 to 70% reduction, while addressing the decent living for all. So it is still possible.
That’s why I said that this is also important to note, which we have mentioned is that, uh, because many of these infrastructure are already in place in many advanced countries, right? Immediate reduction is possible because that is also desirable, in a situation where energy prices are rising, where energy security is becoming a more important dimension.
So as the combined effort, they can provide better, uh, um, emission reduction potential in all the countries. Um,
Denise: so I had, um, uh, I wanted to ask, um, you know, what can I do personally, um, as a citizen and voter or consumer, uh I’m. I am speaking from France and we have the first round of our presidential elections coming up this weekend.
Um, And none of the candidates are talking about this, the demand side of the equation. Rather the debate is very much framed in terms of purchasing power and cost of living.
Joyashree: I think, um, now more and more, um, w uh, discussion around these, because IPCC report has, uh, providedample examples. We have evaluated 60 odd examples, as I said, right.
What, um, it can be done and how, uh, different policies are also enabling these changes from different parts of the world. So, Educating people, um, and knowledge transfer, um, in different roles of people, as citizens, as educators, as, um, um, uh, role models. These can really help. And also, I think professionals like engineers, urban planners, architects can really make a difference in their day to day living. And that can set a norm. So social norm gets set on a different trajectory. And also what I can say is that it is important to highlight, you know, what has brought these changes in different parts of the world. I’ll just give a few examples, right?
We have given many examples in our chapter in section 5.6, to be very precise, where we are saying that what are the policies which are helping in different parts of the world to help people avoid emissions. So we have seen that, uh, uh, per se integrated city planning. So that is something which is very important, which can help and building retrofit.
So these are some of the policies you can set your, um, uh, cooling and heating, um, uh, points, in your home appliances.
While the taxation of status consumption does not reduce wellbeing, but helps in making people to choose sustainable consumption patterns.
So we need to show all these win-win options and need to be careful that how some of the redistributive justice can also be delivered so the decent living can be provided to all.
So I think this needs to come as a social movement. We show in our chapter that narratives changes when society accepts something. So if society accepts this then, you know, the bottom up pressure builds on changing the social values, social norms, and that sets a new lifestyle and role models can do a lot in this context, um, in setting the new narratives.
Denise: Um, if I may just ask one final question, um, you are coming from an economics background, I believe, and this chapter, um, has a very diverse group of authors coming from different disciplines, given that in previous assessments. Going across different chapters. So unlike some of the chapters where energy chapters is very, they’re quite siloed.
Um, you are all coming with different perspectives, different methodologies. So I wondered, um, did anything surprise you about the process of trying to pull all of this together with this very diverse group of authors?
Joyashree: Interestingly, that would say that over past many years, you know, in different social science literature, there was a convergence that people need wellbeing.
We need to set wellbeing as our goal and just not income and material accumulation. So better health, better nutrition, better thermal comfort. So all these constituents of wellbeing, I have been coming up in different literature, maybe coming from different angles, but everybody’s talking about what people need.
So people need wellbeing. People need services. People do not. Primarily, whether it is coal, oil or fossil fuel, right? So they need services. So if the services are provided and so that’s why we are saying that the service provision is very important, how we can provide people with a decent living and everybody is talking about the better living.
So I think there is a shift in the literature, as well as in people’s psyche, that what we need is a better living and just not higher and higher income, because it has become very clear now in the literature. And in the social, um, social behavior also that, um, income is not always giving us better health and better nutrition or better mobility.
So it is becoming more and more apparent. So I think we had a very good understanding that how. Uh, structural and socio-cultural issues are intertwined and how they reinforce each other. How education plays a very important role, how, you know, the post-industrial revolution, education about competitiveness has become a collective good, uh, how you create a sense of value of collective good that is becoming more and more apparent in the literature.
So I think, I mean, um, yeah, this convergence, uh, helped us to come up with such a strong, uh, chapter, even with quantification and, um, and many qualitative key messages, which talks about social values. What kind of social values, health, um, human progress and human wellbeing.
Um, and what can create a new narrative for, uh, policymakers to act on given that there is more and more of social acceptance.