2020-2030: A Decisive Decade
Sensitive Intervention Points: Triggering Systemic Change in this Decisive Decade
We are encountering investment shifts, technology breakthroughs and cost reductions, a deeper scientific understanding of ecosystem services, development of resilient business models and government leadership, as well as a staggering upsurge of citizen activism — all indicators of a growing momentum to tackle climate change.
This article is a snapshot from the elaborate report by Roy, J. et al. (2021). Critical Junctions on the Journey to 1.5°C: The Decisive Decade. London/The Hague: Climate Strategies. This report harnesses the spirit, energy and ideas already present in the field, attempting to synthesise the findings of the family of reports into a cohesive presentation. The key realization is, only an immediate and decisive effort in every part of our societies will trigger systemic change.
Sensitive Interventions Points or SIP identifies the common storyline underlying the emission reduction roadmap to 2030. The challenge is how we can best use this decade to set the world on a pathway to net-zero emissions.
Here we have explored the six Sensitive Intervention Points (SIPs)
Energy Efficiency, Extinguishing Poverty and Decent Living
The confluence of smart-energy networks, digital solutions improving the control of energy demand and trade, electrification, and ample low-cost renewable power has the potential to transform the energy sector in ways that seemed improbable just a few years ago.
In 2030, 65% of global electricity needs to come from renewable sources compared to 23% and 25% in 2015 and 2020 respectively. Renewable energy capacity is currently doubling every 5.5 years. The world’s total renewable energy capacity reached 2,351 GW in 2018, more than double the installed capacity in 2009. The EU has revised its 2030 renewable energy target from 27% to 32%. China plans to install 250 GW of wind and 150 GW of solar by 2020.
Transitioning into clean energy systems means that in this decisive decade no new coal plants should be built and existing ones must be retired. At least one plant a day must be closed until 2040, setting a path for a full coal phase out by that same year.
Initial steps have been taken: 249 US coal plants have been retired since 2010. Both China and India decreased the coal capacity they planned to build during 2015 - 2018 from 515 GW to 76 GW, and from 218 GW to 63 GW respectively.
Global investment in coal decreased by 75% between 2015 and 2018. Many insurance companies and pension funds have announced plans to cut their exposure to fossil fuels. At least 28 major banks have stopped directly financing coal , and over 1,110 institutions representing over $11 trillion in assets have committed to divest from fossil fuels, up from $52 billion in 2014.
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Imagine a world where every human enjoyed the dignity of a decent life, with the means to live in good health and participate in society. In the next decade, governments would accelerate efforts to build infrastructure to provide billions of people with access to basic amenities, including water, sanitation, and electricity to support all-electric appliances and Internet access. People would live in modest but comfortable and energy-efficient homes, eat nutritious food from diversified diets with plant-based protein and coarse grains, and use and re-use well-made, long-lasting consumer products. These lifestyle shifts would improve public health and wellbeing. Emerging cities would be quiet and clean, typified by multi-storey housing, shared electric vehicles and public transit.
Narasimha D. Rao | India/USA, Yale University & International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis
Electromobility: Interconnecting Sectors in the Path to Decarbonisation
EV sales are growing at an annual rate of 40% and they accounted for only 2.6% of global car sales and about 1% of global car stock in 2019. However, we find signs of exponential growth for the decade ahead, for example, in China’s EV market, which grew by 118% in the first quarter of 2019, and is currently larger than the EU’s and the USA’s combined. The price of EVs is also falling thanks to a 73% decline in the cost of EV batteries, which may indicate that this SIP is being triggered, providing hope we can achieve 100% of light duty vehicle sales being EVs in 2030.
By 2030, public transport will need to double its market share. Thus, bike sharing, bus rapid transit, ride-sharing and car-pooling services are being integrated into the urban mobility system in many cities. The mayors of Mexico City, Athens, Madrid and Paris, for example have stated their intention to ban diesel cars completely from their city centres by 2025.
While the aviation sector has reduced emissions per kilometre travelled by 20% compared to 2013 levels, the decarbonisation of air travel will need to be transformative rather than incremental to reach net zero. The
International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has set a goal to stabilise net emissions from 2020 onwards, and reduce 50% of net carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, relative to 2005 levels.
The shipping sector has also recently announced plans to eliminate their emissions. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has agreed that by 2025, all new ships will be 30% more energy efficient than those
built in 2014. However, as with aviation, the transformational decarbonization of the shipping sector will require a comprehensive package of incentives. Leadership can be found in the private sector, with the world’s largest shipping company, Maersk, committing to become 100% carbon neutral by 2050.
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The replacement of internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEV) with EVs bring benefits beyond decarbonising.
EVs will only provide the necessary levels of carbon emission reduction if electricity is generated from low-carbon sources. Currently there are a number of battery technologies under development and the ones with the highest potential rely on elements that are relatively inexpensive. This can help bring down the costs. As for infrastructure, building a robust, comprehensive and reliable charging network is essential to overcome ‘range anxiety’.
The automobile industry is extremely globalised, and once barriers are removed and costs drop, EVs will be able to spread over the urbanised world, especially in those places that suffer from poor air quality.
Suzana Kahn Ribeiro Brazil, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ)
Investing in Forest and Ocean Health to Protect Our Future
Scaling up nature-based solutions is a key SIP in halving emissions by 2030.
At least 150 million hectares of degraded land, equivalent to more than twice the size of France, need to be restored and conserved to enhance biodiversity and build ecosystem resilience. Bonn Challenge pledges from countries, jurisdictions, and companies, combined with pledges from NDCs, cover 349 million hectares, more than doubling the original 2020 goal. Yet, only 26.7 million hectares of land have been restored, according to existing -though not yet fully comprehensive-data.
Currently, 70% of land-based emissions occur in the tropics, where 83% of new agricultural land is from forest conversion. This points to a large mitigation potential in the region, which will need to be coupled with a ramping up of sustainable agricultural practices.
We do find glimmers of hope, as land use practices are starting to change. Agricultural practices are shifting to soil friendly options in climate smart villages in countries like Colombia, Guatemala and Honduras. In other areas, collaborative planning between farmers, researchers, government, private sector and civil society is paving the way for the use of drought resistant and biofortified crops, organic fertilizers, enhanced use of weather station information to improve crop planning.
Oceans and coasts also offer significant untapped mitigation potential as carbon sinks. The restoration of coastal ecosystems, the preservation of mangrove environments, tidal marshes and seagrass meadows have crucial roles to play in capturing carbon, as well as in building the resilience of coastal populations to climate change impacts.
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The oceans are key defenders against climate change, as they absorb 20-30% of carbon emissions, with Antarctica’s coastlines potentially storing up to 160,000,000 tonnes of carbon annually. The oceans and their resources are vital to economic growth and human well-being. Ocean-based industries deliver 2.5% of the world’s GDP, according to conservative estimates, and the value is predicted to double by 2030.
It is estimated that scaling up the production of ocean energy, decarbonising shipping, conserving and restoring coastal ecosystems, shifting to marine diets, and ensuring carbon sequestration in deep seas could reduce global GHG emissions by nearly 4 billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2030. Manaswita Konar | India/UK/USA, World Resources Institute
A Cleaner and Fairer Food System
As much as 50% of the food we produce goes to waste. Therefore, reducing food waste offers huge potential to dramatically reduce emissions. France has enacted a new law to outlaw food waste, which is being followed by Italy and Germany. Other countries such as Canada, have also updated their national dietary guidelines to address sustainability. Simple solutions such as food expiration date management can help reduce food waste by almost 40% and save costs. Businesses have been taking leadership to address emissions throughout their supply chains. For instance, in 2016, a coalition of 30 leaders from business, governments and NGOs announced an initiative to halve the amount of food wasted globally by 2030.
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Land-based climate mitigation could lead to substantive health, economic and other sustainable development co-benefits, but to achieve this, a smart redesign of the way we produce, process, distribute, and consume food, wood products and bioenergy is needed.
How would a world like this look? First, by greatly accelerating current land-based mitigation trends, in 2030 a substantial fraction of food would come from resilient, diverse, equitable, and localised systems. Consumers will rely on more balanced and plant-based diets, less processed and more locally-produced food coming from small farmers. Producers will rely on sustainable intensification of their farming practices, employing agroecological production methods, crop diversification, agroforestry, and other multi-purpose systems, while biological controls will greatly reduce the need for chemical fertilisers and pesticides.
By also cutting waste, which currently accounts for 30% of total food production, the suggested systemic changes would yield multiple co-benefits, such as health improvements and reduction of income inequalities. At the same time, lessening pressure on land for agriculture would also reduce deforestation and biodiversity loss. Omar Masera | Mexico, National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM)
Increased Efficiencies in Energy, Emission, and Material
Decarbonising the heavy industry sector is particularly complex. This sector includes the production of basic materials – cement, iron and steel, paper, aluminium, as well as chemicals and petrochemicals - accounting for 27% of global CO2 emissions from all fossil fuel and industrial sources. Having thus said, over 550 companies having committed to setting ambitious science based emissions reduction targets.
Cement company Dalmia in India aims to be carbon negative by 2040.
In Sweden, the steel industry is planning to introduce the first commercial scale zero emission plant using hydrogen by the early 2030s. Since 2017, the city of Oslo has mandated that municipal construction projects must be fossil free, and a study shows that almost all construction site emissions in the city could be eliminated by 2025.
Over 320 heavy industry companies have also pledged 863 individual and co-operative actions in the Global Climate Action Portal of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The UK’s Committee on Climate Change suggests significant scaling up of electrification, hydrogen, carbon capture and storage and other low carbon solutions supporting the trajectory towards decarbonisation of heavy industries. By increasing their efficiencies in energy, emission, and material, the UK heavy industry sector is on a trajectory to halve emissions by 2050 using science-based targets.
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Affluence, Sufficiency and Urban Design
Up to 2030, the world is expected to invest about USD 90 trillion to replace old infrastructure in emerging markets. Along this line, the Zero Carbon Buildings for All initiative pledges to reach 100% netzero carbon for new buildings by 2030, and for existing buildings by 2050.
Dozens of projects delivering zero and near-zero building renovations or new constructions have been implemented in many European countries including Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia and Sweden.
In addition to the building sector, water supply systems for irrigation, urban water supply, wastewater treatment and associated infrastructure need to become net zero and resilient in order to meet the Paris Agreement goals. Climate Risk Informed Decision Analysis (CRIDA), created by UNESCO’s Integrated Hydrological Programme, is helping water infrastructure planners and managers implement climate resilient solutions, and training national adaptation professionals, thanks to the support of the UNFCCC’s Consultative Group of Experts.
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Technological advancements are often seen as a solution to allow sustained economic growth within finite planetary resources. However, increases in efficiency spurred by new technologies are also a key driver of economic growth, and this leads to more consumption and therefore higher emissions. We need not only radical changes in technology to mitigate global warming, but also radical changes in our lifestyles and what we value as quality of life.
Income vs sufficiency. Income growth as a goal leads to two main negative effects: a zero-sum game for scarce resources such as housing that drives prices up for all, and increased disposable incomes that results in superfluous, discretionary over-consumption. Instead, a movement where focus is placed on shorter work weeks and creative, recreational and social outcomes can deliver higher returns in terms of quality of life rather than income. Let’s replace income and more broadly GDP as a measure of economic success with indicators of quality of life, prosperity and happiness. Richard Wood | Australia, Norwegian University of Science and Technology
This report aimed to consolidate knowledge from a family of ten influential reports, demonstrating why this decade will be decisive in combating climate change. These reports show we need resolve to deliver mutually reinforcing actions
that can drive exponential systemic change. The scale of change needed requires unprecedented political and financial support as well as climate leadership and global partnerships.
We will only succeed if all of us take part in this fundamental transition of our global economy.
Summarized by Sarmistha Tarafder