Something that stood out the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report is the need for progress at pace. The final instalment in the IPCC’s sixth assessment report is essentially a summary of the previous three, bringing the findings together and synthesising them.
It’s fair to say that there’s not a lot of good news. The planet is not on track to meet either the 1.5C or even 2C warming pathways, with current commitments only able to hold warming at 2.8C if implemented in full. Such levels of warming would have significant impacts on agriculture and render some parts of the world unliveable.
The IPCC says that 3.3 billion people’s livelihoods would be put at risk. But the methods and measures that would cut greenhouse gas emissions so that 1.5C was possible are, the IPCC believes, available now. It is just that the pace of implementation at the necessary scale is insufficient so far.
The overshoot solution
The UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres has called for a quantum leap in climate action and for developed economies to bring forwards net zero targets to 2040. The new IPCC report is critical in terms of the pace of adaptation saying that, despite progress, adaptation gaps exist across sectors and will continue to grow under current levels of implementation. The IPCC also highlights that with every increment of warming, the risks of damage to the planet – such as coral reef decline or severe weather impacts – increase.
Also highlighted is the concept of overshoot – accepting that warming limits are inevitably going to be breached and that the best scenario is to try and eventually put warming into reverse. No further significant pieces of research are expected from the IPCC until around 2030 so the combined four volumes of the sixth report are essentially the final warning of how to limit warming to 1.5C.
CDP highlights lack of nature-based reporting
Disclosure platform CDP has published new research into how companies are reporting on environmental impacts. Among the headline conclusions are that while scope 3 emissions account for 11.4 times the typical direct emissions for a company, scope 3 targets only make up 15% of new or in-progress targets. CDP describes this as a lack of attention to upstream impacts.
And while companies are engaging with suppliers on climate change – 7,000 out of the more than 18,500 disclosing via CDP report doing so in 2022 – far fewer do on other nature-based metrics. Only 915 companies engaged suppliers on water and only 500 on deforestation. CDP also calls for better internal target setting and incentivisation for senior management – 70% of C-suites will not be incentivised on water security before 2025, and only 3% have water-related incentives for their chief procurement officer.
A further perhaps unsurprising conclusion is that it is a small group of trailblazing companies that are leading the way. CDP says that 280 sustainability leaders are working through its supply chain programme and that over 16,400 suppliers to these companies reported to CDP at the customers’ request. The suppliers reported savings of 70m tonnes of carbon dioxide in the last reporting year due to supply chain engagement.
Fags to fungi
Highlighting the continual need for innovation to find solutions to the most challenging problems, an interesting pilot in Australia is developing a process whereby cigarette butts are consumed by oyster mushrooms, breaking down the toxins and microplastics in the waste and producing a potentially useful by-product from the process.
Cigarette butts are the number one single highest cause of litter and plastic pollution, as well as leaching harmful chemicals such as arsenic into the environment when discarded or put in landfill. The government of Australian state Victoria is funding a pilot project that could remove 1.2m cigarette butts from landfill. The oyster mushrooms take up to seven days to consume the butts – they take 15 years to break down in landfill. The laboratory-based process produces a by-product which scientists hope could become a useful substitute for polystyrene.