The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its Synthesis Report (SYR).

Key findings:

  • It summarises the findings of six reports released during its Sixth Assessment Cycle.
  • Excess emissions:
  • Excess emissions from human activities have raised global temperature by 1.1°C above 1850-1900.
  • Human activities have unequivocally caused global warming with global net anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions clocking in at 59 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e), 54 per cent higher than the level in 1990.
  • Contributions have varied by country and income group, with around 35 per cent of the global population living in countries emitting more than 9 tCO2e per capita, while 41 per cent live in countries emitting less than 3 tCO2e.

Current policy action will lead to further temperature rise:

  • Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) announced by countries make it likely that warming will exceed 1.5°C during the 21st century and make it harder to limit warming below 2°C.
  • The CO2 absorption capacity of land and ocean sinks is likely to decrease.
  • Ocean acidification is likely to increase, and compound heatwaves and droughts are projected to become more frequent.
  • There may be some irreversible changes in the climate system when tipping points are reached, such as the loss of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets.
  • Adaptation options may reach their limits of feasibility, leading to greater losses and damages.

The remaining carbon budget will be depleted:

  • It is estimated that from the beginning of 2020, we were left with about 500 GtCO2 of the carbon budget for a 50 per cent likelihood of limiting global warming to 1.5°C.
  • This is likely to be depleted if the annual CO2 emissions between 2020 and 2030 stayed, on average, at the same level as 2019.

Need to cut GHG emissions:

  • To achieve the 1.5°C goal with a 50 per cent likelihood, we need immediate GHG emissions reductions in all sectors this decade.
  • GHG emissions must be cut by 43 per cent by 2030 compared to 2019 levels, and CO2 emissions must be cut by 48 per cent.
  • This must be accompanied by reaching global net zero CO2 emissions in the early 2050s.
  • Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies can be deployed to reduce temperatures in case 1.5°C is overshot.
  • But they come with feasibility and sustainability concerns, and social and environmental risks when deployed at large scales.
  • Need to shift to low-carbon economic systems
  • We need deep systemic changes across all economic sectors to reduce emissions on a sustained basis.

Some of these include:

  1. widespread electrification,
  2. diversifying energy generation to include more wind, solar, and small-scale hydropower,
  3. deploying more battery-powered electric vehicles, and
  4. conserving and restoring forests while also reducing tropical deforestation.

Political commitment and equity:

  • Equity is central to climate resilient development.
  • High income groups contribute disproportionately to emissions, and thereby have the highest potential for emissions reduction.
  • Developing countries need technology development, transfer, capacity building and financing to ‘leapfrog’ to low-emissions systems and reap the co-benefits.
  • This can be enabled by political commitment.
  • Regulatory instruments driven by governments can support deep emissions reductions.

Implications for India

  • India’s priority should be to minimise loss and damage in terms of lives, livelihood and biodiversity, and accelerate equitable action and adaptation.
  • The report proposes an approach emphasising ‘climate resilient development’.
  • This recognises that development is important, but the quality of that development, whether it locks us into low or high carbon choices or resilient development is important.
  • As a developing country, India can lower its per-capita emissions through energy efficiency policies already being implemented in almost every sector.
  • It can also decarbonise the energy sector by using cleaner options like solar and renewable energy.

Way forward:

The report suggests climate resilient development that will not only mitigate the effects of climate change but also provide wider benefits.

The report’s recommended goals to help adapt to climate change include:

  1. access to clean energy,
  2. improving air quality,
  3. increasing employment opportunities,
  4. boosting healthcare through technology, and
  5. delivering equity.

The report also foregrounded the role of financial investments to achieve climate goals and encouraged public funding through central banks, government and financial regulators to reduce emissions, scale up climate resilience and protect marginalised communities.


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