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UN Climate Report on April 4th: “What matters now is zero emissions”

Chimney with smoke. Photo.
“Zero emissions are what counts if we are going to be able to live up to the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming,” says Lars J. Nilsson. Photo: Unsplash.

In connection with a new report on measures to mitigate climate change, researchers at Lund University in Sweden see some hopeful signs. Among other things, Lars J Nilsson, Professor of Environmental and Energy Systems at Lund University, thinks there are good prospects for achieving zero emissions by 2050 in industries such as steel, cement, and chemicals, which are currently responsible for major carbon dioxide emissions.

Emissions must be reduced if climate goals are to be achieved. However, in spite of an increasing focus on renewable energy solutions, global carbon dioxide emissions have still increased in recent years. What factors have influenced this trend? And what emission reductions are required to meet the climate goals?  

These questions are addressed in the forthcoming report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) entitled Mitigation of Climate Change, which will be presented at a global press conference on the 4th of April. Lars J. Nilsson, Professor of Environmental and Energy Systems at Lund University, is one of four Swedish researchers who are the principal authors of one of the report’s chapters.

“A lot has happened since the IPCC published its previous report in 2014. Proposals for measures are no longer about reducing global emissions by 20, 30 or 40 percent – what counts now is zero emissions. This is a necessity if we are going to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement for reducing global warming.”

Lars J. Nilsson considers that achieving zero emissions requires political decisions, new infrastructures, international collaborations and a coordination of climate, industry, and trade policies. 

Some years and tens of thousands of research articles later

The report is part of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report, which covers climate change, consequences, and possible solutions from a global perspective.

Over a three-year period, over 200 researchers and experts from all over the world have reviewed tens of thousands of scientific articles to assess the state of knowledge concerning how climate change can be mitigated. Their assessment has been studied and commented on in several rounds by other researchers and experts, as well as the UN’s individual member nations.

The work is now being concluded and the report is ready to be presented. The results consist of a couple of thousand pages divided into 17 chapters. The report is the last of three sub-reports, which together describe the state of knowledge regarding climate change, climate-related risks, and possible measures in the form of climate change adaptation and emission reduction.

“Measures are increasingly urgent if warming is to be limited to 1.5 or 2 degrees and yet, the emission trend is not towards reaching the world’s climate goals. At the same time, things have started to happen and measures are available in terms of technical and economic solutions for emission reduction, as well as nature-based solutions and sustainable consumption”, says Markku Rummukainen, Professor of Climatology at Lund University and Sweden’s contact person for the IPCC.

Principal role in the chapter on industry

Industry and industrial climate change adaptations are addressed in Chapter 11, for which Lars J. Nilsson has a leading role as the coordinating principal author. Among other things, the chapter puts forward an argument about how adaptation strategies need to be adjusted for sectors in which conditions vary.

Lars J. Nilsson says that he and his research colleagues who wrote the chapter can offer a hopeful message:

“As I see it, and as indicated in my own previous research, there are good prospects to reach zero emissions by 2050 in emission-intensive industries such as steel, cement, and chemicals. But  broad strategies are needed if we are going to reach this goal.”

Some key questions covered in the UN’s Climate Report to be published on 4 April:

  • What has been the global emissions trend in recent years and how does this trend differ between regions?
  • Which factors have affected the emissions trend?
  • What solutions – technical, economic and policy instrument-related – are currently available to reduce emissions?
  • How can different measures be combined and implemented over time to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to align with the world’s climate goals?
  • How do emission reduction, climate change adaptation and sustainable development relate to each other, and how can measures in one area contribute to another?

The UN’s Climate Reports

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issues a major state of knowledge assessment every six or seven years in several parts as well as what are known as Special Reports.

The sub-report Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change is the third part of the current main report (AR6) and will be presented on the 4th of April.

The sub-report Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability was the second part and was presented on the 28th of February.

The sub-report Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis was the first part and was presented on the 9th of August 2021.

Finally in September, a summarising Synthesis Report will be published. This also includes all the reports published by IPCC from 2018 to 2022. The reports, which summarise the global state of knowledge, constitute documentation for the UN’s climate negotiations, decision-makers at international and national level, and others.