[Editorial] Climate change mitigation – The recent paradigm shift

Quick revision mind map

Context: The recent IPCC report

  • A paradigm shift in the way we think about climate action has been reported for the first time in the recent IPCC report through a chapter on “demand, services and social aspects of mitigation”.
  • This puts people and their well-being at the centre of climate change mitigation.
  • The messages are from a global perspective but have relevance to the national context of every country.
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The report demands comprehensive demand-side strategies

  • The report shows how, through comprehensive demand-side strategies, carbon dioxide and non-carbon GHG emissions globally can be reduced by 40–70 per cent compared to the 2050 emissions projection.
  • This can be achieved through:
    • reduced food waste
    • following sustainable healthy dietary choices that acknowledge nutritional needs
    • adaptive heating and cooling
    • climate-friendly dressing culture
    • integration of renewable energy in buildings
    • shifting to electric light-duty vehicles, and to walking, cycling, shared and public transit
    • sustainable consumption by intensive use of longer-lived repairable products
    • compact city design
    • efficient floor area use of buildings
  • The IPCC report also shows that individuals with high socioeconomic status, as citizens, investors, consumers, role models, and professionals –
    • contribute disproportionately to emissions
    • have the highest potential for emissions reductions
  • Of the 60 actions assessed in this report, on an individual level, the biggest contribution comes from walking and cycling wherever possible and using electricity-powered transport.
  • Demand-side mitigation potential differs between and within regions, and some regions and populations require additional energy, capacity, and resources for human well-being.
  • Addressing inequality and reducing many forms of status-related consumption (consumption of goods and services for social prestige and not necessarily well-being) and focusing on well-being supports climate change mitigation efforts.

Way forward

Systematic changes:

  • To be effective, these shifts will need to be supported by systemic changes in some areas — for example, land use and urban planning policies to avoid urban sprawl, support for green spaces, reallocation of street spaces for walking and physical exercise, investment in public transport and infrastructure design for active and electric vehicles.
  • Electrification and shifts to public transport also bring benefits in terms of enhancing health, employment, and equality.
  • By providing user-level access to more efficient energy conversion technologies, the need for primary energy can be reduced by 45 per cent by 2050, compared to 2020.
  • Demand-side changes cannot deliver the net-zero goal on their own.
  • But this requires investment in and transformation across every sector, along with policies and incentives that encourage people to make low-carbon choices in all aspects of their lives.
  • There is huge untapped potential in the near term through changes across transport, industry, buildings, and food that will take away the supply-side uncertainties and make it easier for people to lead low-carbon lifestyles and, at the same time, improve well-being.

Conclusion

  • The latest IPCC report puts people and their well-being at the centre of climate change mitigation.
  • Ultimately, it is for the IPCC to provide the evidence and for policymakers, investors, and all other decision-makers to decide what needs to be done based on national contexts.

Practice Question for Mains

  1. To save a warming planet, the right choice matters, but it must be enabled and supported by larger, systemic changes. Discuss. (150 Words, 10 Marks)
Referred Sources

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