Caribbean Under Threat! – Part 3

by May 5, 2022

The UN IPCC’s report on the mitigation of climate change has 10 urgent concerns for the Caribbean region

In April, The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the third instalment of its Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) series on climate change and its impacts. This latest report addresses the mitigation of climate change.

The Working Group III Mitigation of Climate Change Report provides an updated global assessment of climate change mitigation progress and pledges and examines the sources of global emissions. It explains developments in emission reduction and mitigation efforts, assesses the impact of national climate pledges in relation to long-term emissions goals, and includes implications for global sustainable development.

The Report critically notes that in 2010-2019, average annual global greenhouse gas emissions were at their highest levels in human history, but with a slowing of the rate of increase. As with the other two IPCC reports, it highlights the need for immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors if we are to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial (1850-1900) levels.

Commenting on the report, The University of the West Indies Climate Studies Group at Mona (CSGM) noted, “Key to current and future global response is the role of renewable energy, energy efficiency, demand side measures, Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) and the deployment of new technologies. Since 2010, there have been sustained decreases of up to 85% in the costs of solar and wind energy, and batteries, which holds great promise for the Caribbean given its abundance of renewable energy resources. The world is at a critical juncture and must make decisions that enable immediate, drastic and sustained reductions in emissions if life in the region and across the globe is to remain viable.”

Following two previous analyses of the Working Group I Report and Working Group II Report contributions, the CSGM in collaboration with the Caribbean’s Working Group I and II authors has compiled Part 3, highlighting 10 urgent concerns for the Caribbean region from the Working Group III Mitigation of Climate Change Report.

Key Takeaway What the IPCC Report says Why the Caribbean needs to pay attention?
1. Greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) produced by human activities continue to rise. Total net anthropogenic GHG emissions continued to rise from 2010–2019, as have cumulative net carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions since 1850. However, the rate of growth between 2010 and 2019 was lower than that between 2000 and 2009. Global efforts have only produced a slower rate but have not stopped the increase in GHG emissions. Caribbean and other small islands therefore, remain at risk for increased exposure to multiple and compound climate-related risks.
2. Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) have forecasted us surpassing a 1.5°C warming within this century. Global GHG emissions in 2030 associated with the implementation of NDCs announced before COP26 would make it likely that warming will exceed 1.5°C during the 21st century. Likely limiting warming to below 2°C would then rely on a rapid acceleration of mitigation efforts after 2030. Global mitigation ambitions are insufficient to limit warming to 1.5°C as argued for by the Caribbean. All countries need to strengthen policies and plans to achieve deep reductions in emissions and realise a sustainable future. Every fraction of a degree matters.
3. To limit warming to 1.5°C, peaks in GHG emissions must be realised now, and no later than 2025. Global GHG emissions are projected to peak between 2020 and the latest before 2025.

GHG emissions are projected to rise beyond 2025, leading to median global warming of 3.2°C by 2100 if there isn’t a strengthening of policies beyond those that are implemented by the end of 2020.

Revisiting policies, GHG commitments and advocacy are among the immediate actions required from the global community including the Caribbean.

Alternatively, the world would be on track for 3°C warming and the Caribbean at increased risk for losses including lives and livelihoods, food and water security, infrastructure and settlements, cultural resources and heritage as well as the degradation of human health and well-being.

4. Net-zero CO2 emissions need to be achieved by early 2050s to limit warming to 1.5°C. Global net-zero CO2 emissions are reached in the early 2050s in modelled pathways that limit warming to 1.5°C with no or limited overshoot. In most pathways that limit warming to 2°C or lower, Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) sector, via reforestation and reduced deforestation and the energy sector reach next zero CO2 emissions earlier than the buildings, industry and transport sectors. These pathways also include deep reductions in other GHG emissions. Net-zero CO2 emissions means that CO2 emissions are offset by removing an equivalent amount of CO2 from the atmosphere. The Caribbean region must consider its role and responsibilities in the global pursuit of net-zero and have a say in globally determined pathways to the goal.
5. Renewables, energy demand measures, improving efficiencies and technological approaches are among strategies to limit warming to 1.5°C. Modelled mitigation strategies that limit warming to 1.5°C involve rapid, deep and immediate GHG emission reductions and include transitioning from fossil fuels without carbon capture and storage (CCS) to very low- or zero-carbon energy sources, such as renewables or fossil fuels with CCS, demand side measures and improving efficiency, reducing non-CO2 emissions, and deploying carbon dioxide removal (CDR) methods to counterbalance residual GHG emissions. The Caribbean must increase the implementation of existing renewable energy strategies and explore new approaches that contribute to avoided emissions. This should be pursued across all sectors.

Some measures may include increased uptake of electric vehicles powered by low emissions electricity or use of biofuels or energy demand reductions.

6. Unit costs of solar energy, wind energy and other low emissions technology have fallen. The unit costs of several low-emission technologies have fallen continuously since 2010. From 2010–2019, there were sustained decreases in the unit costs of solar energy (85%), wind energy (55%), and lithium-ion batteries (85%), and large increases in their deployment. The Caribbean must exploit its potential for even greater penetration of solar and wind technologies. Improving the enabling environment for innovations is necessary if the region is to develop solutions that are more practicable for its context.
7. Inequities continue to impact the levels of emissions. Globally, the 10% of households with the highest per capita emissions contribute 34-45% of global consumption-based household GHG emissions, while the bottom 50% contribute 13-15% All Small Island Developing States (SIDS) together emitted only around 0.60% of GHG emissions in 2019. This does not negate the need for actions to curtail emissions since there are co-benefits to be derived from the measures to be pursued (e.g. greater use of renewable energy).
8. Mitigation options are within reach for all countries. Mitigation options costing USD100 per tonne CO2e or less could reduce global GHG emissions by at least half of the 2019 level by 2030. Large contributions (to reducing emissions) with costs less than USD20 per tonne CO2e come from solar and wind energy, energy efficiency improvements, reduced conversion of natural ecosystems, and CH4 emissions reductions (coal mining, oil and gas, waste). The cost of technologies to enable GHG emissions reduction is within reach for the Caribbean. The region abounds with renewable energy sources ready to be exploited in greater measure. Policies and plans to encourage greater uptake are essential now. Other mitigation options related to efficient transportation, waste management, and the preservation of blue and green forests must also be pursued.
9. Climate financing continues to lag behind fossil fuel investments In 2018, public and publicly mobilised private climate finance flows from developed to developing countries were below the collective goal under the UNFCCC and Paris Agreement to mobilise USD 100 billion per year by 2020 in the context of meaningful mitigation action and transparency on implementation. Public and private finance flows for fossil fuels are still greater than those for climate adaptation and mitigation. The Caribbean and other small islands have benefited from financial flows to support adaptation and mitigation, but below levels agreed upon in the global climate agreement. The Caribbean must step up its advocacy for financial support and increased partnerships to realise the levels of mitigation and adaptation critical to the region.
10. Accelerated and equitable climate action is critical. Accelerated and equitable climate action in mitigating, and adapting to, climate change impacts is critical to sustainable development. Caribbean mitigation and adaptation actions must be accelerated. The pursuit must however be done with due consideration for equity and climate justice issues. The region must quickly decide on mechanisms for ensuring these considerations going forward.

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