At last we can finally talk about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 6th Assessment Working Group III report, and one of our papers is cited in it!
Here's our media release.
MEDIA RELEASE – Embargoed until 16:00 on 04/04/22 – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group III report released
Today marks the publication of the final part of the 6th Assessment Report (AR6) from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Working Group III report on mitigating climate change . The report sets out twelve scenarios for mitigation, including three that aim to keep global warming within the 1.5˚C ‘safe’ limit (and one that allows for an overshoot and return to 1.5˚C), which is the aspirational target under the 2015 Paris Agreement. The IPCC does not advocate any of the scenarios, but they provide illustrations of potential future developments that can be shaped by human choice - including relationships between the level of ambition, climate policy and temperature outcomes.
Due to decades of inaction, the scale of the challenge is now enormous, and at present only one country, Gambia, is on track to meet this ‘safe’ limit . It is also notable that a number of the scenarios reply on future technologies, such as Direct Air Capture, meaning that emissions would be allowed to overshoot the limit on the proviso that they will be brought back below it in time to minimise their impacts. And even the most positive scenarios, which emphasise the rapid deployment of proven renewable energy and other technologies, require them to be deployed at a speed and scale for which the only historical comparison is the global response to World War II and its aftermath – and what will be needed dwarfs even those efforts.
In response to this, in 2021 Common Weal, the Energy Poverty Research initiative and the Built Environment Asset Management (BEAM) Centre at Glasgow Caledonian University published our ’21 for 21: The Climate Change Actions Scotland Needs Now’ statement , which was endorsed by a number of IPCC authors and other experts. However, the response from Michael Matheson MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport, was at best lukewarm – going little beyond the Scottish Government’s existing commitments. For example, committing to maintaining the moratorium on new nuclear power plants, ending the use of coal, and undertaking a consultation exercise on requiring all public bodies to divest from fossil fuels. Furthermore, it confirmed the Scottish Government’s plans to backtrack on the promise of a public energy company, despite this enjoying widespread cross-party support and the backing of the majority of SNP and Scottish Green Party members. No response was received from the Scottish Green Party, despite them previously having publicly backed the public energy company and a number of the other actions. The only party to issue a response signing up to all 21 actions was the Independence for Scotland Party.
Therefore, in light of this latest alarm call from the IPCC, the authors are again calling for all political parties to put aside the platitudes and commit to concrete, measurable actions that would put Scotland on a par with Gambia in demonstrating that it understands the seriousness of climate change and the changes we need to make now if we are to have any hope of meeting that 1.5˚C target.
Dr Keith Baker, a Research Fellow in Fuel Poverty and Energy Policy at the Built Environment Asset Management (BEAM) Centre at Glasgow Caledonian University, a Co-founder of the Energy Poverty Research initiative, and Convenor of Common Weal’s Energy Working Group, and who was a reviewer for the report and whose work is cited in it , said:
“The Working Group III report is a truly landmark publication. Working Group I told us how bad things have now got, Working Group II told us what to expect if we exceed the ‘safe’ limit, and now Working Group III has set out the options for how to do so. None of what is in it is particularly new, and expert opinions will be divided over the inclusion of future technologies however, optimism is now fading fast. Some experts, such as myself and Prof Bill McGuire (an IPCC author who endorsed 21 for 21), have now publicly stated that, whilst we could keep within that limit using existing technologies, we do not believe that the target will be achieved, whilst others are maintaining their optimism in public for fear that saying otherwise will lead to increased apathy and a fait accompli. However, regardless of how optimistic or not we may feel, we have to keep on keeping on because every fraction of a degree counts, and it will be measured in terms of lives lost; sea level rises; displaced communities; species lost to extinction; famines, droughts, and extreme weather events; the spread of diseases such as malaria; conflicts over the resources that remain; and more. Furthermore, since the Working Group I report was published we have seen the UN Climate Summit come to Glasgow and an excellent report by Scotland’s Climate Assembly, but still there is little evidence that our politicians understand and are prepared to act on the urgency of the situation. Perhaps things would be better if they spent more time reading the IPCC reports and listening to experts and less on photo opportunities”.
Dr Craig Dalzell, Head of Policy and Research at Common Weal, said:
“This report makes it clear, once again, that Scotland's "world leading" targets are insufficient to meet the challenge of the climate emergency and must be radically improved and accelerated. However, actions mean far more than targets and, so far, the Scottish Government's stated actions on climate change will not meet those insufficient targets even if they are deployed in full and on time. However, Scotland does have a published blueprint for a Green New Deal that would meet our responsibilities in the form of Common Weal's Common Home Plan. This - or something not less than it - must be adopted by the Government and rolled out as fast as possible. Anything less would be to deny the existence of the climate emergency and to directly hinder the efforts of everyone else around the world who are already doing the right thing.”
Monica Lennon MSP, who is a prominent supporter of the public energy company, said:
“The publication of this report should serve as a wake-up call to the Scottish Government. That Scotland is nowhere near meeting the targets set under the 2015 Paris Agreement - and does not have sufficient plans in order to do so - is disappointing to say the least. The SNP and Green Ministers’ failure to establish a publicly owned energy company further compounds the disappointment, especially set against a backdrop of rising energy costs for households and businesses across the country. It is obvious that the Scottish Government needs a bolder plan to tackle climate change, and I would encourage more meaningful dialogue in order to achieve this - with pace and urgency.”
Colette Walker, Leader of the Independence for Scotland Party, said:
“The ISP are fully behind the efforts of Common Weal and the “21 for 21” initiative they developed and published in Autumn 2021. COP21, global changes in weather patterns and recent events in Europe have brought into sharp focus the scale of the issue at hand and the significant work that is required both at Scottish and UK Government level to even begin to tackle the problems that will impact all of us over the coming years and decades.
Whilst it’s true that many of the levers to address the issues remain at Westminster, it is also true that the Scottish Government does have significant power to make progress in tackling the unfolding crisis. The setting up of the National Energy Company, as previously pledged in 2017, setting up a National Energy Infrastructure Company to manage the infrastructure we have and need, plan and fully co-ordinate energy efficiency upgrades of our varied housing stock, build using locally sourced materials in innovative ways and train the future workforce to embrace renewables at all levels of society. The longer we leave this the more catastrophic the outcome for ourselves and our future generations.”
 Baker, K.J., Mould, R., & Restrick, S., 2018. Rethink fuel poverty as a complex problem. Nature Energy, 2nd July 2018. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41560-018-0204-2 Available at: https://rdcu.be/2j8E
Dr Keith Baker
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