Time is running out: what the IPCC report means for fossil fuels and climate solutions

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently published its 6th Assessment Working Group III report (‘Mitigation of Climate Change’). In this blog, Bright Now Campaign Officer Sharon Hall explores key findings of the report and what it means for our work on fossil fuels, investment in climate solutions and nature-based solutions.

Time is running out and we need to use all the available solutions to tackle the climate emergency – that’s the key message from the 3,000-page IPCC report. There are many changes we can be making at a household level, but the most impactful changes in terms of greenhouse gas emission reduction must happen at a more systemic level. We need to change the systems that provide our energy, industry, transport, buildings, agriculture and land use.

There is a climate solutions overview figure within the report – discussed further in this accessible Q&A summary from Carbon Brief – which I’ve included at the bottom of this blog post.  It compares many options for reducing emissions, breaking them down by cost (with the lowest cost options in blue) and the potential emission reductions (the longest bars indicate the most potential). Some of the biggest and most cost-effective changes are linked to widening use of solar and wind. As the IPCC summary states: ‘Limiting warming requires shifting energy investments away from fossil fuels and towards low carbon technologies.’

At Operation Noah, our Bright Now Campaign has a strong focus on encouraging Churches to divest from fossil fuels, and we are delighted that more than 140 Churches and Christian organisations in the UK have taken this prophetic step. The Church of England and the Catholic Church in England and Wales are the only major UK Churches that have not yet divested from fossil fuel companies.

This new IPCC report underlines the urgency of the shift from fossil fuels to clean alternatives. In the year ahead, the Bright Now campaign will be increasing our focus and developing resources to encourage Churches to increase investment in climate solutions, such as renewable energy.  Significant investment is urgently needed to support changes to clean energy, low carbon industry and transport, and more efficient buildings.

One other area in the IPCC report which has drawn considerable interest is the topic of agriculture, forestry and other land use.  Changes in these areas can have a big impact quickly, and most of these changes are fairly low cost or use technology that we already have.

‘Conservation, improved management, and restoration of forests and other ecosystems (coastal wetlands, peatlands, savannas and grasslands), with reduced deforestation in tropical regions hav[e] the highest total mitigation’ say the IPCC, identifying that these methods could globally reduce carbon emissions by 7-12% of the 2019 total.

The next most important area is, ‘improved and sustainable crop and livestock management, and carbon sequestration in agriculture’, globally contributing potential reductions of 3-7% of 2019 total emissions. 

This is a third and new area we have been working on in the Bright Now campaign – that is, looking more closely at Church-owned land and how it can contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. By improving their land management practices, for instance, Churches can not only help reduce emissions, but can also find ways of using land as carbon sinks that will have positive impacts for climate and biodiversity.

At Operation Noah, we know that we need to be applying many solutions to tackle the climate crisis. Our Bright Now Campaign will therefore be focusing on three key areas: calling on Churches to divest from fossil fuels; encouraging Church investment in climate solutions; and improving Church management and use of Church land to make a positive climate impact.

‘It is time to stop burning our planet and start investing in the abundant renewable energy all around us,’ UN Secretary-General António Guterres said recently. Guterres stressed how this latest IPCC report ‘sets out viable, financially sound options in every sector that can keep the possibility of limiting global warming to 1.5° alive’. Churches must not only play a part in this work, but also lead the way.

*IPCC Climate Solutions Overview: Graph with the relative potential and associated costs of the various ways to mitigate emissions.

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