Updated: Aug 24
Co-written by Beatrice Melo, Brex Arevallo, Michelle Sta. Romana, Nico Mira, Sinwa Naw, and Takeshi Ito
On June 16, 2022, KASA Sustainability organized the third edition of its Climate Change discussions part of the IPCC Report Series.
Just a few weeks before the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, stakeholders worldwide were keeping a keen eye on developments that could help avert global environmental collapse. The first edition of the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was published earlier this August on Climate Change: Where are we heading? We had the opportunity to discuss this first edition during KASA Sustainability Month in November 2021 among KASA members. The second edition of our IPCC Series was held in April this year, when we brought the second report, published at the end of February 2022, sharing the latest science on Climate Change: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability.
At the beginning of April 2022, the third IPCC 6th Assessment Report was launched - and that was exactly a year after the first edition of our workshop! This time, we had the feeling that maybe this one would be connected to what our conversations in previous workshops eventually ended up discussing - Climate Change: Mitigation. We were curious to read what their inputs were on how we can help the mitigation of climate change and promptly organize a discussion beyond the space of our organization. The discussion was held online, open to anyone interested in echoing their knowledge and impressions on the theme.
In our hope for a smooth and fun conversation over some coffee or tea, we invited Professor Takeshi Ito, Sophia University, to facilitate the workshop. For effective participation, we suggested reading the condensed version for policymakers available for download here. As a result of our exciting analysis, while reading the report and commenting on the points that stood out for each of us, we decided to co-author this article among the participants of the event and shared them on our blog.
10 Takeaways on Climate Change Mitigation
1. The role of food and agriculture
Despite contributing about 20-30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), the IPCC report does not talk too much about how to reduce emissions from this sector. Its potential seems largely untapped as it is an accessible climate mitigation action that can be done on a personal level or by small groups.
2. Climate change as an interconnected issue
Climate change is unarguably a global issue; nonetheless, its impacts worldwide are asymmetrical. Social, cultural, political, economic, historical, and environmental aspects differ within each region; thus, disregarding those individualities might lead to generalizations and “one size fits all” resolutions. The global lens should be applied to understand the power dynamics in the transnational trade system, to consciously realize the reliance within regions and the effects of this dependence on the environment.
It was interesting to see how the authors view climate change in terms of interrelationships and interdependencies. For example, it was mentioned that achieving net-zero emissions in the building industry requires looking at how materials were extracted and procured. A holistic systems view is therefore needed. It is almost impossible to think about net-zero programs in silos. Sectors are not as isolated as one may think.
3. Responsibilities of developed countries
It is well-known that developed countries in the global north disproportionally emit the most Greenhouse Gas (GHG) but suffer the least. On the other hand, developing countries in the global south are the most vulnerable to climate risks and shocks. It is crucial to hold developed countries accountable as much of their wealth is derived from economically unequal exchanges. Included here is the commitment to deliver 100 billion US dollars yearly to developing countries. There is also the need to work with them in implementing their Nationally Determined Contributions (country-level climate action plans). The capacities of developing countries must not be overlooked in favor of top-bottom solutions.
When discussing problems and solutions concerning climate change, the report presents a clear division between what should be tackled by self-proclaimed developed countries and the so-called developing countries. It shows how each region impacts the environment without considering other dimensions. Viewing only the GHG emissions level by region overlooks the global production and trade system, supporting the creation of a misinterpretation of responsibilities and commitments. The faults in the report are covered individually and the duties globally.
4. Addressing Interstates and intra-states Inequality in Climate Change Mitigation
It is a significant step that some developed countries have been leading an effort to sustain the reduction of GHG emissions since a decade ago, transforming their economy and industries according to international and national climate change policies. Such capacity is still void in several developing countries, as most least-developed countries (LDCs) have institutional, financial, and technological constraints to cope with the impacts of climate change. Digital innovation, despite a major breakthrough in mitigating climate change, is not well distributed among developing countries. Thus, the need for technology transfer and wealth distribution from developed countries to LDCs needs to be an important call for stopping climate change inequality between developed countries and LDCs.
In climate change mitigation, intra-state inequality between the urban and rural areas must also be well addressed. The rural communities in the LDCs severely carry the burden of climate change, although they are the least insignificant stakeholders in contributing to GHG emissions. These vulnerable people are often left out of the national climate change mitigation program and access to resources and capacity to address the effects of climate change are still highly limited for them. Such situations have caused detrimental consequences from social, political, and environmental issues ranging from environmental migration to poverty. Thus, there is still a greater need for effort to increase the participation of rural communities in the national policy and plan to narrow the disparity between the national level and local level.
5. Increasing anthropogenic GHG emissions
Net anthropogenic GHG emissions have increased since 2010 across all major sectors globally. In 2019, approximately 34% of total net anthropogenic GHG emissions came from the energy supply sector, 24% from industry, 22% from agriculture, forestry and other land use, 15% from transport and 6% from buildings.
6. Historical contributions to cumulative net anthropogenic CO2 emissions
Historical contributions to cumulative net anthropogenic CO2 emissions between 1850 and 2019 vary substantially across regions in terms of contributions to CO2 from fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes (CO2-FFI) and net CO2 emissions from land use, land use change and forestry (CO2-LULUCF). Least Developed Countries (LDCs) contributed less than 0.4% of historical cumulative CO2-FFI emissions between 1850 and 2019, while Small Island Developing States (SIDS) contributed 0.5%).
7. Pivoting to human-nature coexistence as the center
Climate-resilient development prioritizes sustainable development for all by formulating questions and solutions on equity and system transitions on land, land use, ocean, forests and ecosystems, inclusive urban infrastructure, energy, and industries. At its core is recognizing how humans and ecosystems are co-located and a paradigm shift towards the preservation of ecosystems.
8. Climate justice through global-local collaboration
There is a rapidly narrowing window of opportunity to enable climate-resilient development with each incremental increase in worldwide temperature, particularly beyond 1.5C. Opportunities for climate-resilient development are not equally distributed worldwide, exacerbating vulnerability and socioeconomic inequalities in developing regions and sub-regions, and stunting development goals. Achieving climate-resilient development must harness synergies and reduce tradeoffs, which are enabled when governments and the private sector closely cooperate with civil society, particularly in partnership with traditionally marginalized groups, through enabling political leadership and collaborative mechanisms.
9. Global efforts to mitigate climate change are technologically biased
Global resolutions in the report are discussed through a specific lens that ratifies the providers of the best policies and action to strengthen the global response to the climate crisis. We can see a high confidence evaluation of statements endorsing world superpowers as the ones who can provide the best solutions. The named developing countries in the IPCC report are portrayed as lacking innovation, technology development and transfer, integrity, and limited finance and applicability of sustainable solutions.
Despite recognizing the relevance of including social and cultural aspects in the analysis, digitalization and low-emission technologies are the focus of the sustainable solutions exposed in the report to mitigate climate change; hence knowledge coming from indigenous people and traditional agricultural practices is still out of the picture.
10. No straightforward ‘path’ moving forward
In this IPCC report on mitigation, comprising the top scientists’ collected wisdom on the topic, one can notice that there is no straightforward ‘path’ moving forward. Yes, the recommendations are clear in that we are called for striving towards specific actions; but with those, there are always trade-offs. Take the transition to renewables and electrification of our societies, for example. Constructing better batteries is essential for this transition; still, for batteries, minerals are a demanded item in production, and to get minerals, it is necessary to mine, and mining can have adverse consequences on the environment and people. How do we value these trade-offs? What are our guiding principles here?
We need to keep in mind that those decisions are inherently political. They will affect some environments and denizens more than others. It is frightening to realize that there will be consequences for whatever actions we are taking - but we do need to take them. We agree that the status quo is undesirable and that change is required. Therefore, the best we can do is to ensure the inclusion of as many people and interests as possible in the process. It might be slow to converge our points, and it surely will not be easy, but we would create just, participatory, policies and actions within. And environmental justice, if anything, should be our guiding principle moving further into the 21st century amidst the climate crisis.
We felt tinges of frustration throughout the workshop. Many of us want to do something now and contribute to mitigating climate change in a way that people and the environment are treated with respect and with equity.
Still, dissatisfaction gave place to hope once we were reminded of our power to organize and impact by working together.
After all, landmark agreements like the Paris Agreement would not have happened without solid social foundations. This workshop is also a clear embodiment of that. We hope to see some continuity in future workshops on these points, maybe as building blocks, unpacking them in more detail.
Curious about our next workshop?
We decided to have monthly meetings to discuss a variety of literature connected to political ecology and regard climate change from a transdisciplinary perspective. Our next event will be organized as part of the Graduate Program of Global Studies (GPGS) at Sophia University under the “Environmental and Societal Change Workshop'' tentative name. We would love to count on your participation in our inaugural session in late September. We plan to decide together on the readings we will be discussing in the following season and draft the final details of this exciting collaboration with GPGS.
You can register for our inaugural session on our webpage.
There you will find details about this event and a prospective list of books and articles we plan to discuss in this workshop.
Thank you! We look forward to meeting you soon!