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IPCC climate report raises pressure for shipping CO2 cuts

Yesterday, the IPCC released the much anticipated Special Report on 1.5°C in Incheon, South Korea, as requested by world governments in the Paris Agreement. The release follows a week-long plenary editing session during which scientists responded to government comments on the Summary for Policymakers.

The best path for limiting warming to 1.5°C means reducing carbon pollution by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030 and reaching to net zero by 2050, though by 2040 would be even safer. Limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in all transport sectors (including shipping), the IPCC report finds.

This steep reduction pathway demanded by scientists raises international pressure on IMO delegates to deliver substantial short-term reductions in shipping emissions, when they gather in London to build out its greenhouse gas strategy next week (Intersessional Working Group), before MEPC73 begins on Oct 22.

One of the key questions to be discussed is which short-term measures (i.e. before 2023) would best cut GHG emissions from the sector, with operational efficiency metrics and speed regulation seen by analysts as most effective.

– The 1.5°C report was initiated in response to a request by world governments included in the Paris Agreement for a report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C, and how best to limit warming.
– The report assessed more than 6000 scientific papers, with input from 91 authors and editors from 40 countries.
– It will be a key scientific input into COP24 in Poland in December, when governments will finalize the rulebook for the Paris Agreement.
– This report is the first in a series of Special Reports to be produced in the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Cycle. Next year, the IPCC will release special reports on oceans and cryosphere, and land use.

Beyond the headline findings, we have identified some new and notable topics and takeaways that emerged from the final report, along with expert responses.

Key Findings of IPCC 1.5°C Report

Climate Impacts

  • Impacts at 2°C will be much worse than projected, meaning 2°C is no longer a safe goal to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. We can avoid much, but not all, of the loss and risk of climate change by limiting warming to 1.5°C.
  • For example:
    • Coral reefs are projected to decline 70–90% at 1.5°C and more than 99% at 2°C.
    • With 1.5C of global warming, one sea-ice free Arctic summer is projected per century. This likelihood increasing to at least one per decade with 2C global warming.
    • Limiting global warming to 1.5°C rather than 2°C is projected to prevent the thawing of an area of permafrost the size of Mexico.
    • Risks from heavy precipitation events are projected to be higher at 2°C compared to 1.5°C global warming in several regions, including eastern North America. Heavy precipitation associated with tropical cyclones is also projected to be higher at 2°C compared to 1.5°C.
    • Impacts associated with forest fires are lower at 1.5°C compared to 2°C of global warming
  • There is a significant risk of crossing critical thresholds and even triggering tipping points as warming goes from 1.5˚C to 2°C.

“One of the key messages that comes out very strongly from this report is that we are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes,” said Panmao Zhai, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group I.

“Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5°C or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II.

Human Impacts

  • Limiting global warming to 1.5°C could reduce the number of people both exposed to climate-related risks and susceptible to poverty by up to several hundred million by 2050 compared with 2°C
  • Limiting global warming to 1.5°C could reduce the proportion of the world population exposed to a climate-change induced increase in water stress by up to 50% compared to 2°C
  • Global annual catch for marine fisheries could decline by about 1.5 million tonnes for 1.5°C of global warming compared to a loss of more than 3 million tonnes for 2°C of global warming
  • Livestock are projected to be adversely affected with rising temperatures.

Economic Trends

  • Limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities.
  • “These systems transitions are unprecedented in terms of scale, but not necessarily in terms of speed.”
  • Economic trends are already transforming the power sector, which is moving rapidly to wind and solar.
  • The transitions in each sector must start now and be well underway in the next two decades.
  • The report provides the economic blueprint to continue the transformation in the power sector and start to transition other sectors to zero or negative emissions.

“The good news is that some of the kinds of actions that would be needed to limit global warming to 1.5oC are already underway around the world, but they would need to accelerate,” said Valerie Masson-Delmotte, Co-Chair of Working Group I.

Energy Transition and Transformational Change

  • The amount of coal in the global electricity mix would need to be reduced to close to 0% by 2050.
  • Renewables are projected to supply 70–85% of electricity in 2050 if warming is limited to 1.5°C.
  • Total energy-related investments are about 12% higher in 1.5°C pathways than 2°C pathways, and annual investment in low-carbon energy technologies and energy efficiency is roughly five times higher by 2050 than 2015.
  • To limit warming 1.5°C, CO2 emissions from industry are projected to be 75–90% lower in 2050 from 2010 levels.

Targets and Political Will

  • Global warming is likely to reach 1.5C between 2030 and 2052 if temperatures continue to increase at the current rate.
  • The best path for limiting warming to 1.5°C means reducing carbon pollution by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030 and reaching to net zero by 2050, though by 2040 would be even safer.
  • The report clearly shows that current Paris Agreement pledges are not enough to limit warming to 1.5°C, and governments need to strengthen national climate policies to limit warming.


  • Solar Radiation Modification (SRM) is poorly developed and risky, and would not mitigate some impacts of climate change like ocean acidification. SRM is not appropriate for consideration as a climate protection measure at this time, according to the report.

Carbon Drawdown and Overshoot

  • All pathways that limit global warming to 1.5°C with limited or no overshoot project the use of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) on the order of 100–1000 GtCO2 over the 21st century.
  • No single carbon drawdown technology or approach is sufficient, and that many approaches have significant problems, particularly when deployed at scale.
  • Significant near-term emissions reductions and measures to lower energy and land demand can limit CDR deployment to a few hundred GtCO2 without reliance on bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).
  • The draft report recommends investing in a portfolio of several drawdown strategies (ex: land restoration, BECCS, direct air capture) and highlights the deployment of natural carbon drawdown systems in farming, forestry, and wetlands.
  • If we miss 1.5°C and overshoot, there will be higher impacts and associated challenges. Reversing warming after an overshoot of 0.2°C or larger during this century would require upscaling and deployment of CDR at rates and volumes that might not be achievable given considerable implementation challenges.

Nigel Topping, CEO, We Mean Business coalition:
“The latest IPCC report tells us it is challenging – but entirely possible – to limit global warming to 1.5°C. The business community is already driving innovation and transformation across energy supply, fleets, buildings and agriculture but needs clear policies in these areas from governments within the next year to build a zero-carbon future faster.”

Aron Cramer, CEO, BSR, a network of over 250 member companies dedicated to sustainability: “Businesses around the world are rising to the ambition of the Paris Agreement. Almost 500 companies have adopted science-based targets, in a strong demonstration that the transition to low-carbon prosperity is accelerating. Businesses also know that meaningful climate action requires public policies that create certainty and market frameworks that create incentives for companies to move more rapidly. The arrival of the IPCC report shows just how urgent this progress is, and that there is more to be done. Our common challenge is to accelerate the pace of change, innovate low-carbon solutions, and design policies that will allow us to avoid the risk of runaway climate change and take advantage of the economic opportunities associated with achieving this goal.”

Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever, and Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, ITUC:
“We anticipate the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on 1.5 degrees will reveal the significant gap between our current action and action required. Current projections chart a 3°C rise above pre-industrial temperatures, where we would see a significant drop in food production, an increase in urban heat waves, longer droughts, fiercer hurricanes, more devastating wildfires and communities inundated by rising sea-waters. We cannot do business under these conditions. It is clear the cost of inaction is greater than the cost of action. To stay within 1.5 degrees, developed economies like the EU, whose leadership is essential, must achieve a just transition to net-zero emissions by 2050 at the latest.”

Gro Harlem Brundtland, Acting Chair of The Elders, Former Prime Minister of Norway: “This report is not a wake-up call, it is a ticking time bomb. Climate activists have been calling for decades for leaders to show responsibility and take urgent action, but we have barely scratched the surface of what needs to be done. Further failure would be an unconscionable betrayal of the planet and future generations.”

Mary Robinson, Former President of Ireland, Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Former UN Special Envoy on Climate Change:
“The IPCC report starkly sets out the challenges of securing a just transition to a 1.5 degree world, and the urgency with which this needs to be accomplished. This can only be done by a people-centred, rights-based approach with justice and solidarity at its heart. The time for talking is long past; leaders need to step up, serve their people and act immediately.”

Ban Ki-moon, Former UN Secretary General:
“Climate change is a global challenge demanding global solutions. Equity, inclusivity and cooperation must underpin our collective response to meet the 1.5 degree target, with states acting in the same spirit that led to the Paris Agreement and the SDGs. Climate change respects no borders; our actions must transcend all frontiers.”

Ricardo Lagos, Former President of Chile, Former UN Special Envoy on Climate Change:
“The threats posed by climate change to planetary health cannot be understated. The time for stating the scale of the problem has passed, and we now need to move to urgent, radical action to keep temperature rises to 1.5 degrees. It cannot be left to climate scientists and activists alone – it is a battle that must be joined by all those with an interest in our future survival.”

Ernesto Zedillo, Former President of Mexico:
“If we allow temperatures to rise above 1.5 degrees then all the progress on prosperity, growth and development risks being wiped out. Our economic paradigm needs to shift to promote zero-carbon, climate-resilient policies. This means putting a price on carbon and investing in new, sustainable technologies, but also giving those most affected a voice in developing new growth models.”

Rueanna Haynes, Climate Change Advisor to St Kitts and Nevis:
“The IPCC report is very clear that Government commitments are far from sufficient and will not achieve the Paris Agreement’s warming limit – there needs to be a redoubled effort to increase the level of ambition for 2030. This report provides the scientific grounding to kick this off in Katowice in support of the push for more ambitious NDCs to be submitted by 2020.”

Amjad Abdulla, chief negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States, and IPCC Board member: “The report shows that we only have the slimmest of opportunities remaining to avoid unthinkable damage to the climate system that supports life, as we know it. I have no doubt that historians will look back at these findings as one of the defining moments in the course of human affairs. I urge all civilized nations to take responsibility for it by dramatically increasing our efforts to cut the emissions responsible for the crisis and to do what is necessary to help vulnerable people respond to some of the devastating consequences we now know can no longer be avoided.”

Jan Erik Saugestad, CEO, Storebrand Asset Management:
“The IPCC report builds on the well-established body of evidence showing that the coal industry has no role in a climate stable world. It’s our pressing duty to call on other investors to end meaningless engagement with coal-exposed companies, and instead sell their shares. We’re seeing coal plant developers like the giant Japanese company Marubeni pulling out of coal projects, as well as the global banks like Standard Chartered. Investors that move with vision and ambition will benefit from the best deals. We must focus laser-like on financing our way out of this global climate crisis and into clean energy prosperity.”

Steve Waygood, Chief Responsible Investment Officer, Aviva Investors:
“Aviva Investors understands the business imperative of tackling climate change. The Economist Intelligence Unit estimated that, left unabated, climate change will cost the global economy $43tn in today’s prices. This is not a risk we can afford to take. Keeping global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees will help safeguard our investment portfolios and protect our customers savings. The long term negative financial consequences of climate change are far, far greater than the short term financial risks of transitioning to the Paris Agreement. Today’s report reiterates the need for policymakers to accelerate action to reduce carbon emissions and meet the agreed aims of the Paris Agreement.”

Nick Mabey, E3G, CEO:
“The IPCC report shows keeping climate change below 1.5°C is necessary, feasible and beneficial. Leaders have a clear choice: will they decide to accelerate climate action and protect all their citizens from harm, or will they support the minority with interests in the old polluting economy. The first test to see what side politicians are on will be if rich countries commit to making their economies net zero emission before 2050.”
Source: GSCC

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