Earth Day 2023 will be marked on 22 April to mobilize policymakers, investors and society at large to fight the climate crisis.
A new report from the IPCC underlines that despite all progress, we are still off track when meeting vital targets.
But it also reveals that many climate mitigation solutions are ready, we just have to deploy them at scale – here are five examples.
On April 22, the world will be marking Earth Day, a global day of environmental activism to bring about policy changes, mobilize funding and transform human behaviour to fight the climate crisis. Earth Day 2023 comes as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) latest report has reinforced we are still way off-track when it comes to redressing the impacts of global warming.
Despite all mitigation efforts, Earth’s climate continues to get warmer, and is likely to reach 1.5°C anytime between 2030 and 2035, the IPCC warns. To stop it from rising above this limit, greenhouse gas and CO2 emissions must be reduced by at least 43% by 2030 and at least 60% by 2035 (compared to 2019 levels).
UN Secretary-General António Guterres described the report as “a clarion call to massively fast-track climate efforts” but also as “a how-to guide to defuse the climate time-bomb”.
5 climate solutions we need to scale up right now
Here are five of the climate fixes the IPCC believes could make the biggest difference within the shrinking timeframe the world has for lowering greenhouse gas emissions – if they can be scaled up immediately.
In this chart, the IPCC has highlighted key areas and “fixes” to speed the abatement of climate change. Image: IPCC
1. Investing in renewable energy technology
A substantial drop in fossil fuel use will be essential to reducing CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions. The IPCC highlights the need for diversifying energy systems and investing in expanding the use of renewable energy technology. It points to wind and solar energy as the most cost-effective and impactful solutions to redress climate change. Alongside these, carbon capture and storage technology (CCS) will be needed to contain CO2 emissions from any remaining fossil fuel applications.
2. Protecting forests and other ecosystems
Nature provides some of the best carbon sinks. Therefore, avoiding the loss of forests and other natural ecosystems will be critical to abating global warming. This starts with sustainable forest management to conserve existing forests. But it also means restoring woodlands and measures such as reforestation – planting new trees in a forest where the number of trees has dropped – and creating new woodlands (afforestation). Reducing deforestation in the tropics is likely to have the highest total mitigation potential, says the IPCC, but other areas such as polar, mountain and coastal ecosystems must equally be protected.
3. Limiting emissions in food systems
Closely intertwined with ecosystems is our food production. Statistics from Our World in Data show that half of the habitable land used for agriculture and food production causes more than a quarter of CO2 emissions, not to mention other greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide. Reducing these emissions will be another critical route towards slowing global warming.
The IPCC points to better management of cropland, improved water management and more efficient livestock systems. Livestock makes up all but 4% of global mammals – excluding humans, which creates a strong bias in terms of biodiversity.
4. Expanding agricultural carbon sequestration
Beyond these measures, sequestering agricultural emissions needs to be expanded.
The soil plays a key part here as a carbon sink. As crops photosynthesize, they take CO2 from the air, create oxygen and store the carbon in the soil. Ploughing or tilling can release this CO2 back into the atmosphere. Therefore, “climate-smart” agricultural methods that don’t disturb the soil, crop rotation and improving soil cover are ways of sequestering CO2 and containing it underground.
Adjusting end-user demand is vital to the success of climate solutions. Image: IPCC
5. Changing human behaviour to reduce CO2
Taken together, these and other measures outlined by the IPCC can all contribute to the significant emission reductions needed to keep climate change in check. But there is another vital factor to be considered: people.
We cannot halt or reverse the effects of the climate crisis without behavioural changes, especially when it comes to reducing demand. These range from improving the energy efficiency of homes and businesses to adopting more sustainable diets, and reducing food waste and loss.
The World Economic Forum works with political leaders to boost climate commitments, develops climate initiatives with the private sector and provides a platform for climate solution innovators. Its series of initiatives to tackle climate change include the Getting to Zero Coalition for the shipping sector, the Food Action Alliance and the Industry Net Zero Accelerator.
Written by : Andrea Willige - Senior Writer, Forum Agenda - World Economic Forum
This article is part of : Centre for Nature and Climate