IPCC Report – Risks of exceeding 1.5°C

Billed as the most controversial report yet from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Special Report on 1.5°C has been published today. We have distilled some of the key findings and spoken to clients and partners to get their view.

Carbon Credentials view: Our last chance 
Drawing on over 6,000 references, this is the clearest and most comprehensive summary of the scientific evidence that supports the need to limit warming to 1.5°C. The science is stark – the next 5 to 10 years are absolutely critical if we’re to avoid the worst effects of climate change and prevent substantial environmental, social and economic damage.

If this report was being published five years from now and there had been no material reduction in global GHG emissions, then the conclusion could be very different. This is our last chance to act and make the urgent and transformational changes that are technically and financially feasible, and put us on the right path to climate resilience and sustainable development.

Kené Umeasiegbu, Head of Environment at Tesco
Following the Paris Climate Agreement, we worked with external experts Carbon Credentials to set a new science-based target for Tesco which is aligned with a 1.5°C trajectory and enables us to meet our zero-carbon ambition.

The release of the IPCC’s Special Report on 1.5°C reinforces the importance for all companies to align their efforts and raise their ambition to help avoid dangerous climate change and create a sustainable future.”

Why has the IPCC published the report?
When the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015, the 21st Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) invited the IPCC to provide a report in 2018 on the impact of global warming of 1.5°C and the related emissions pathways.

Global warming relative to 1850-1900(°C). Source: IPCC Summary for Policy Makers

At COP-21 the precise wording of the temperature limit was a point of fierce debate and there was a lack of consensus about the different challenges and impacts associated with each pathway. Nations most at risk from climate change were left disappointed that the commitment didn’t rule out 2°C as a safe warming limit.

Adoption of the Paris Agreement
holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C”

There is a real concern that the pledges made by individual countries following the Paris Agreement are not sufficient to meet the 2°C goal. Analysis by Climate Action Tracker shows that pledges made at Paris, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs), put us on track for 3.2°C of warming by 2100 (range of 2.6 – 4.0°C). More concerning is that current policies put us on track for 3.4°C of warming by 2100 (range of 2.5 – 4.7°C).

It’s hoped that this Special Report will act as a call to arms, fast tracking new climate change policies and actions that put us on course to limit warming to 1.5°C.

Carly McLachlan, Director at Tyndall Manchester
The IPCC Special Report further supports the message that we have to raise our ambition in terms of the urgency and scale of action on reducing our emissions and planning for the resilience of our infrastructure. It’s not about long-term targets and kicking action into the long grass – we have to ask ourselves how we can significantly transform our carbon footprints now.

The great thing is that we already know lots of the answers – and if we think about the co-benefits of action for our costs, our reputation, our innovation and our staff morale then we should be able to challenge the tired and inaccurate assumptions that being ‘green’ is something to be traded against business performance.”

Why is the special report controversial?
The report draws upon thousands of scientific studies and is the product of months of evaluation and negotiation, to provide clear policy recommendations and detailed guidance to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Given the substantial environmental, political and economic implications of what is contained in the report, it’s unsurprising that the report has attracted such attention.

Vicky Murray​, Sustainability Manager at Pukka Herbs
“Pukka Herbs welcomes the publication of the IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C. Pukka is committed to taking a lead in the fight against climate change. This is why we worked with Carbon Credentials to set a zero-carbon target for 2030, in alignment with maintaining global warming below 1.5°C.

Our hope is that this report and the findings within in it will spur action to minimise the impact of climate change and protect our people, plants and planet.”

What does the report call for?
The report calls for us to pursue climate-resilient development pathways that limit warming to 1.5°C while adapting to its consequences and simultaneously achieving sustainable development and eradication of poverty. Sounds simple, right?

Our remaining carbon budget for a 1 in 2 chance of limiting global warming to 1.5°C is about 580 GtCO2. Pathways that aim for no or limited overshoot of 1.5°C have reductions of 40-50% from 2010 to 2030, compared to a 20% cut in the 2°C pathway.

The report presents different carbon budgets for 1.5°C under 50% and 66% probability, and states that global GHG emissions are currently 42(±3) GtCO2 each year.


Key Statistics
Human-induced global warming reached 1°C ± 0.2°C in 2017
There is a significant reduction of risks by limiting warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C, including the risk of:

  • Extreme climatic changes (e.g. heavy precipitation events, extreme droughts)
  • Biodiversity, ecosystems and species loss
  • Increased ocean temperatures, acidification and oxygen levels
  • Warm water coral reefs would lose a further 70-90% of cover at 1.5°C warming, but would be 99% lost at 2°C
  • 10 million fewer people expected to be exposed to sea level rise risk at 1.5°C compared to 2°C, assuming a 0.1m difference
  • Reversing warming after an overshoot of 1.5°C during this century would require upscaling and deployment of carbon dioxide removal at rates and volumes that might not be achievable given considerable implementation challenges

Energy mix changes for 1.5°C consistent pathways:

  • By 2030 renewables need to supply 60% of electricity rising to 70-85% by 2050
  • By 2050 the share of electricity generated by gas needs to reduce to 8%
  • By 2050 the use of coal needs to be reduced to close to 0%
  • Annual average investment in the energy system of around 2.4 trillion is needed between 2016 and 2035 to limited global temperatures to 1.5°C – this represents about 2.5% of the world GDP

What must businesses do now?

Businesses can play a key role in helping transition to a low-carbon economy.

Some companies are already taking action.

If your business does not reduce its emissions in line with the scientific pathway to reach 2°C or lower, then other businesses will have to make up for your shortfall.

We have a strategic approach to enabling business to set the appropriate level of ambition to reduce their carbon emissions in line with the science. We worked with Tesco to set its approved science-based targets to 1.5 degrees.