View of the dais during the IPCC's 58th session in Interlaken, Switzerland

IPCC Research Shows Need for Ramping Up Mitigation Ambition, Tackling Adaptation Gaps

March 22, 2023

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Synthesis Report of its sixth assessment cycle confirms that the world is already dangerously close to the 1.5°C temperature limit under the Paris Agreement—but also affirms that there are proven options available to avert the most catastrophic warming and improve adaptation planning and action, IISD experts say.

The science shows that preventing the global average temperature increase from exceeding the Paris Agreement target of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century is still possible—but only if governments take immediate, ambitious action. 

IISD analysis of IPCC 1.5°C scenarios shows that no new oil and gas development is possible if the world is to stay with the Paris Agreement temperature limits. Any new oil and gas fields will push the world beyond 1.5°C or generate stranded assets unless relying on levels of carbon dioxide removal that exceed IPCC feasibility thresholds. Governments should stop awarding licences and permits to explore for or develop new oil and gas fields or coal mines, or other long-term infrastructure to produce, transport, or consume fossil fuels. They should set an end date with clear interim targets for fossil fuel production and consumption in their countries based on science and equity.

“The IPCC Synthesis Report gives clear evidence of governments’ failure to address the root cause of climate change. To change course, progress on renewable energy scale-up must be accompanied by a global decline in fossil fuel production and consumption,” said Olivier Bois von Kursk, Policy Analyst for IISD’s Energy program.

The science also makes clear that carbon capture and storage (CCS) in the fossil fuel sector cannot adequately compensate for delaying oil and gas production decline, and these technologies do not bear out their promise in practice. The IPCC has shown that CCS is one of the most expensive and least effective measures to cut emissions—while wind and solar energies have the biggest mitigation potential at the lowest cost. After more than 50 years of investment, only 30 large-scale CCS projects are operating worldwide, capturing only 0.1% of emissions.

“The IPCC warns that relying too much on carbon capture technology represents a major risk to climate safety. The growing consensus is that CCS for oil and gas won’t be enough and costs too much. IPCC research supports that view,” said Angela Carter, Specialist, Energy Transitions at IISD.

To align global energy supply with the 1.5°C limit, the focus must instead be on boosting wind and solar energy capacities while supporting vulnerable communities. The IPCC Synthesis Report shows that we have the global financial capital needed to close the investment gaps on both climate change mitigation and adaptation, but this capital must be redirected. 

Governments can immediately kick-start change by shifting public financial flows which they directly control—but despite numerous commitments to do so dating back as far as 2009, little progress has been made. An IISD submission to the Global Stocktake (GST) shows that fossil fuel subsidies were estimated at USD 543 billion in 2015, the year of the Paris Agreement, but instead of going down, they exceeded USD 1 trillion for the first time in 2022. IISD analysis also shows that planned investments for new oil and gas to 2030 could fully finance the scale-up of wind and solar energy needed to align with 1.5°C. 

Global temperature has already increased by 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels and is expected to exceed 1.5°C during this century, pushing the world past critical thresholds. Climate change risks and impacts will intensify as our planet gets warmer. Alongside the urgent need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, the IPCC calls on countries to accelerate their efforts to adapt to climate change.

While there has been important progress in adaptation around the world, it is not keeping pace with climate impacts. In fact, the gap between what is happening on the ground and what is needed is only growingan alarming trend, given that more than 3 billion people are already living in areas highly vulnerable to climate change. The IPCC has concluded that most adaptation responses to date have been fragmented, incremental, and unequally distributed across regions. They have also flagged important barriers to adaptation action, such as:

  • Limited resources 
  • Lack of private sector and citizen engagement 
  • Insufficient mobilization of finance (including for research) 
  • Low climate literacy 
  • Lack of political commitment 
  • Limited research and/or slow and low uptake of adaptation science 
  • Low sense of urgency 

Overcoming these barriers and coordinating the range and scale of efforts needed to secure a livable future requires planning and resources. While more and more jurisdictions are developing adaptation plans, they need to be implementable—meaning that they must articulate clear priorities, targets, responsibilities, and associated costs and sources of funding. As the IPCC clearly states, finance for adaptation is insufficient and must increase greatly. 

"The IPCC highlights major gaps in adaptation. It also points to ongoing progress and the benefits of inclusive, equitable, and long-term adaptation planning. Including adaptation in every area of government decision making is now crucial," said Anne Hammill, Associate Vice President, Resilience, at IISD. IISD is the host of the secretariat of the National Adaptation Plan Global Network.

By committing to a National Adaptation Plan process, countries can address these gaps, mobilize financial and other resources, and accelerate the implementation of equitable solutions with lasting impacts–especially for people living in poverty and experiencing discrimination. We must do what we can to close these adaptation gaps that leave our most vulnerable at risk. 

The first Global Stocktake under the Paris Agreement concludes this November at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s 28th Conference of the Parties. With the IPCC’s Synthesis Report serving as a direct input into the GST, this new synthesis report is an invaluable reminder of the need to ratchet up efforts and ambition on mitigation, adaptation, and finance, both in the months leading up to COP 28 and the years to come.

The photo used for the banner image of this article is by IISD/ENB's Anastasia Rodopoulou.