The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) released their Working Group 1 report on the 9th August – the first instalment of the 6th Assessment Report. This has received substantial airtime in the media since, as the first major review of climate science since 2013, and because it comes 3 months before COP26 – the summit where the world’s political leaders will come together to review our global response to the climate crisis.Unsurprisingly, the message is grim. Changes in our climate are now being observed in every region of the world, and across our entire Earth System. Many of these changes are unprecedented in hundreds of thousands of years and some are irreversible over similar timeframes. All emissions scenarios now show 1.5°C of warming by or before 2040, growth in unparalleled extreme weather events, and a practically ice-free Arctic at least once before 2050.
Regional updates show that New Zealand has now warmed approximately 1.1°C (since 1910), Australia has warmed 1.4°C and the rate of sea level rise is higher in Australasia than the global average. Key regional impacts recorded include agricultural and ecological droughts, glacial retreats, coastal flooding and erosion, and fire season prolongation, and these are projected to continue to increase. Extreme sea level events that were previously considered one in 100-year events may be annual occurrences by the end of the century.
While this paints a pretty bleak picture, it is not all bad news - in IPCC author Dr Friederike Otto’s words, “we are not doomed”.
There is now much greater certainty that if we can achieve 50% emissions reductions by 2030, hit net-zero by 2050, and then start to absorb more carbon than we emit over the second half of the century, we can expect temperatures to stabilise and even decrease.
Another IPCC author, Distinguished Professor Peter Newman, who will be contributing to the mitigation report due later this year remains very optimistic, citing examples such as the changing economics of renewable energy, mega-trends in behaviour change such as peak car ownership, and new technologies such as hydrogen as evidence that the transition is feasible and underway.
At Beca, we feel the message for us and our clients is very clear. The report re-emphasises the urgent need for immediate, rapid, and large-scale reductions in emissions with exponential increases in impact predicted for every increment of additional warning. It is also a clear call to “brace for impact”.
Ahead of the IPCC update, Beca – like many of our clients – have redoubled our efforts in this space - focussing both on what this means for us and our people, and on the way we work with our clients to support them on their transition.
Beca has set science-based targets for our direct and indirect emissions. We are progressing our decarbonisation roadmap. We are exploring and evaluating options and initiatives ranging from assessing the way we travel to and for work – learning from the innovations and lessons over the last 12 months, to enhancing the performance of our buildings, to understanding and decarbonising our supply chains. This year we are also focussing on understanding and mitigating the physical and financial risks of climate change on our business.
In parallel, our people are working closely with many of our clients to support both business and industry transitions for decarbonisation and climate resilience.For example, Shane Gowan, the General Manager of our Industrial Group has recently joined the leadership group of Aotearoa Circle’s Energy Forum to help map out a robust transition pathway to a decarbonised national energy system in New Zealand. We’ve supported Deakin University’s ‘zero carbon by 2030’ aspirations through the management of the grid connection and concept design for the Renewable Energy Microgrid associated with their 7MW Solar Farm; supplying up to 50% of total site power and reducing site emissions by 12,000 tonnes CO2e.
In 2020 we partnered with Fonterra and Firstgas Group to produce a study evaluating the potential of low emissions bio-gas technology to decarbonise our natural gas network and provide powerful cross-sector benefits like decreased waste emissions and circular nutrient economies that support our agricultural sector. The study, released in July, highlighted that by 2050 upgraded biogas could make up 25% of our natural gas requirements, decreasing NZ's annual emissions by 4%." We’ve also helped PT Vale Indonesia to take the first step in their decarbonisation journey, helping them to meet their decarbonisation goals by conducting an energy optimisation study.
Our team is co-creating with Auckland Council a climate impact assessment tool to apply a mitigation and adaptation lens to investment decisions and policy development. We have also developed a sustainable infrastructure decision making framework for Waikato Regional Council which will guide long-term decisions that support lower emissions and build resilience, including to climate change. In Singapore, where there is a strong government response and large investment in infrastructure to mitigate the effects of climate change, we are actively working to get technologies like Btune - advanced software to help reduce energy use and cost - into buildings.Of note for organisations performing climate scenario analysis and disclosing risks using the Task-Force for Climate-related Financial Disclosure (TCFD) framework: the 6th Assessment report uses updated scenarios which not only set pathways for greenhouse gas concentrations but also consider how social and political factors affect these emissions trajectories. We can support organisations to use either pathways.
If you are keen to chat about what this report means to you and your organisation in more detail, please feel free to contact our team.