About Sustainability…

The IPCC 6th Assessment Report: experiences and key messages from some Working Group III authors

May 03, 2022 Institute for Global Environmental Strategies Season 1 Episode 5
About Sustainability…
The IPCC 6th Assessment Report: experiences and key messages from some Working Group III authors
Show Notes Transcript

Bob and André talked to Sudarmanto Budi Nugroho (“Toto”) and Eric Zusman, two IGES experts who were involved in Working Group III (Climate Mitigation) of the 6th Assessment Report (AR6) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The latest report in the IPCC AR6 series, the WGIII Report summarises the latest knowledge on climate mitigation options, building on the work of Working Groups I (the Physical Basis of Climate Change) and II (Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability). 

The reports that the IPCC has produced since its establishment in 1988 tell us where we are with climate change and produce scientific inputs that inform policy and decision-making to address this crisis. The IPCC is the only UN body for assessing the science of climate change.

We had such a fascinating discussion learning about the process of producing the report, including the review process of each chapter and the complicated issues around equity in selecting members of the Working Groups. In this conversation, we did not dive into the nitty-gritty details of the report, but this is what we know: we are not curbing emissions fast enough to be on track to limit warming to 1.5ºC, and national goals have to be even more ambitious.  The good news is that the cost of technological innovations has come down faster than previously anticipated, lowering the barrier to taking action. There is an ever-narrowing but still open window of opportunity.

On another occasion, we hope to have a chance to revisit the report’s content in more depth.

Helpful resources:

About our guests:

Sudarmanto Budi Nugroho (referred to as “Toto” in this conversation) is a Research Manager in IGES' City Taskforce.  He co-authored Chapter 10 on transport, as well as the Summary for Policymakers (SPM).

Eric Zusman is Research Leader in IGES' Integrated Sustainability Centre.  He co-authored Chapter 17: Accelerating the transition in the context of sustainable development.

About this podcast:

"About Sustainability..." is a podcast brought to you by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), an environmental policy think-tank based in Hayama, Japan. IGES experts are concerned with environmental and sustainability challenges including, but not limited to, climate change; biodiversity and ecosystems; sustainable consumption and production; the Sustainable Development Goals; and overarching governance issues. Harnessing this expertise, the podcast serves to discuss and draw attention to contemporary issues and events relevant to sustainability with a frank reflective discussion from both within and beyond the Institute.

Everything shared on the podcast will be off-the-cuff discussion, and any viewpoints expressed are those held by the speaker at the time of recording. They are not necessarily official IGES positions.

Bob:

It's good to be back with the About Sustainability... Podcast. In this episode, we talk to our colleagues, Eric and Toto, about climate science and how it's linked to policy through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, also called the IPCC. The IPCC produces assessment reports every seven years, and these assessment reports are authored by three Working Groups. Both Eric and Toto have been part of the authoring process in IPCC Working Group III. Sudarmanto Budi Nugroho, who we called Toto in our office and during this discussion, is a research manager in IGES' City Taskforce. He co-authored Chapter 10 on transport as well is the Summary for Policymakers, which we abbreviate as SPM of the assessment report. And Eric Zusman is a Research Leader and IGES' Integrated Sustainability Centre. He co-authored Chapter 17 "Accelerating the Transition in the Context of Sustainable Development". We had such a fascinating discussion, learning about the process of producing the report that we weren't able to dig into the content of the report quite as much as I would have liked, but hopefully we'll have a chance to revisit this topic on another occasion. Particularly interesting to me was the review process that each chapter goes through and the complicated issues around equity in selecting members of the working groups. That's enough of me telling you about it. It Is time for you to hear it for yourself. Maybe, Eric, if I could ask you to tell us a little bit about what the IPCC is?

Eric:

IPCC or the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is basically a panel that's made up of 195 representatives from governments from different countries, and it was created to provide state-of-the- art science on climate change for those governments. It was created in 1988, so [it is] important to underline here that this was at a time when there was a lot of interest in strengthening the scientific foundation for policy on international issues like climate change. There was hope that by bringing together the most cutting edge and leading scientists that this would also create the foundation for a climate change agreement. And so, created in 1988 by the UNEP (the United Nations Environment Programme) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). And after it was created, it started working on a series of assessment reports, and those assessment reports would, as hoped, also sit at the centre of the main framework agreement on climate change, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Bob:

Okay. So you said it was created by UNEP and WMO. And then there's also the UNFCCC, which you just defined the acronym for. So is IPCC- is it its own organization? Is it under the umbrella of UNEP or... Kind of, what's the relationship between all of those bodies?

Eric:

Right. So yeah, in terms of the IPCC, it informs the UNFCCC, but it's not underneath the UNFCCC, but it is underneath the UNEP and WMO. And the UNFCCC can make requests to the IPCC to develop reports that are of importance to the UNFCCC processes. So for instance, recently many of us might have heard of this 1.5-degree report ([Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC]), and this was developed by the IPCC based upon a request or based upon actually one of the decisions coming out of discussions over the implementation of the UNFCCC.

André:

Eric, in the case of IPBES (the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services), it's regarded as independent. And as far as I understand, the IPCC is the same and I've never quite understood what that means. Whereas so the CBD (the Convention on Biological Diversity) is like the UNFCCC or very similar. They're both UN bodies, but then the IPBES and, as far as I understand, the IPCC are regarded as 'independent'. Do you know what is meant by that?

Eric:

For my understanding, the IPCC is under the UNEP and WMO, but the conclusions that are reached during the reporting process are independent of UNEP and WMO. In other words, you know, the UNEP and WMO, like any other stakeholders, they can comment on the reports, which are sort of the central outputs of the IPCC, but they don't have undue influence on the outcomes of those reports.

André:

Okay.

Toto:

Yeah, probably in addition to that, as part of the UNFCCC process, the result of the assessment report usually is input[s] for the UNFCCC process. For example, the Kyoto Protocol in 97-two years before that there was the assessment report (AR2) as input for the [Kyoto] process and also like [for] the Paris agreement [in] 2015, [in] 2014, there was an assessment report (AR5). So I mean, the IPCC report[s] contribute to the UNFCCC process, actually.

Bob:

These assessment reports and the working groups: I understand from the little reading I did before we started this that there are three working groups that contribute each assessment report. And then I think the two of you are both part of one of the working groups. So if you could talk about that a little bit, I'd appreciate it.

Toto:

Yeah. Yeah. Thank you, Bob. Well, in the beginning, it's not really well established - the working groups - because we were just starting, but the process [was] evolving. So then in the last two assessment reports, there are three different working groups: the first working group (WGI) on the physical science examines what is the physical condition of Earth related to the climate, and then Working Group II (WGII) is about the adaptation to the climate vulnerability. And the third (WGIII} is on mitigation and [what] we should do to mitigate climate [change] in the future. That's basically the explanation.

Bob:

To which working group are you contributing? I don't know if you're in just one or if you contribute to multiple ones, but could you elaborate on that? What is IGES doing with the working groups?

Toto:

Yeah, we are working particularly in Working Group III, which is mitigation to climate [change]. However, in the process, we are also invited to contribute as reviewers to like, to make a comment to the other group[s], and also especially, because like for example, during the process, we also refer to what we have done in the [other] working groups. Like Working Group I is on the physical science and then we use that to determine what mitigation action is needed. That's basically the linkage between the [working] groups.

Bob:

So what does it mean to to contribute to a working group? What work are you doing? And it sounds like maybe the outputs of these working groups are not coming out at the same time, but are coming out in a staggered fashion. Are they all kind of producing outputs about the same time, or is it one feeds into the next one, [which] feeds into the next one?

Toto:

It's a very good question. The first part - starting with the physical examination of climate [on Earth] in Working Group I, because this is the basic foundation, for example, regarding the future condition. And then, that will be useful for the Working Group II for adaptation, and how we need to adapt to the situation and then to avoid some barriers in the future, to make it better in the future. And then we need to do some mitigation. That's basically the sequence [of the three working groups' focus]. And yes, of course, it is not in parallel, but in series [sequence] like the first is Working Group I and then Working Group II and then Working Group III.

André:

Does that mean that the policy options that are provided by these reports, is that done only for Working Group II and III, or is it done for all three of them? Do all three of them provide options for policymakers?

Eric:

I think Working Group II and Working Group III have a stronger emphasis on policy. And we're supposed to be, may I say, "policy relevant", but not "policy prescriptive". I think the word that André used options'' is a good word in the sense that we outline what some of the options might be and some of their benefits and drawbacks. And we imply what the recommendation might be, but we're not telling the governments exactly what they need to do.

Bob:

And so then the output is this report.

Toto:

The last product is the Synthesis Report, a synthesis from the three working groups that will be published in this coming October. So after the three working groups are done, then they make a synthesis of the three different reports.

Bob:

Okay. So that's another like kind of "editing and putting everything together" process that happens after the working groups have their work done -is that...

Toto:

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Bob:

That makes sense, yeah.

Toto:

Yeah.

Eric:

In terms of the review of these reports, there is a pretty extensive review process for all three of the Working Group reports. And so you develop three different drafts and each time you develop a draft, you'll get comments on the content.

André:

Eric, who are those comments from?

Eric:

Yeah. So the [draft documents] are open to the public and to governments and researchers, and I would say it varies from one chapter to the next, but I would say researchers, research institutes with an environmental focus and then governments are sort of three biggest groups.

Toto:

We started the assessment report in 2019 and then we have the first draft in 2020, and then we received more than 30,000 comments from...This is open.

André:

30,000!

Toto:

Yes, 30,000, or more than 30,000. And then we revised based on the comments and then [we came] to the second order draft in 2021, I think. And then we also received another 29,000. Then we have the final draft. The final draft is only commented [on] by the governments. O n that, we receive about 5,000 comments. So in total we receive about 59, 212 review comments in total. And then after we finish the draft and the government people comment about 4,000-5,000 [comments], then we finish the final draft, and then we make a summary: what we call a Summary for Policymakers (SPM). I'm a drafting member of the Summary for Policymakers. Several authors from each chapter are selected to make a summary of each chapter because in total, we have 2,912 pages in the whole report, so nobody will read that one. So then we make a summary, which is about 64 pages.

Eric:

Just quickly on the review process, too. [For] all of those comments, we need to have a response to every one of them. It doesn't mean we have to accept every single one of them, but they basically give us this monster spreadsheet and-

Toto:

Yeah.

Eric:

And then, you know, I don't know how it was done in the chapters that you worked on, Toto. But basically, you're assigned a cluster of comments and you need to write down either 'accept' or 'reject' or 'partially accept' and how you're going to deal with the comment.

Toto:

Yeah, yeah. Because first you make a category of the comment. Like "this is a substantive comment" or "editorial comment" or others. Like for editorial, we make just like edits, okay. But if it's substantial, then we need to respond whether we accept that comment or we reject or something like that.

Eric:

The commenting or responding to the commenting process is in some ways just as difficult or as time-consuming as the drafting process. The comments are coming from sort of two types of categories, at least from my impression. One is researchers that want to get their own research cited within the IPCC. So they're basically saying, "you should look at this article and cite this article". And then the other, governments are checking every word and the tone of the phrasing and whatnot. So, you know, if there's something that says, you know, "fossil fuel subsidies are not a good thing", you might have a government say "it might not be a good thing in this context, but in this context, it might actually be a good thing so please check that". There's an effort, even though we're trying to be policy relevant and not policy prescriptive, there's an effort to strongly influence things by governments.

Toto:

Yeah. Yeah, that's true. That's true. Because this needs to be approved by 195 member states and the approval session is about two weeks [long]. It's about approv[ing] 60 pages of the SPM. I mentioned before that [the full report] is, what, 2912 [pages long] and then we make it- slim it down to 64 [pages]. Those 64 [pages] need to be approved by the governments. Line by line. Sentence by sentence.

Bob:

Yeah. It sounds like a really tough, grueling process. How do you go through that process?

I guess, two questions:

One is, a lot of these events we've been discussing in the past, conversations we've had have been substantially delayed because of COVID. And I wonder if that has impacted this process. And then what is that process? Are you meeting in person with workshops or are you doing it differently than you normally would under the restrictions around COVID?

Eric:

With COVID, I think like much of the work that we do, you know, there's been a Zoom ification of the way that we've developed the report. And I mean, prior to COVID, we'd have these author meetings - in-person author meetings - and Toto and I attended two of these. And basically at those meetings you have small group discussions with your- with the chapter that you're assigned to, and then there's also plenary discussions as well as cross-group discussions. And, in each of those fora, you're constantly thinking about conceiving, you know, how you're going to develop the text, especially for the chapter that you're assigned to, and then, I think, as the process evolves, you might join other chapters or you might become involved in other chapters or other related activities. And at least for me, the most grueling part was the in-chapter work. I mean, we'd have these really intense 2- to 3- hour drafting discussions. You would sit within a room with really smart and dedicated people and try to develop something that captures the essence of what's happening in the literature. And so really we're trying to assess the literature, but part of it also is to synthesise it in a way that makes it compelling, intriguing, and will motivate action on the ground. So it's partially an assessment, but there's a lot of synthesis going on there and interacting with these Albert Einstein-, Elinor Ostrom- type of people in this room to build that synthesis in a way that you can really move things forward. In our chapter, we focused on accelerating the transition in the context of sustainable development. So we had two themes that were pretty new. The whole chapter itself was a new chapter. It hadn't been covered as a chapter as such in the reporting process. And these two themes were (1) this accelerating transition - so this whole idea of sustainability transitions, which has really grown over the past 15 years or so in the work on climate change and sustainable development - Sustainable transitions was one of the themes that we tried to deal with a lot. And the other (2) was in the context of sustainable development, and so making linkages to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Bob:

Is this leading into another international negotiation?

Eric:

I don't think you'll get another high profile agreement like the Paris Agreement necessarily.

Toto:

The intent is to submit this report before the COP 27 in Egypt. So this will be a kind of input to the next meeting.

André:

I wanted to ask two kind of unrelated questions. So let me ask them at the same time and then maybe one of you can take one and the other can take the other question. The one is just to confirm that the the report writing is based on existing literature, as far as I understand. Right?

Eric:

Yeah.

André:

Okay. So it's quite- perhaps a "yes" is all that's required for that, but feel free to elaborate, but, Yeah, I think it's just maybe important for people to know that the [empirical] research is not done during the compilation of the report. It's drawing on existing literature at which needs to have been submitted by a particular date somewhere during the assessment process. And then another question is, Toto, you mentioned earlier on the SPM (the Summary for Policymakers) and you also mentioned that the document itself is nearly 3000 pages long, and you jokingly said nobody will read that, which is perhaps true. But then why does the document exist? You know, why have that document if nobody's going to read it or is it a case of the SPM provid[ing] links to the documents that you can then go and search for additional information in the full document ? Is that the idea?

Toto:

"Yes, so I first will answer on the SPM. The SPM is kind of a synthesis of our working group report. And in the summary, there [are] headline statement[s] and bullet point[s]. Each of them [are] linked to the report. So for example, headline statement #1 - this one links to Chapter 1, for example, on the framing because the first part is the introduction and framing. So if you read this Summary for Policymakers (for the governments) and then they need to have more details, then it [is] supported by a main report, basically.

André:

Okay. Right.

Eric:

The answer to your question, Andre, about the literature is that, yes, it's assessment of the literature, and it's supposed to be a systematic literature review. So you're supposed to use things like Scopus or other search engines to do a keyword search and then determine what are the sort of key themes, and then to organise it and synthesise it in a way that's once again, "policy relevant".

Toto:

Probably the systematic review is - what I understand from the process - is in part of [efforts] to avoid bias. For example, like walking and cycling is actually good for health. This is the example in my chapter. But we have literature [that] also said like, it also increases the risk of injury or traffic accidents and also air pollution- like, receive air pollution. So we need to cover both in our assessment - like, this is good for health, but also [there are] risks. But we also have "levels of confidence", like, if most of the literature says "A", you can have high confidence, but if some literature says A, but other literature says B, which is the opposite [of A], then we need to decrease the confidence level of this statement, whether this will be medium or low in confidence. And so that's basically how we do the assessment in this report.

Bob:

How are the the contributors to these working groups selected?

Eric:

First, IPCC make up a call for submission of author - to be authors for this one - nominations in 2017. And countries can nominate some people or organisations can submit the nomination because it is open. And then in total, the IPCC receives about 800 applicants for this position, and then they select based on the composition, like in consideration of developing and developed countries, North and South, and also like gender balance, etc. And then in the [end] the number of spots is about 278 authors who are selected to participate to develop this report. But this [opportunity] is voluntary. So you should remember that working in the IPCC is voluntary. You cannot get paid from anywhere. So for about 3, 4 years, it is voluntary, consuming- time- consuming but voluntary. So it is not really attractive for some people. Yeah. Yeah. That's basically the basic idea.

Bob:

I can see why it could be important that is unpaid or necessary that is unpaid. But I wonder if that also inserts a bias into the document. If the only people who can contribute to this paper are people who can spend three or four years of significant unpaid time to contribute to the report, maybe that eliminates a large group of people from being able to participate in this process.

Toto:

That's actually true. I talked with an author from my country, Indonesia, when the national government was sending nominations to organisations within the country. Some of them were hesitant to do because this is unpaid. So you need to- have to spend a lot of energy for this unpaid [work]. Why is it unpaid? Because we need to have a neutral position. As mentioned, we need to avoid bias. Every year we sign [off that] we don't have any specific interest. That is to make this process look neutral. But actually, when we we discuss in our chapter, for example, authors also have some preference like what needs to be highlighted. So this is some, some very good debate and discussion on which [options] should be prioritised or something like that. Because we are talking with the- Working Group III is talking about like sensitive issues on mitigation - very sensitive for some country or some region. But we need to make it, as mentioned by Eric, policy relevant. "These are options." "Okay. Well, this is sensitive for you, but this is an option". We can frankly say like that.

André:

And is there quite a strong effort made to ensure representation- global representation and to balance between developed and developing countries? Is that something that's discus-ed in some detail in the planning stages?

Toto:

Yeah. They try it. Like in my- for example, in my chapter, the coordinating lead authors - we have two in the beginning: one from Australia (male) and the other one, female from Brazil. So they try to have both origin and also developing and developed [countries]. And also gender balance. And within the team members, we cover almost all five

continents:

one from America, one- two from Europe and several from Asia, and also from Africa. We have also from Africa.

Eric:

I think that's- One of the criteria in selecting the author group is the regional representation and gender balance. How that applies to any specific person, it's difficult to judge, but in terms of the assignment to the different chapters, you definitely see an emphasis. The coordinating lead authors, there's usually one from developed and one from developing country. And then within the group itself, as Toto suggested, it's across many different regions with a pretty significant emphasis on gender balance.

André:

Do you know if that's always been like that, going right back to the beginning of IPCC. Has there always been that effort to achieve balance or is it something that's developed a long time, over time?

Eric:

I think, André, that it's become a growing point of emphasis. To be honest with you, I don't know for the first assessment report, how that played out. But I do recall maybe... Toto, like at the very first authors' meeting in Edinburgh, I think there was a picture of the diversity of the group and some reflection on how that diversity has- or how it's become more diverse over time. That sort of sticks in the back of my head.

André:

Okay. Right.

Bob:

So maybe we can now kind of pivot into the actual content of the report. Maybe we start at a high level. What is the main- I don't know what makes sense, but the top few points of this report that really stand out?

Toto:

Yeah, actually I mentioned it a little bit when I explained about the Summary for Policymakers, becuse one of the reasons in the early introduction of the Summary of Policymakers, they mention about three main points. First is involving the global landscape, like processes like the UNFCCC, the Paris Agreement and UN Sustainable Development Agenda, etc. .

And then the second point:

they recognise about the importance of the new emerging actors and approaches. Emerging actors, we have a more significant, important role of the non-state actor, cities and subnational government sector, citizens, local communities, transnational activities and public private partnerships. And the third one, as mentioned by Eric also in the beginning, there is a more tendency of- a closer relationship between climate mitigation, adaptation and sustainable development. We need to go to that direction. And so basically, [these are] the new things that we embedded in this new assessment report. I think.

Eric:

I'll also throw in a few sort of headline messages, too. I mean, I think one of the big headline messages, right, is that we're still not doing enough to really avoid climate emergency in order to stay within this 1.5 degree goal by the end of this century. The emissions of greenhouse gases between 2010 and 2019 continued to rise. The good news is, compared to the previous decade, 2000 to 2009, they rose at a lower rate, but they still continued to increase. And this places us on a trajectory that makes it very difficult for us to achieve this 1.5 degree goal. And this 1.5 degree goal is really sort of a key threshold for avoiding serious sea level rise, avoiding intensification of storms and, you know, many of the socioeconomic losses that would be attendant with some of those impacts. So we're not doing enough still, and the emissions continue to rise, although at a lower rate. And this is also true, if you look at - I mentioned previously - these Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). These are the pledges that countries are coming up with for their emission reductions between 2020 and 2030. And the NDCs are still not ambitious enough. Commitments that are made within the NDCs are still not ambitious enough. So those are some of the worrying headlines. Some of the good news is that, especially, when we look at some of the key mitigation technologies, looking at renewable energy, solar energy, wind power and then in the transport sector - Toto will probably elaborate upon this too - electric vehicles, the diffusion rate of these technologies has increased dramatically and the costs of these technologies have come down dramatically as well, much greater than what was anticipated in many projections. I think this is, you know, a silver lining in terms of our ability to achieve some of these high-level goals. And so the pace of technological change, I think, is greater than what was anticipated for some of the key technologies. And there's policy reasons for that. And I think, you know, for instance, the growing use of feed-in tariffs throughout the world has contributed to the spread of renewable energies and the uptake of renewable energy. So I think that's another important high-level message.

Toto:

In this report, we are talking about not only from the supply side but also from demand side, from the user side. This is the first time for the IPCC Working Group III to put demand as one of the key [options among] mitigation options. The good point in the result of this assessment [is that] we can say like we always encourage people to change their lifestyle, change their behaviour, in relation to do better efforts on climate mitigation. And actually the pandemic situation (COVID) shows that dramatic change in behaviour- this can be done in a very short term because like in the case of lockdown, etc. , in many countries, behavioural change at a massive scale in a short time is possible. So this is the sort of message from the chapter on demand. It is possible. We cannot say it is impossible. It is possible to do dramatic change on a massive scale.

Bob:

From what I heard from you about the headline messages, would it be correct to say that kind of the big actions that we need to take are that we need to do more to mitigate our greenhouse gas emissions, and we need to be more ambitious in the goals we set towards that?

Eric:

We need to be more ambitious, and we need to do things at a bigger scale - on a spatial scale - and we need to do things quicker in general. So there needs to be faster speed, bigger spatial scale. And there also- this gets to the point of demand. There also needs to be more attention to the qualitative aspects of how we're doing things. Speed, scale and the quality of our mitigation efforts, I think, need to change. And on the quality side of things, and this gets to Toto's point about demand - it's not- I think, in past reports, there's been an evolution. But I think in past reports, you know, the emphasis was a lot on technologies and how do you build a- you know, for lack of a better term- how do you build a better 'mousetrap' or how do you build a better power plant? Or, you know, there's still some emphasis in this report - How do you take some of the carbon dioxide and trap it underneath the ground? Of course, that's all fine and well, but if we want to improve the quality of our mitigation efforts, and I think that will also accelerate the speed and change the scale, then we need to think about, how do we change consumer demand for different products and different activities and do so in a way that they're also - to go back to another example that Toto raised - that it's also improving the quality of people's lives? So we need to think about how we can walk from our house to the grocery store. And when we're at the grocery store, we need to think about the products that we're purchasing. So maybe we buy locally grown tomatoes so that they don't have to be shipped from another place. And maybe those tomatoes need to be grown in fertilisers that don't lead to greenhouse gases. So we need to think a lot about how our individual actions and our individual mindsets influence demand for different products and services in a way that meet not just climate goals, but broader sustainability goals. And in doing that, then it gets to a question of how do you do that quickly at scale? And I think that's where you start getting into the policy environment and the institutional environment. How do we create that sort of structure that supports that type of decision making?

André:

Eric, very generally speaking, getting into the policy side of things. Do you guys think that more needs to be done on the incentive side or on the regulation side, especially looking at governments? And I guess that's pre-empting your answer a little bit, but I suspect that that will depend very much on the kind of government, right? Because we have very different kinds of government around the world. But let me leave it there.

Eric:

I think one of the themes that comes out of the report is that there's a growing emphasis on instrument mixes or policy mixes. Broadly, maybe 20 years ago there, you know, there's a lot of literature debating the merits of whether or not we wanted to have a carbon tax or just an absolute cap on reductions and regulatory standards. But I think there's a realisation that especially to move at scale, move quicker and achieve some of these quality objectives, that in a lot of contexts, you need to combine government regulation with some market based incentives. And then the third side of that triangle is what I would call sort of information based instruments. So awareness-raising or using peer pressure from public on industry, using transparency type mechanisms to motivate industry to change. A combination of those three things in sort of a triangle, I think, is sort of what the option space is looking like now. And in different contexts, where you move on that triangle and where you borrow from might vary. So, you know, China might lean more toward command-and-control type of regulations. But we also see, you know, their five year development plans are combined now with emission trading schemes and discussion of carbon taxes. Even though China is sort of more top down, there's also liberal use of some information based mechanisms to awareness raising. The context might determine where you're situated on that triangle, but I think, overall, we're seeing definitely a trend to sort of this policy mix approach. And I think this leads to another point is, that mix, that policy mix - a lot of that's coming from literature that's connected into this work on sustainability transitions. And I think what we're realising now to once again achieve these large scale, spatial scale, quick, transformational type changes of our systems, that we need intervention at three different levels, right? So one of the other things that you see coming through from the report is this literature on sustainability transitions that also gets tied in with this literature on the instrument mixes. One of the main approaches, sustainability transition is what's called a multilevel perspective, where they emphasise that there needs to be- in order for big transformational changes, a lot of times, there needs to be changes at what they call the landscape level. So this can be like overarching global markets or norms. And a lot of times, things that happen - big changes at the landscape level happen due to big exogenous shocks, big external shocks like the Depression or what we've seen recently with COVID-

André:

Pandemic, yeah.

Eric:

A pandemic. Right? So that changes the whole sort of way that the world views, you know, how it operates, how markets operate. And that creates a, you know, kind of, sort of a puncture in the equilibrium. It creates an opportunity, a window of opportunity to change things at what they call the regime level. And within the regime level, that's where you have your sort of policy space and institutions and including these different types of regulatory mixes. And so then, some of the policies and the mixes of policies that come together might change and also the institutional arrangements might change. So you might have now, for instance, the transportation agency is talking more with the environmental people about how we create incentives for teleworking because we have this exogenous shock so that...That space, the regime space needs to change, too. And then at the last level is what they call the niche, right? And this is where innovation happens. For instance, the development and the spread of lithium batteries to support EVs. This is a lot of times where, you know, people interact on an individual or small group basis with different technologies and they begin to mushroom and grow and cascade. And you get opportunities for not only innovation, but imitation. And so I think, you know, to achieve the 1.5 degree goals, a lot more emphasis on the demand side, a lot more emphasis on policy mixes and a lot more emphasis on aligning what happens across - this is, I know, abstract terminology, but - this landscape level, the regime level and and the niche level.

Toto:

Okay. In addition to the economic instruments, I think we have mentioned specifically in the Summary for Policymakers that select economic instruments have been effective in reducing emissions, complemented by regulatory instruments. So we can cannot select which one is better than the other. It's complementary. That is better in mainly the national and regional level, and this is at a high confidence [level].

André:

This next question relates to the technological side of things, and also a bit about- you mentioned exogenous shocks, Eric. I guess this has got a little bit to do with both of those. But I have heard and I don't know how correct this is, but I've heard that the biggest gain that's been made in reducing carbon emissions in the last ten years has been the switch to fracking ([hydraulic fracturing]) in the US in particular. So this is natural gas fracking to replace coal and oil and particularly in the US, but I think elsewhere as well. So this is very much not a renewable energy. It's another fossil fuel, but it's about twice as clean as oil and I think several times cleaner than coal, although I'm going beyond my expertise here. But, so I mean, I guess I don't know what the question is here. I'm just curious what you think about that, the fact that you the biggest success that's happened recently, if I'm correct in my understanding, is something that has nothing to do with renewable energy. Yeah. Let me just leave it there and see what you think.

Eric:

I would need to check my facts and data to confirm that, but that sounds about right to me, André, and I think it highlights a few things. I mean, I think, in some ways, it does suggest that sometimes, looking at it from a sort of a positive light. Right? And I think this is something that, you know, I remember, actually, I took from your presentation, André, from ISAP (International Forum on Sustainable Asia and the Pacific). Right? Sometimes, sort of small incremental changes can also lead to transformative changes. So if we think of fracking and the use of natural gas as sort of incremental or bridge technology that might open the door for a transition to renewables and even cleaner energy sources, in that way, it would be a sort of positive way of looking at it. And it does, in some ways, suggest the potential for small-scale technological change to open opportunities for bigger changes. Although this is, in some ways, suboptimal. And one of the side effects also of fracking is the leak of methane, which is also a growing and really powerful greenhouse gas and also contributes to air pollution. I guess I would give sort of a split assessment here, as I think it does suggest the power of industry and government to work together to lead to big transformative changes, potentially. But the impacts of those transformative changes - given the seriousness of the climate change problem - are perhaps a little bit worrying. Having said that, I think the other thing that we have seen, for instance, with the renewable energy revolution is, as I mentioned at the outset, that the pace of change has gone beyond what was anticipated. And even in the US, we've seen a transformation of local energy systems and whatnot. So what I would like to see happen over the next five years is that same quote that you gave is that renewable energy is the biggest reduction. And I think that's possible. I do think that's possible. So maybe it's the same type of logic and model that led to the sort of fracking revolution, but applied more towards other technologies and socio- technological change could be that sort of headline quote. I look forward to writing that article with you in five years.

Bob:

A little sidebar on fracking,

though:

I've also heard terrible reports about fracking making local groundwater flammable by the gas getting into the water and things. So I think there needs to be some consideration of the local environment with these things. I don't know if that's a question, but yeah.

Eric:

Yes. But if you look at the Summary for Policymakers and then if you look across the entire report, there is a very strong emphasis on analysing the possible synergies and possible tradeoffs between climate change and different development concerns. In the case that Bob raised, water pollution obviously is and clean water is obviously a big concern. And so I think one of the other messages and one of the things that comes out of the report is - and this also gets back to the point raised by André - is when we set up this sort of collection of different instruments, we also need to consider how those instruments can reduce or optimise some of the trade-offs and make sure that we're not producing more methane, we're not producing more water pollution. And that's going to require, you know, collection a suite of different options a lot of times, to make sure that our water sources are stronger and our climate policies are stronger.

Bob:

We hear about what we can do on the individual level or in our local communities. But you also hear that nothing that we can do at the individual level is going to make a significant impact. And any significant change to deal with mitigating the issues of climate change is going to have to be at a large scale with governmental action and large industry action. What's your sense on where- and how do I phrase this? Where does the balance fall on that? Is there something that we can do at an individual level that has a significant impact?

Eric:

I'm going to suggest three things. Two of them are sort of more on a personal, individual level, but I think can lead to bigger changes. And then one is more in getting back to sort of the research side on the individual level. I think one of the most important things is we need to teach students more about what's happening with climate change and what's happening in this report. From my perspective, there's still far too limited offerings in terms of courses on climate science and especially climate policy and sustainable development, and how those linkages work with each other. And if this is going to be, you know, a generation-defining issue and problem, we might need universities to have climate science and policy departments, rather than sort of being sort of nested within different disciplines. And within IGES, we're starting to work with Kyushu University and we've done online trainings all over the place. So I think this teaching aspect - and it's not just teaching and awareness raising, but also empowering individuals to be like the next - Toto might have a better sense of this - but, you know, the Indonesian version of Greta Thunberg. We need those type of young people that have this knowledge and can inform policy and get elected into office or become business leaders. And I think, as researchers, we need to be better and more targeted in how we do that. So that's one thing. And then the second thing is I think we need to have more discussions with people that don't necessarily believe what's in this report. At IGES and I think a lot of the research institutes we work with, we have a tendency to preach to the choir. But I think if we can convert people that are not so aware of these issues and also might be inclined to be more skeptical about them, then I think that opens pathways for a really big transformation. So education and speaking to the unconverted. And then on the research side, one of the things I think that we need to do more of - and this is also featured in the report a little bit, to a certain extent - is better incorporation of the social science research into especially the technical and the modelling research. So there's more and more discussion in this report of what we call feasibility. And a lot of times, this idea of feasibility, when it's done in a modelling context, is about the technical or the economic feasibility of reducing greenhouse gases. And so when people build the models, they see whether or not there's enough technology that's available and whether or not it's affordable enough in different countries to be deployed at a large scale. And of course, that's important. But what we're recognising now is this sort of social feasibility and the political and institutional feasibility of a lot of mitigation options is pretty low. And the feasibility or the barriers in these areas are just as high as the technical and the economic barriers. And so one way I think, to motivate policymakers is to - to go back to Toto's terminology - the enabling environment, to create this enabling environment or to use powerful regulatory mixes is to show them that when we incorporate these things into our models, this is the type of thing that can unlock some of the mitigation potential. This might be the reason why we've been doing this integrated assessment modelling for about 30 years. But increasingly, we always see in the other report as- we still have these ambition gaps or these implementation gaps. And I think part of the reason is social science researchers do not have as a prominent place in the modelling community. So if we can, in our modelling framework, show that increasing capacity in some of these areas is one of the keys to moving forward, I think that will also help bring about bigger and more transformative changes.

Bob:

With that, I think I'd like to wrap up by asking for your final thoughts on the process or the report in general.

Eric:

Well, I think just maybe two final thoughts. One is I think that one of the key insights from this report is climate change and solving the climate change problem is less and less about just thinking about climate change, but thinking about development and how we do development. And so you see some emphasis on shifting development pathways. And I think that's the sort of Venn diagram here is that we have this big circle of development, right? And then within that circle, there is a sustainable development and there's ways to respond to the climate change problem, you know, sort of a smaller circle that are sustainable and there's others that are not so sustainable. And I think we're becoming more attuned to what that balance looks like and how to lean more into the sustainable development pathway in a way that will shift the way we do development. And I think that's something that runs through all of the chapters in the report, at least the ones that I've read. I have to be honest, I haven't read all 3000 pages of the report. And then the second thing is, I would suggest is for me personally, not always, but most of the time, this was one of the most nourishing and fulfilling experiences I've had as a researcher, because to go back to this multilevel perspective, one of the things that we're doing with this report is changing the sort of normative space, the way that we look at the world and, you know, where we situate our space in the world and changing that sort of norm- this normative and ideational space, I think would be something that, you know, 100 years from now - hopefully the planet still exists in good shape - you know, people will look back on and say that this is something that a bunch of individuals came together to do in a way that really led to a better world for future generations and not only people, but the planet more generally. And to contribute to that is really sort of something that's been quite an honour.

Bob:

Thank you for listening to about sustainability. Please subscribe at podcast.iges.jp or search for About Sustainability... Wherever you normally get your podcasts. If you've got feedback, you can review us on your podcast directory of choice or reach out on Twitter @IGES_EN. About Sustainability... is produced by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies. Any views expressed during the podcast are those of the speaker at the time of recording and do not necessarily reflect the views of IGES. Thank you for choosing to spend your time with us. We don't take that lightly, and we hope you'll join us next time.