Interview with the author (P.R. Shukla)

Much stronger cooperation is needed.

P.R. Shukla, Co-Chair of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group III

Interview date: 13 January 2019 / Location: Ahmedabad, India

Kainuma: Thank you very much for accepting our interview. Please tell us about the significance of the IPCC 1.5°C Special Report and what you really want to convey with this report. Could you please tell me first the historical implications?

Shukla: From a historical point of view, past global greenhouse gas emissions alone do not increase the global average temperature above 1.5°C. This means that if you immediately stop greenhouse gas emissions, it will stay below 1.5°C. However, it is not realistic to stop greenhouse gas emissions right away.
Past emissions already use much of the carbon budget to stay below 1.5°C. The budget left is 770 GtCO2. Currently human beings emit about 41 GtCO2. If you divide 770 by 41, you can see that it is only for 15 to 20 years.
In order to stay below 1.5°C, we need to have net zero emissions in the near future, somewhere around 2040, 2045, 2047, or so.
Historically, each country has worked together through UNFCCC. But it’s now more fragmented. Not every country is so strongly connected now. One of the major issues now is to make this kind of cooperation much stronger.
Other important part is the link with sustainable development. The first goal of SDGs is poverty eradication. There are links with sustainable development, because the title of this report includes sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty. So the entire report is written as such, keeping in mind sustainable development as one of the important issues.
This report was written in consideration with the linkage between climate change and sustainable development. We have provided this kind of framing of synergies and tradeoffs, and provide a better understanding of those things in Chapter 5.

Kainuma: What can we say scientifically?

Shukla: I would generally say that the key message is that to stay below 1.5 ° C is feasible. There are six indicators for feasibility presented in the report, for example, economic feasibility, technological feasibility and some other feasibilities. All the indicators show that we can still do it.
The important issue around feasibility is the level of finance. We still need discussion. What is already promised is discussed, but you need to have what is actually available. There is still a gap. This requires building the finance mechanisms very quickly.
The first thing we need to consider is mitigation side feasibility, but linking to sustainable development is also important. We have talked about the linkage with the food system, ecological system, etc. What happened to food productivity is another important issue that science has a major role to play.

Kainuma: How about on the policy side?

Shukla: On the policy side, it is important to strengthen cooperation. What we are doing under the Paris Agreement are voluntary measures. Voluntary measures are good, but what is happening under voluntary measures are commitments which are very far from 1.5°C. It may bring us to 3°C. We have to keep increasing ambition. Cooperation needs to be very strong in a way to facilitate finance and technology transfer to developing countries.
This report was handed over to UNFCCC. We, scientists, produced a scientific report. The report was already passed to 190 countries in October 2018 in Korea. We have done our job. Now it is policymakers’ turn to work on how to promote implementation based on the report.

Kainuma: Could you please talk about the results of the Talanoa dialogue?

Shukla: It’s a nice structure, but implementation is of utmost importance. At the Talanoa dialogue, we discussed; “Where we are now?”, “Where to go?” and “How to get there?”. The report mentions “Where we are now?” and “Where to go?”.
Now we have to have some kind of institutional arrangements. The Paris Agreement has institutional arrangements. Voluntary actions are there, but lots of stronger cooperation arrangements are needed.
An arrangement is required to bring the private sector into the context. Because technologies are developed by the private sector, not by the government. What kind of signals we can give is important. This is also linked with sustainable development.
Even in the Kyoto Protocol, we already had emissions trading. Let’s look at Europe; they have emissions trading. Developing countries have already participated in CDM. Now we need to resume similar institutional arrangements.
We are still struggling as to whether to include so-called carbon price. Also, we need to consider the cost of damages for 1 tonne of carbon. We do need some idea of how to build different actions for the cost of damages.

Kainuma: It seems that nowadays companies are becoming positive towards tackling climate change.

Shukla: That's right. However, if we have carbon price, actions taken by businesses will be further accelerated.

Kainuma: At the time of COP3, business people were against carbon tax and wanted to take voluntary actions.

Shukla: That's right. Because they were not ready for solutions. At that time they tried to tackle by making use of their existing countermeasures, not by new innovations. Also, there were no thoughts on “stranded assets”, which are now becoming familiar.
Twenty years have passed since the Kyoto Protocol. During those 20 years, we have had a lot of experiences. Now some companies are ready for solutions.

Kainuma: Currently, many companies take part in RE100 and SBTi. Also, the number of companies conducting ESG investment is increasing

Shukla: There are lots of industries taking positive actions. If a carbon price is given, more companies are going to be serious about thinking of solutions.

Kainuma: Do you mean that companies also want to have some targets to decide how much CO2 to reduce?

Shukla: The target and the carbon price are the same thing. Carbon price is a shadow of the targets. Once we decide the target, then the carbon price will be set.

Kainuma: Are there any important issues that you did not mention in the report?

Shukla: How to re-skill the people was not mentioned, because this is not mandated, although it is connected to SDGs. If you are a coal worker and if your coalmine is closed, you lose your job. But if you get other skills, you can find a new job. If you are old, it is a bit difficult to be re-skilled, but if you are younger, you can be re-skilled.
In India, if a person can learn how to drive a car, he or she can be a taxi driver. The result is that they can find a new job. Newly skilled workers are one kind of solution.

Kainuma: Are there any other important things?

Shukla: It is about adaptation. Right now there is a huge amount of information about climate change. How to work with farmers to adapt to climate change using such information is one of the issues that we need to look at. As there are quite a few people who are not good at handling digital devices, and who did not have enough opportunities to receive education, especially women, we have to address such people and should give opportunities on how to make use of such information.
What is happening in India is that a large number of people living in rural areas have utilised cellphones. Until recently, they have not had phones, because there were no landlines. The new system do not use any landlines. We can see there are lots of leapfrogging possibilities.
Using internet, people do not have to commute to an office. We can order vegetables at home. Historically, they needed cars, but now they don’t need cars. It means CO2 emissions from the transport sector will be reduced.
The relationship with health is also important. In India there is a programme called “Clean India”. It is a programme to supply clean water and toilet water in each household. We are also planning to build a health center in each region. Energy is necessary to promote these programmes. A power outage will damage a lot of vaccines. Healthcare is a field where we have to consider global warming countermeasures and SDGs simultaneously.
One interesting programme is “Urban amenities in rural areas”. This is a programme to provide urban facilities in rural areas, so that people can stay in rural areas. In the meantime, there is another programme in cities, to reduce traffic volume by making full use of IoTs.

Kainuma: How was this report received in India?

Shukla: The Indian government reacted very positively to this report. The Indian delegation gave us some positive comments at the IPCC plenary.

India is pushing renewable energy. It is not satisfactory, but it is faster than the speed we calculated under the Paris Agreement. As for our solar target for 2020, which was set in 2015 — we can attain this target.

Kainuma: Is renewable energy subsidised in India?

Shukla: There are three segments. First of all, big power plants are competing. The government gives initial support, but there is not so much that is subsidised. The second segment is roof-top PV. The electricity generated by roof tops is not for selling, but for private consumption. These projects are subsidised.
The third segment is for villages. Electricity does not reach many villages. Electricity stops many times, because the total volume of electricity is not enough. In the villages, electricity is not working well. If you do not have lighting, you cannot do many things. Alternatively, you can use kerosene, but it is polluting and much more expensive. Most villages are currently not well connected to electricity, so the government gives subsidies to install small panels for lighting. The government allocates substantial amounts of money, which is in line anyway for sustainable development. But this does not happen in every village.

Kainuma: Isn’t there any solution?

Shukla: Yes, we can find some solutions. Germany is doing a good job. It has better capacity of grids and smart grids. There are ideas, but these are not yet implemented in India. Batteries are also improving, so batteries for EV can also be used by solar power.

Kainuma: What about South Asian countries other than India?

Shukla: There is a small island country very close to India, called the Maldives. This country has many islands and is suffering from sea level rise. They need some place to move or some technologies to stop the sea level rise. They need funds.
Developed countries contribute USD 100 billion per year to the Green Climate Fund. USD 50 billion is used for adaptation and USD 50 billion is used for mitigation. These funds could be used for small island countries.

Kainuma: Do you have any additional comments on mitigation?

Shukla: We have solutions, but some solutions are not good for sustainable development. We can’t put nuclear plants in all areas. Europe and America are not so positive regarding nuclear. China is pushing for it. The Indian government regards it as one of the options, but people in India are against it. I heard that Japanese people also do not want to have nuclear plants after the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011.

Kainuma: Do you have anything else that you want to deliver?

Shukla: Circular economy is one of the solutions. One idea is to reduce waste and realise a recycling society, but this is not considered sufficiently in the report
There are many other things to realize a zero emissions society. We may consider more about zero emissions. We plan to assess these things in the 6th Assessment Report.

Kainuma: Thank you very much for your time.