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What the invasion of Ukraine means for the IPCC’s latest climate change report
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What the invasion of Ukraine means for the IPCC’s latest climate change report

Oil rigs at sea


The UN’s new IPCC report on the Attenuation of climate changeIt is imperative to reduce global warming by reducing emissions immediately and deeply, as well as removing carbon dioxide from the air in the future. Meanwhile, the world’s governments are urging fossil fuel companies to drill for more oil and gas as fast as possible to make up for sanctions on Russia. What is the matter?

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), is not a research organization or an opinion-forming body. Its job is to evaluate the scientific literature. This includes papers that have been accepted in academic journals before a cut-off. This was October 2021 in the case of the latest report.

Since then, wholesale prices for most fossil fuels has more than doubled. So, what to make of the IPCC’s conclusions? Does Russia’s invasion of Ukraine make it easier or harder to stop climate change? It depends on how you frame your problem.

Using the “emitter responsibility” framing adopted by the IPCC – and hence by almost everyone else, including the world’s governments and corporations – climate change means emitters need to reduce “their” emissions. Vendors who produce those emissions are only observers.

This scenario has mixed implications. It could lead to a period with high fossil fuel prices. One, higher prices and increased awareness of geopolitical risks associated with relying on imported fossilfuels will increase investment in alternative sources like renewable or nuclear energy.

However, rising costs and inflation are putting pressure on public and private financing available for the transition and prompting a rush to increase consumer fossil fuel subsidies. This is supposedly the way out of the crisis. Climate pact for Glasgow) and invest in non-Russian fossil fuel production and infrastructure.

Worst of all, higher fuel prices could cause a tank to burst through the delicate balance carefully designed incentives (like some). Heath Robinsoncartoon) to keep the effect of climate policy on consumers below the political radar. Populists all over the globe are honing in on their soundbites.

Oil rigs at sea

Are fossil fuel producers and distributors responsible for the carbon they emit
Carina Johansen / EPA

There is another framing: “producer responsibility”. 99.9% enters the active cycle, continuing to maintain global temperatures for millennia, regardless of whether it is extracted or pumped out. In the end, to stop climate change we need to safely and permanently “refossilise” all the carbon dioxide we generate from fossil sources, either by reinjecting it back underground or otherwise turning it back into rock.

We are currently disposing of all permanent items Below 0.1%We have to use the carbon we find. To achieve the Paris Agreement goals, we must increase this fraction to 100% over the next thirty years, one thousandfold.

Capture carbon – and still make profits

We are now back in Ukraine. The invasion highlighted both the dangers and opportunities for embracing producer responsibility for fossil fuels. Who are the producers? The majority of fossil carbon dioxide comes primarily from products that are sold and produced by There are less than 80 companies – all of whom are doing rather well at the moment.

European Wholesale prices for oil and coal have increased over the past year by about US$140 (£110) per tonne of carbon dioxide they generate, natural gas by more than US$350 (£270). This is more expensive than the cost of capturing all of that carbon dioxide and reinjecting them underground.

Since decades, companies have been capturing carbon dioxide. at source for incentives of around US$60 (£50) per tonne and are already Get readyTo build plants to capture it from thin air Incentives of around US$300 (£230) per tonne. It is possible. It is up to the plants to do it on a large enough scale to make a difference. There is only one way to find that out: Make them.

Graph of fossil fuel prices vs carbon capture costs

Fossil fuel prices since 2018 (Rotterdam coal, Brent crude and TTF natural gas) assuming €1=$0.90 and 1 tonne, barrel or MWh of coal, oil, or natural gas generates 2.42, 0.43, and 0.18 tCO2, respectively. Vertical bars indicate ranges of CO2 capture and storage costs.
Myles Allen (data:; Goldman Sachs, Carbonomics report), Author provided

Consumers still have a role: disposing all that carbon dioxide will invariably make fossil fuels more costly, so it makes sense for them to reduce. And the government regulation, like the “carbon takeback” ideaThis is why it is so important to have the right people around you. We certainly can’t expect the industry to do it purely out of the goodness of its heart.

But at today’s prices, fossil fuel producers could prevent the products they sell from causing global warming and still make the same profits they were making a year ago. This is the alternative. Machine that generates huge amounts of cash is reinforcing investors’ and governments’ addiction to fossil fuel rents and funding exploration for new resources that, if we don’t work out how to stop fossil fuels from causing global warming, we won’t be able to use.

The IPCC cannot adopt this “producer responsibility” framing because it would imply a change of emphasis in climate mitigation policy. Fossil fuel exporting countries would certainly veto any such clarity because, they would argue, they are working hard to reduce their own emissions, and what happens to the fuels they export is someone else’s problem.

This is like a chemicals company volunteering to take care of ozone layer-destroying CFC emissions from its own factories, while arguing that CFCs aren’t doing any harm as long as they are locked up in an aerosol can, so it couldn’t possibly be held responsible for ozone depletion caused by the products it sells.

The IPCC, 30 years ago, was deeply involved in establishing the framing of “emitter responsibility”. It was only half of the story back then, and it’s only half of the story now. Until we adopt the principle that anyone producing or selling fossil fuels is responsible for disposal of all the carbon dioxide generated by their activities and products, we aren’t going to stop climate change. And we will when we do. It is so simple.


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