Cut waste to reduce emissions, IPCC says

Using materials more efficiently, reusing and recycling products, and minimising waste will help reduce emissions, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Using materials more efficiently, reusing and recycling products, and minimising waste will help reduce emissions, the IPCC says

The IPCC, the UN body which assesses the science related to climate change, published its latest report yesterday (4 April), looking at the mitigation of climate change. Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, the IPCC is composed of 195 member states.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the industrial sector accounted for 24% of all direct anthropogenic emissions in 2019, the IPCC says.

Reducing these emissions to net zero is “challenging but possible”, the report suggests, and to do so will require “coordinated action throughout value chains to promote all mitigation options”.

The IPCC lists demand management, energy and materials efficiency, and circular material flows as being among the options, as well as abatement technologies and transformational changes in production processes.

The IPCC also highlighted the potential for behaviour and lifestyle change to reduce global emissions by at least 5% “rapidly”, with policy support.

These changes include reducing food waste and overconsumption and supporting longer-lived and repairable products.

The IPCC says behaviour changes such as these could enable deeper cuts if supported by improved infrastructure design, “particularly in wealthy nations”.


In the scenarios assessed by the IPCC, limiting warming to around 1.5°C requires global greenhouse gas emissions to peak before 2025 at the latest and reduce by 43% by 2030; at the same time, methane would also need to fall by about a third.

It’s now or never if we want to limit global warming to 1.5°C
Jim Skea, co-chair of the IPCC’s Working Group III

Jim Skea, co-chair of the IPCC’s Working Group III, which wrote the report, said: “It’s now or never if we want to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

“Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible.”


Will Andrews-Tipper, head of policy at waste management company Viridor, said the report showed that recycling and resource efficiency should be “at the centre of urgent policy action” to address the climate crisis.

Will Andrews-Tipper is head of policy at Viridor

He said: “Viridor analysis demonstrates that the UK could save around 1.3 million tonnes of CO2 emissions a year by increasing plastic packaging recycling rates to 70%, up from 51% today, the equivalent of taking around 685,000 cars off the road.

“Defra’s soon-to-be-consulted-on vital recycling policy reforms can help deliver a circular economy for plastics by supporting long-term contracts in the recycling sector.

“This could support a third of a billion pounds in new investment into new UK recycling infrastructure, creating hundreds of jobs and ending exports of waste plastic from the UK.”


Mariel Vilella, director of global climate program at anti-incineration network GAIA, said the report showed that cities could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions “significantly”.

She added that the expected growth of cities under a ‘business-as-usual’ scenario could more than double annual resource requirements for raw materials to 90 billion tonnes per year by 2050, up from 40 billion tonnes in 2010, “which in itself will increase GHG emissions too”.

Related link
IPCC Mitigation of Climate Change

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