Comments on implications of upcoming IPCC climate report

Experts say stark warnings from science underline importance of reaching net zero emissions by 2050, limiting warming to 1.5°C

By Kathy Grenville

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At a media briefing hosted earlier today by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), attendees heard a panel of experts discuss the implications of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Working Group II report which will be published next week.

The report covers climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability, and follows on from last summer’s Working Group 1 report on the physical science of climate change, which UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres characterised as a ‘code red for humanity’.

The report will make clear both the impacts the world already faces from climate change, and the threat that we certainly face if the world does not achieve the Paris Agreement’s aim of net zero emissions by mid-century.

It serves as important context for the job ahead for the UK presidency in the run up to COP27 in Egypt, both in driving greater ambition from other nations, and delivering on its own net zero target.

Speaking about the role of UK leadership, Prof. Emily Shuckburgh, Director of Cambridge Zero at the University of Cambridge said:

“With just over eight months of the UK COP26 presidency to go, the IPCC is once again making abundantly clear the danger facing the world if we fail to act in time. People around the world are already suffering from the impacts of climate change at 1.1°C of warming. Beyond 1.5°C would put peace, security, economic stability and nature in peril across our planet and be an existential threat for far too many.

“Implementing the Glasgow Climate Pact to keep warming to 1.5°C and adapt to the impacts we already face is both vastly cheaper and considerably less risky than carrying on as we are now. In the run-up to COP27 in Egypt, the UK must  lead by example with delivery of its own net zero target and, in its Presidency role,  keep a focus on turning global commitments into accelerated action.”

Speaking about the impacts of vulnerable countries, Prof. Dr Camilla Toulmin, Senior Fellow, International Institute for Environment & Development (IIED) said:

“The poorest people, mostly in the poorest countries, contribute least to the problem of climate change, and yet are hit hardest by the devastating impacts of extreme events – on their homes, their businesses, their farms and landscapes. As richer nations go on emitting more and more greenhouse gases, so the devastation and costs grow – threatening lives and livelihoods and forcing more people to face the prospect of being driven from their homes.

The IPCC report will underline an important outcome from the Glasgow Climate Pact – the need for wealthy nations to provide higher levels of financial support for adapting to climate shocks, building more resilient systems, and addressing the costs of loss and damage experienced by poorer countries. Once again we are reminded that we are running out of time to act. We need a much greater sense of urgency if actions are to match the scale of risks we all face.”

Speaking about protecting and restoring nature, Prof. Dr Kate Jones, Chair of Ecology & Biodiversity, University College London (UCL) said:

“It has long been clear that we do not have the luxury to choose between cutting emissions and adapting to climate change. Now it becomes clearer that we not only need both, but that if we fail to act rapidly, then we risk reaching the point beyond which we can no longer adapt to climate impacts.

This is why we must urgently turn to nature as a crucial part of our survival strategy. Protecting and restoring nature will help store more of the carbon we emit, and make our landscapes more resilient to the growing extremes that climate change inflicts on every species on our planet.”

Speaking about the health inequality impacts of a heating planet, Prof. Sir Michael Marmot, Professor of Epidemiology at University College London, said:

“The covid pandemic has demonstrated, at a global and national level, how social and economic inequalities have large implications for inequalities in the social determinants of health which, in turn, lead to large inequalities in health. Climate change has similarly unequal effects. This is starkly illustrated by the health impacts – physical and mental – caused by higher temperatures, poor housing, extreme weather and air pollution, for instance.

The IPCC’s work highlights the risk of making those inequalities worse by the approach we take to tackling and adapting to the climate crisis. And makes clear how crucial it is to human health that we take the IPCC’s warnings seriously, cutting emissions to keep warming to 1.5°C and supporting adaptation in the poorest parts of the world.”