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‘The wolf is at the door’

Climate campaigners react to the final instalment in the IPCC's Sixth Assessment cycle
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Teenagers taking action against climate change

Today (20 March), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) delivered its synthesis report – the final chapter of the Sixth Assessment – to world governments in Interlaken, Switzerland.

In the first comprehensive IPCC report in nine years, and the first since the Paris Agreement, the report lays bare the devastating reality and risks posed by the climate crisis, and the ways in which the world must respond.

It paints a sobering reality – but not one without hope, if governments act now.

Avoiding the tipping point

The IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Synthesis Report (AR6) spotlights the rapid emission reductions needed to meet intermediate climate targets.

A 43% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is required by 2030 – and 60% by 2035 – if we are to reach net-zero by mid-century and avoid global temperatures exceeding the dangerous 1.5°C tipping point.

The summary acknowledges that current policies are off track to meet these targets, despite the range of cost-effective solutions available.

Countries are expected to assess their progress towards achieving these targets in the global stocktake at the UN climate summit COP28 later this year.

‘This report represents the most comprehensive collection of climate science since the last assessment came out almost a decade ago. Weaving together the findings from the multi-thousand page reports published over the last few years, it very clearly lays out the devastating impacts climate change is already having on our lives and ecosystems all around the world, the harsh future we all face if we don’t get our act together, and the solutions we can implement now to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change.  

‘Some countries are already achieving sustained emissions reductions, but action is not yet at the scale or speed we need. With current emissions still at their highest level in human history, we are way off course, and the window to limit warming to 1.5ºC is rapidly closing. The sooner and more decisively we act, the sooner people and nature can reap the benefits of a cleaner, safer and more stable future. We have all the tools we need, so it’s well within our power to meet this challenge if we act now.’

WWF global lead scientist, Climate and Energy, and lead author on the IPCC Working Group III report

Nature is our ‘secret ally’

WWF is urging governments to heed the report’s warnings and act quickly to implement its recommendations to limit the impacts of the climate crisis.

It is calling on leaders to rapidly slash emissions across all sectors, boost efforts to build resilience to extreme weather events and protect and restore nature.

An accelerated phase-out of fossil fuels is the best way to avoid the planet overshooting 1.5°C and risking total climate catastrophe.

‘The evidence is crystal clear, the science is unequivocal – it’s just the lack of political will that’s holding us back from the bold action that’s necessary to avert a climate catastrophe. Leaders who ignore the science of climate change are failing their people. A rapid phase-out of fossil fuels is essential, as is protecting and restoring natural ecosystems.

‘Nature is our secret ally in the fight against climate change. Natural systems have absorbed 54% of human-related carbon dioxide emissions over the past decade and have slowed global warming and helped protect humanity from much more severe climate change risks.

‘We can’t hope to limit warming to 1.5°C, adapt to climate change and save lives and livelihoods, unless we also act urgently to safeguard and restore nature. Nature is a non-negotiable part of the solution to the climate crisis.’

WWF global deputy-lead, Climate and Energy

‘Stop drilling and start paying tax’

IPCC reports are influential as they are used by policymakers and governments to inform their actions, shape UN climate change negotiations and affect public opinion.

The IPCC AR6 Synthesis Report Summary for Policymakers was discussed line-by-line by governments at the week-long approval session in Switzerland, which started on 13 March and was agreed on 19 March.

‘Forget distant tropical islands and future generations – we have already seen what 40°C summers and flash flooding look like here in the UK. The wolf is at the door. For many other communities around the world, like those facing devastating floods in Pakistan and Malawi, the danger of climate change is clear and present.

‘Now is not the time for despair. We must fight to stop every fraction of a degree increase in global warming. Scientists and economists are clear that the technological solutions and economic case have never been more compelling.

‘Rather than throwing lifelines to dodgy nuclear and unproven carbon capture schemes, the government should grasp the renewable energy system that will bring cleaner air, green jobs and cheaper and more secure supply.

‘But that also means closing the stopcock before our house floods. Fossil fuel companies have access to infrastructure and reserves that will force global warming beyond dangerous limits. We absolutely cannot risk more exploration and drilling. Fossil fuel companies must stop drilling and start paying tax on their bumper profits so we can ramp up renewables and support the most affected people worldwide.’

Head of politics at Greenpeace UK

Solutions already exist

WWF has noted that the report highlights that many low-cost solutions already exist for the necessary economy-wide transformation, and that the cost of renewables like wind and solar has dropped by up to 85% over the past decade.

The report also highlights the importance of nature and conservation, including the need to conserve 30% to 50% of Earth’s land, freshwater and ocean to maintain the resilience of biodiversity and ecosystem services at a global scale.

The IPCC has reiterated the urgency of action this decade, as well as by 2035 – the date that links in to the next round of nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement.

‘The threats are huge, but so are the opportunities for change. This is our moment to rise up, scale up and be bold. Governments must stop doing just a little better and start doing enough. 

‘Thanks to brave scientists, communities and progressive leaders around the world, who’ve persistently advanced climate solutions like solar and wind energy for years and decades, we now have everything needed to solve this mess. It’s time to up our game, deliver on climate justice and push fossil fuel interests out of the way. There’s a role for everyone to play.’

Senior policy expert at Greenpeace Nordic

Another chance for governments

The IPCC laid down the facts as detailed scientific guidance, giving governments another chance to do right for people and the planet. 

But time and chances are not unlimited and the report will define climate politics for the rest of the year, leaving world leaders to make progress, or further enable climate injustice.

COP28, the upcoming climate summit in the United Arab Emirates, must address today’s report in the critical race to end dependencies on fossil fuels, boost renewables and support a just transition to a zero carbon future.

‘The research is very clear. China needs to cut fossil fuel use immediately. Developing renewable energy on the side is not enough. At this stage, it needs to be all hands on deck towards a renewable energy future and the longer we invest funding in coal, the more at risk we all are to the climate disasters that are already a serious threat. And the financial risk that new coal plants will pose should also be concerning to any observer.’

Senior policy advisor, Greenpeace East Asia

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