The challenges associated with global warming have become “even greater” due to a continued increase in greenhouse gas emissions – with “insufficient” pace and scale of the current and planned measures to tackle climate change, according to the latest report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The report, approved during a week-long conference in the Swiss town of Interlaken, focused on the losses and damages of the climate crisis. It emphasised that accelerated climate action this decade is essential to close the gap between existing adaptation and what is needed. Meanwhile, keeping warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels requires deep, rapid and sustained greenhouse gas emissions reductions in all sectors. Emissions should be decreasing by now and will need to be cut by almost half by 2030, if warming is to be limited to 1.5 degrees.
“Mainstreaming effective and equitable climate action will not only reduce losses and damages for nature and people, but it will also provide wider benefits,” said Hoesung Lee Chair of IPCC. “This Synthesis Report underscores the urgency of taking more ambitious action and shows that, if we act now, we can still secure a liveable sustainable future for all.”
Fixing the current climate response
According to the report, there are “multiple, feasible and effective” options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to human-caused climate change, which are available today.
The solution lies in climate-resilient development, the report said. This involves integrating measures to adapt to climate change with actions to reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions in ways that provide wider benefits. Emphasising this point, the report noted access to clean energy and technologies which can improve health, especially for women and children, as well as low-carbon electrification, walking, cycling and public transport enhance air quality which can improve health and employment opportunities and deliver equity, the report’s authors said.
Climate resilient development becomes progressively more challenging with every increment of warming, the report highlighted. According to the authors, the measures need to be rooted in “our diverse values, worldviews and knowledge, including scientific knowledge, Indigenous Knowledge and local knowledge.” This approach would facilitate climate-resilient development and allow “locally appropriate, socially acceptable” solutions.
“The greatest gains in wellbeing could come from prioritising climate risk reduction for low-income and marginalised communities, including people living in informal settlements,” said Christopher Trisos, one of the report’s authors. “Accelerated climate action will only come about if there is a many-fold increase in finance. Insufficient and misaligned finance is holding back progress.”
Removing barriers to reducing greenhouse gas emissions
There is sufficient global capital to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions if existing barriers are reduced, the authors said. Increasing finance to climate investments is important to achieve global climate goals. Governments, through public funding and clear signals to investors, are key in reducing these barriers. Investors, central banks and financial regulators could also play their part, the report highlighted.
According to IPCC’s scientists, there are “tried and tested” policy measures that can work to achieve deep emissions reductions and climate resilience if they are scaled up and applied more widely. Political commitment, coordinated policies, international cooperation, ecosystem stewardship and inclusive governance are all important for effective and equitable climate action.
If technology, know-how and suitable policy measures are shared, and adequate finance is made available now, every community could reduce or avoid carbon-intensive consumption. At the same time, with significant investment in adaptation, the world can avert rising risks, especially for vulnerable groups and regions, the report said.
The report highlighted the need for reforms in the food sector, electricity, transport, industry, buildings and land use that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and noted that such changes could make it easier for people to lead “low-carbon lifestyles,” which would also improve health and wellbeing. On that note, the report said that a better understanding of the consequences of overconsumption could help people make more informed choices.
“Transformational changes are more likely to succeed where there is trust, where everyone works together to prioritise risk reduction, and where benefits and burdens are shared equitably,” the IPCC Chair said. “We live in a diverse world in which everyone has different responsibilities and different opportunities to bring about change. Some can do a lot while others will need support to help them manage the change.”