IPCC report clarion call to tackle ‘climate time bomb’: Guterres warns

The newly released Synthesis Report by United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is “a clarion call to massively fast-track climate efforts by every country and every sector and on every timeframe”, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned this week.

In a YouTube video message launching the report, Guterres said the world needed to tackle the “climate time bomb” on all fronts — “everything, everywhere, all at once”.

IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee said mainstreaming effective and equitable climate action now would not only reduce losses and damages for nature and people but also provide wider benefits — “If we act now, we can still secure a liveable sustainable future for all”.

The report said losses and damages we were already taking a toll and that would continue into the future, hitting the most vulnerable people and ecosystems.

Aditi Mukherji, one of the report’s 93 authors and the closing chapter of the IPCC’s sixth assessment, said: “Climate justice is crucial because those who have contributed least to climate change are being disproportionately affected.”

“Almost half of the world’s population lives in regions that are highly vulnerable to climate change. In the last decade, deaths from floods, droughts and storms were 15 times higher in highly vulnerable regions,“ she said.

IPCC said within this decade, accelerated action to adapt to climate change was essential to close the gap between existing adaptation and what was needed. Limiting warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels required “deep, rapid and sustained greenhouse gas emissions reductions in all sectors”. By now, emissions should be decreasing and cuts by almost half were needed by 2030, if warming was to be limited to 1.5°C.

Guterres said scientists in this latest IPCC report revealed several, feasible and effective options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to human-caused climate change were available now.

He had proposed to G20 countries a “climate solidarity pact” be formed between all big emitters to cut emissions and for wealthier countries to mobilise financial and technical resources to support emerging economies in a joint effort to keep the 1.5°C goal alive.

The solution could be found in climate resilient development. Integrating measures to adapt to climate change, eg access to clean energy and technologies improved health, especially for women and children; low-carbon electrification, walking, cycling and public transport enhanced air quality, improved health, employment opportunities and delivered equity.

The economic benefits for people’s health from air quality improvements alone would be about the same, or possibly even bigger, than the costs of reducing or avoiding emissions.

IPPC said there was enough global capital to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions if existing barriers were reduced.

Effective and equitable conservation of about 30-50% of the earth’s land, freshwater and ocean would help ensure a healthy planet. Urban areas offered a global-scale opportunity for ambitious climate action that could contribute to sustainable development.

Governments, through public funding and clear signals to investors, were the solution in reducing these barriers. Investors, central banks and financial regulators could also play their part.

“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, co-ordinated policies, international co-operation, ecosystem stewardship and inclusive governance are all important for effective and equitable climate action,” the report said.

If technology, know-how and suitable policy measures were shared and adequate finance made available now, every community could reduce or avoid carbon-intensive consumption and with significant investment in adaptation, “we can avert rising risks, especially for vulnerable groups and regions”.