Last week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the long awaited ‘Synthesis Report’. This report is the final instalment in the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment, which began in 2015, and is the culmination of years of extensive, peer reviewed research into the changing condition of our climate. This final, and stark report makes very clear that we are at a critical point in time where without immediate and drastic efforts to reduce global emissions, the devastating impacts of runaway climate change will become irreversible and more extreme.
As this is a summary report of previously published research, there is no new science. We have been aware of the science for some time, and in particular on the back of the 2018 Special Report on 1.5°C Global Warming. The Synthesis Report does, however, reiterate the fragile reality of the situation with a notably sober tone.
So, what does the latest report tell us? There is an abundance of detail, but here are our key takeaways:
- Human activity has, unequivocally, caused global warming. This is due to the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) from unsustainable energy use, land use and land-use change, lifestyle and patterns of consumption and production.
- Human-caused climate change is already affecting global weather and climate systems, leading to widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people. Losses and damages being experienced will continue to disproportionately affect the poorest and most vulnerable.
- We are currently at a global temperature of 1.1°C above pre-industrial baselines, and the continued increase in GHG emissions will likely lead to global temperatures exceeding the 1.5°C target between 2030 and 2035, with the current climate policies in place projecting a global warming increase of 3.2°C by 2100.
- Every increment of global warming is critical and will lead to compounded and cascading adverse impacts. If we overshoot 1.5°C, we must do everything we can to bring warming back down to avoid crossing crucial tipping points that can’t be uncrossed, such as the melting of the permafrost.
- Some future changes are now unavoidable and / or irreversible, however can be limited by “deep, rapid and sustained global GHG emissions reductions”. To have a shot at the 1.5°C target, global emissions need to be cut by at least 43% by 2030 compared to 2019 levels, and by 60% by 2035.
- Prioritising equity, social justice, inclusion and just transition processes would enable ambitious climate mitigation actions and climate-resilient development.
- Tracked climate finance for mitigation currently falls short of the levels needed to limit warming to below 2°C or to 1.5°C across all sectors and regions, and public and private finance flows for fossil fuels are still greater than those for climate adaptation and mitigation.
- Projected CO2 emissions from existing fossil fuel infrastructure without additional abatement would exceed the remaining carbon budget for 1.5°C. Any reasonable scenario where we limit warming close to 1.5°C cannot include the continued use of unabated fossil fuels.
- Among other measures to ensure energy systems are net zero CO2 emitters, we need a “substantial reduction in overall fossil fuel use, minimal use of unabated fossil fuels, and use of carbon capture and storage in the remaining fossil fuel systems; energy conservation and efficiency; and greater integration across the energy system”.
With the 1.5°C target now likely to be breached in the early 2030s, we must, as a global community, fundamentally change how we live our lives and operate our businesses to ensure we avoid dangerous tipping points, preserve biodiversity and protect the vulnerable communities and ecosystems around the world. We simply must do more.
The report makes abundantly clear that the decisions taken within this decade will have a decisive impact on our ability to limit the adverse consequences of climate change. As we move into Q2 of 2023, we have just 6.5 years remaining to make the drastic changes necessary to secure a safe and stable future.
“The choices and actions implemented in this decade will have impacts now and for thousands of years” – IPCC
The report does, however, offer some optimism. While we may not be able to reverse all the effects of climate change, the technologies we require to slow down and limit these impacts already exist. Where the report lays bare that our reliance on fossil fuels must come to an end, it also highlights that we can replace these energy sources with clean, renewable energy if we choose to do so. The publication of the UK’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC) report on ‘Delivering a Reliable Decarbonised Power System’, published on 9th March 2023, also supports this by setting out an achievable pathway for decarbonised UK electricity by 2035. It is no longer a question of science, but instead one of political will.
Much is made of the risks and adverse impacts of climate change, and quite rightly so. However, this transition also presents vast financial and social opportunities to create a cleaner, safer world. Mark Carney, UN Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance, has been quoted saying the transition to net zero has potential to be “the greatest commercial opportunity of our time”. We have the knowledge, we have the technology, we must now work collectively to prioritise and implement the solutions to this problem.
Ventient Energy is committed to playing our part in the journey to net zero. We are working hard to supplement the availability of renewable energy to consumers across Europe, whilst taking ownership of and reducing our own emission profile. We recognise that this transition will be difficult, disruptive and at times expensive, however as part of our mission to secure the future of people and the planet, we feel it is a fundamental responsibility to tackle this problem head on. We encourage all our stakeholders to join us on this journey to ensure a rapid but just transition towards a net zero economy.
Ultimately, climate change will impact each and every one of us and we must now, more than ever, work together to reduce emissions and preserve the planet for future generations.
Climate Impact Lead
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