UN calls for rapid, ambitious action to tackle climate crisis

IPCC’s world-leading scientists say resources and knowledge are sufficient to tackle the global climate crisis.

Cracked mud stretches out across a vast area once covered by the waters of the Suesca lagoon
Monday's report said that in the past decade, there have been 15 times more deaths from droughts, floods and storms in highly vulnerable regions compared with low-vulnerability ones [File: Fernando Vergara]

The world has the tools to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to secure a sustainable future if more ambitious actions are taken, a United Nations report has said, noting that actions taken so far are not enough to tackle the growing threats posed by climate change.

A UN panel of scientists stressed in a synthesis report on Monday that there are multiple, feasible and effective options to adapt to climate change.

“Mainstreaming effective and equitable climate action will not only reduce losses and damages for nature and people, it will also provide wider benefits,” said Hoesung Lee, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in a statement.

The 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”, he added.

The IPCC is a UN body that brings together leading scientists to assess the evidence related to climate change and inform political leaders with periodic scientific assessments. The IPCC’s first main scientific input was delivered in 2014, which paved the way a year later for the Paris Agreement – a landmark international treaty on climate change.

Monday’s so-called synthesis report summarises the findings of several previous IPCC assessments and comes after a week of deliberations in Interlaken, Switzerland.

The report said that carbon emissions need to be cut by almost half by 2030 if global warming is to be limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Effective and equitable conservation of about 30-50 percent of the world’s land, freshwater and ocean will help ensure a healthy world, it added.

It is also key to prioritise risk reduction for low-income and marginalised communities, read the report, highlighting the need to finance poorer nations that are the most vulnerable to climate change despite producing less greenhouse gas emissions compared with industrialised countries.

It said that from 2010-2020, human mortality from floods, droughts and storms was 15 times higher in regions that were highly vulnerable to climate change, compared with regions with very low vulnerability.

In 2018, the IPCC underscored unprecedented difficulties in keeping the temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius. But five years later, that “challenge has become even greater due to a continued increase in greenhouse gas emissions”, the report said.

“The pace and scale of what has been done so far, and current plans, are insufficient to tackle climate change,” it added.

‘Not all bad news’

Peter Newman – professor of sustainability at Curtin University in Perth, Australia, and a coordinating author of past UN climate reports – noted, however, that it is not all bad news, as some real changes are taking place.

“The net-zero funding from the finance world is reaching through into cities and regions in ways I have not seen before,” Newman told Al Jazeera, adding that in his 10 years with the IPCC, he has never seen such an uptake of sustainable solutions such as renewable batteries and electric vehicles.

“We should be celebrating the fact that the opportunities are now there [for getting away from fossil fuels], but at the same time [we should be] recognising that is going to be a very big exercise to move the whole world down this trail,” he said.

Helping countries in the developing world to tackle climate catastrophes was the focus of another key summit on climate change held in the Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikh in November of last year.

After two weeks of talks, nearly 200 nations agreed at the COP27 conference to establish a fund for “loss and damage” for developing countries to bear the costs of climate-related events. However, Newman noted, the countries failed to take any commitments to reduce dependency on fossil fuels – the main driver of global warming.

“This world needs to change rapidly, from the developed world getting rid of that greenhouse gas and the developing world preparing for more disasters because there will be more,” Newman said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged rich countries to speed up their effort and try to reach carbon neutrality by 2040 instead of 2050 to “defuse the climate time bomb”.

“Humanity is on thin ice – and that ice is melting fast,” Guterres said in a video message after the release of the IPCC report.

Source: Al Jazeera