Equitable climate action needed to secure future, says IPCC in latest report

Equitable climate action needed to secure future, says IPCC in latest report

Report by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change emphasises disproportionate effects on most vulnerable populations. Rapid & deep emissions cuts needed by 2030, it says.

Representational photo on climate action | Commons

Representational photo on climate action | Commons

New Delhi: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has made a case for equitable climate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and soften the blow of rising temperatures. 

In its latest report, released Monday, the IPCC emphasised that every effort must be made to drive down emissions, and that  “prioritising equity, climate justice, social justice, inclusion and just transition processes” can help humanity adapt to and mitigate the effects of changing climate, while ensuring climate-resilient development. 

Called the Synthesis Report, this summarises key findings from the three working group reports released previously and marks the end of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Cycle. It was adopted after delegates from countries across the world negotiated a 37-page ‘Summary for Policymakers,’ which was approved late Sunday. 

The report attributes rising global greenhouse gas emissions to “unequal historical and ongoing contributions arising from unsustainable energy use, land use and land-use change, lifestyles and patterns of consumption and production across regions, between and within countries, and among individuals.”

Several experts have said that what makes this report stand out is the emphasis it places on the disproportionate consequences of climate change on the most vulnerable, who have contributed to the problem the least.

“The context of inequity and justice features very prominently in this report. It was there in the underlying reports, but got buried by scientific information. But this report really brings up the fact that, going forward, we’ll need to take climate action which addresses these equity and justice issues,” said Joyashree Roy, author of the report, in a media briefing. 

Global warming has already caused temperatures to rise 1.1 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels, and the IPCC’s projections suggest the world is likely to cross 1.5 degrees of warming by the 2030s. The Paris Agreement, a binding global pact to keep the rise in temperature “well below” 2 degrees, is very likely to be breached by the turn of the century, the IPCC says. 

The findings are especially important in light of the Global Stocktake later this year, when progress under the Paris Agreement will be assessed for the first time since it was signed in 2015. 

“I think that the IPCC report is likely to note what needs to happen by 2035 and possibly by 2040, and that will be a critical benchmark that needs to be taken on board at the COP28 and the Global stocktake,” David Waskow, international climate director at the World Resources Institute, had said in a press briefing last week. 

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‘Critical decade’ for cutting emissions

Every increment of warming will magnify the effects of climate change and make achieving the Paris Agreement harder, says the report. The effects include exposing more populations to the effects of climate change, as well as more losses and damage resulting from impacts. 

The worst affected are vulnerable populations in low income countries. Between 2010 and 2020, human mortality from floods, droughts and storms was “15 times higher in highly vulnerable regions, compared to regions with very low vulnerability,” the IPCC found.

To limit global warming, governments and policymakers will need to ensure that rapid and deep reductions in emissions occur within the remainder of this “critical decade,” from now till 2030. 

While individuals with high socio-economic status contribute disproportionately to emissions, they also have the “highest potential for emissions reductions.” the IPCC says. 

At a broader level, system-wide transformations across all sectors are necessary to substantially drive down emissions. These changes include ecosystem restoration and protection, the deployment of low- and zero-emission technologies, reducing and changing demand for energy through infrastructure design, and socio-cultural changes in behaviour, to name a few.

“The greatest gains in wellbeing could come from prioritising climate risk reduction for low-income and marginalised communities, including people living in informal settlements,” Christopher Trisos, one of the report’s authors, said in a statement. “Accelerated climate action will only come about if there is a manifold increase in finance. Insufficient and misaligned finance is holding back progress.” 

While the report doesn’t explicitly call for a phase-out of fossil fuels, it says their use should be “substantially” reduced. It also warns that emissions from existing fossil fuel infrastructure must be captured and stored to avoid using up the remaining carbon budget left to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. 

3-6 times more finance needed to meet climate goals

The report is optimistic about technological interventions to mitigate climate impacts. It notes that the cost of renewables has dropped significantly, and that carbon dioxide removal (CDR) will be “necessary” to achieve net-negative emissions.   

But for countries to achieve their climate goals, over three to six times more finance is needed to limit global warming to between 1.5 and 2 degrees, it says. It also states that developed countries have failed to provide adequate financing for developing ones to implement climate action effectively. 

“Reducing financing barriers for scaling up financial flows would require clear signalling and support by governments, including a stronger alignment of public finances in order to lower real and perceived regulatory, cost and market barriers and risks,” says the report. 

(Edited by Rohan Manoj)

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