Stockholm (NordSIP) – The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) presented the final Synthesis Report for the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) at a press conference in Interlaken, Switzerland on March 20, 2023. This was the culmination of an IPCC working group session held at the Swiss venue between 13 – 19 March. The overarching message is that this is the final warning on the climate crisis from the United Nations (UN) body’s team of expert authors and scientists from across the globe.
Everything everywhere all at once
In his introductory speech, UN Secretary General António Guterres says: “Our world needs climate action on all fronts, everything, everywhere, all at once.” Following this attention-grabbing cinematic reference, Guterres returns to his familiar sombre tone. He urges world leaders to join his proposed “Climate Solidarity Pact” to drastically speed up climate change mitigation efforts. Guterres expects developed nations to lead the way towards 2050 global average temperature targets by keeping to net-zero deadlines of 2040 or preferably earlier. He also calls on energy firm CEOs to be part of the solution and offer up crystal clear, credible transition plans along the guidelines presented by the UN’s High-Level Expert Group on Net-Zero commitments at COP27.
Speed is of the essence
As the culmination of many years’ work the core message of this latest report – and the finality of its warning – are by now familiar to sustainability professionals. Dr Hoesung Lee, IPCC Chair and leader of the report’s core writing team, introduces the AR6 Synthesis Report: “It marks the end of an extraordinary process. It has produced the world’s most comprehensive assessment of climate change science, the risks of climate change and response options. The report will serve as the resource for policymakers at a critical moment in history.” Lee reiterates the warning that climate change action is insufficient across the board. “We are walking when we should be sprinting,” he says, emphasising the dangers of global warning being compounded by conflicts and pandemics.
On a more positive note, Lee explains that the report clearly demonstrates that the technological advances and funding necessary for effective climate action are already in existence. The problem is a lack of speed and scale in implementing the “tried-and-tested” solutions laid out in the report. Addressing the global North/South divide, Lee calls for a 3 to 6 times increase in the pace of climate investment, with a prioritisation of adaptation measures in the most vulnerable countries.
Petteri Taalas, Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organisation confirms the bleak outlook based on current indicators, all of which he says are heading in the wrong direction: “This report shows that we are heading towards 2.2 to 3.5 degrees warming. Warming of 3 degrees would have a dramatic impact on human health, the biosphere, food security, refugees and the global economy.”
The ultimate no-brainer
UN Environment Programme Executive (UNEP) Director Inger Andersen also comments on the conclusions of the AR6 report: “It tells us that we already have the technology and know-how to get the job done. Renewable energy instead of fossil fuels, energy efficiency, green transport, green urban infrastructure, halting deforestation, ecosystem restoration, sustainable food systems including reduced food loss and waste. Investing in these areas will help to stabilise our climate, reduce nature and biodiversity loss and pollution and waste, the other two prongs of the triple planetary crisis.” For Andersen, there are many other benefits of such investments including cleaner air and nature, better jobs and more equity. “It is frankly the ultimate no-brainer,“ she concludes.
A sense of climate crisis déja-vu
Responding to an audience question on whether the whole process feels repetitive, with familiar messages being put forward in this report once again, Hoesung Lee puts the spotlight on those he feels are the only ones that can stop what Andersen described as climate procrastination: “What we need from now is a political will on the part of policymakers.” Failing that, Lee urges voters to simply get rid of them and replace them with policymakers that will take the necessary action that is clearly spelled out in the IPCC report.
Secretary-General Guterres is planning to convene a Climate Ambition Summit to be held in New York on 18 September 2023. Governments, business, cities, regions, civil society and finance are invited, but Guterres has set what he calls a non-negotiable price of entry in the form of credible, serious and new climate action and nature-based solutions that will move the needle forward and respond to the urgency of the climate crisis. This event will be followed by the 28th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (COP28) in the United Arab Emirates. The key message of the AR6 Synthesis Report is that the science is clear, and the solutions are available. The only thing that is lacking is speed and clarity of action. The UK’s Guardian newspaper was informed of last-minute efforts in Interlaken on the part a large Saudi delegation to weaken references to fossil fuels and shift the emphasis towards carbon capture and storage. It remains to be seen whether global policymakers can break free of the fossil fuel lobby’s pressure to implement the IPCC’s recommendations at the required speed.