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Thursday, May 19, 2022

Scientists express diverse views in reaction to IPCC report on climate mitigation

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on Monday, April 4, 2022, released the third and final report under the Sixth Assessment Cycle (AR6) which looks at climate change mitigation and the solutions and scenarios to limit warming to 1.5°C.

Hoesung Lee
Hoesung Lee, IPCC chair

The report highlights that rapid, deep and absolute cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, phasing out all fossil fuels, transformative shifts to scale up energy efficiency, renewable energy and electrification, and conservation and restoration of forests and lands — all aligned with sustainable development, accompanied by substantially increased finance and underpinned by principles of equity — offers the only real chance to avert runaway climate change.

According to experts, the science in the report is crystal clear: speculative technological fixes are no substitute for the rapid and managed phase out of all fossil fuels. Systemic transformations across all sectors of society, particularly the most high-consuming and polluting, within a precious narrowing window of opportunity, they say, can provide a path forward to avoid total climate breakdown and secure a safe, healthy and liveable planet.

In a reaction, scientists have provided a range of views on the issue, stressing that the world can no longer hold on to the polluting fossil fuels wrecking the climate.

Dr Stephen Cornelius, WWF Global Lead for IPCC and head of the WWF delegation observing the negotiations, said: “This report shows that while some sectors are heading in the right direction, climate change is moving faster than we are. We cannot hold on any longer to the polluting fossil fuels that are wrecking our climate and destroying the natural world on which we all depend. We will miss the crucial goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C unless we dramatically scale up climate solutions to rapidly cut greenhouse gas emissions.

“This means investing at scale in powering our societies more efficiently, using clean renewable energy, conserving and restoring nature, moving away from unsustainable business practices and leaving no one behind in this transition. Every moment, every policy, every investment, every decision matters to avoid further climate chaos.”

Kaisa Kosonen, Senior Policy Advisor, Greenpeace Nordic: “It’s game over for fossil fuels that are fuelling both wars and climate chaos. There’s no room for any new fossil fuel developments and the coal and gas plants we already have need to close early. While our leaders have been claiming they’re doing their very best on climate, the scientists have just proven they are not. There’s plenty of potential to do more right now, with huge benefits!

“Yet, money keeps flowing to problems instead of solutions, and it will only change with credible targets, policies and support aligned with the Paris Agreement warming limit. Both the threats and the opportunities are larger than ever. But so is the power of people who unite for change.”

Nikki Reisch, Director, Climate & Energy Programme, Centre for International Environmental Law (CIEL): “There is no silver bullet for solving climate change, but there is a smoking gun: fossil fuels. The IPCC’s latest report affirms why rapid and equitable phaseout of fossil fuels must be the centre-piece of any science-based mitigation strategy that aims to avert catastrophic levels of global warming.

“Relying on speculative technologies purported to deliver emissions reductions or removals in the future, after temperature rise surpasses 1.5°C, will cost lives and inflict further irreversible harm. Like Putin’s fossil-fueled invasion and the profit-driven energy crisis it engendered, the Panel’s findings only reinforce that breaking free from fossil fuel dependency is critical for the global climate, for global peace, and for economic stability.”

Dr. Rachel Cleetus, Policy Director and Lead Economist. Climate and Energy Programme, Union of Concerned Scientists: “Decades of failure in global leadership, combined with fossil fuel companies’ single-minded focus on their profits and unsustainable patterns of consumption within the world’s richest households, are putting our planet at peril. Fossil fuels are the root cause of climate change, of environmental injustices and – as we are witnessing in Ukraine right now – frequently associated with geopolitical strife and conflict.

This latest IPCC report puts policymakers on notice, yet again, that the current global trajectory of heat-trapping emissions is alarmingly off-track. The solutions are obvious and have been for a long time – the world needs to rapidly phase out fossil fuel emissions across every sector of the economy and accelerate a transformative shift to clean energy.

“Richer nations, including the United States, bear significant responsibility to both cut emissions and provide funding to help developing countries. Continuing down the current path leaves us poised to exceed 1.5 and even 2 degrees Celsius of warming. Let’s seize this precious, narrow window of opportunity to secure a safer, healthier, and more just world.”

Teresa Anderson, Climate Justice Lead, ActionAid International: “You can feel the scientists’ frustration that mountains of evidence aren’t yet driving the radical action needed to meet global climate goals. They are watching the clock tick down as governments and polluters continue to avoid making the bold changes in our energy, food and industrial systems, that are our only route out of catastrophic climate change.

“The IPCC report delivers a clear warning that reliance on technofixes and tree plantations to solve the problem not only amount to wishful thinking, but would drive land conflicts and harm the food, ecosystems and communities already hardest hit by the climate crisis.”

Dr Stephanie Roe, IPCC Lead Author and WWF Global Climate and Energy Lead Scientist: “The latest IPCC report finds that solutions are readily available across all sectors to more than halve emissions by 2030, in line with a 1.5ºC pathway. Moreover, a low-carbon economy can create more jobs overall, and there are many mitigation options with economic, societal and environmental benefits. Since the last report, technologies have significantly improved, and the costs of solutions like solar, wind and batteries have declined by up to 85%.

“Around 20 countries have shown they can reduce emissions through policy and economic measures, which have boosted energy efficiency, reduced rates of deforestation and increased renewable energy and low-carbon transportation. Some countries’ reductions are consistent with limiting warming to 2ºC, but none are yet on track for a 1.5ºC pathway. We clearly have the tools to tackle the climate crisis, but they need to be deployed more rapidly and at a larger scale to keep 1.5ºC within reach and reduce the severity of climate impacts.”

Dr Stephan Singer, Senior Advisor, Climate Action Network International: “We are glad to see that the governments agreed in this IPCC report that solar and wind power as well as energy efficiency have the largest economic potentials to cut carbon pollution the most by 2030 in this crucial decade. This must be accompanied by the protection of pristine forests and restoration of degraded ecosystems and a shift to plant-based low-carbon diets. We urge governments, particularly the large polluters, to immediately implement the findings showing that investments into clean technologies have to grow by up to six times annually on average until 2030 to have a chance to stay in the survival trajectory of no more than 1.5°C global warming eventually.”

Chiara Martinelli, Director, Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe: “Science is telling us we can’t wait until 2030 to drastically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. With this strong piece of evidence, it’s outrageous to see that countries in Europe and the EU are still subsidising fossil fuels, instead of using those precious funds to accelerate a just energy transition for all. This will help protect the environment, but also will have ripple benefits in our health and, as we are specially aware of these days, peace.”

Louise Fournier, Legal Counsel for Climate Justice and Liability, Greenpeace International: “In a historic first, the IPCC acknowledges the power of people going to court to assert their human rights in the face of the climate crisis. Governments, corporations and financial institutions, you’re officially on notice: align with the science and address fundamental injustices or be forced to do so.”

Linda Schneider, Senior Programme Officer International Climate Policy, Heinrich Boell Foundation: “The WGIII report contains much of what is needed to stay on track for 1.5°C without dangerous temperature overshoot and without speculative technological carbon dioxide removal (CDR). But the IPCC falls short of highlighting the right conclusions from its own findings: The central climate mitigation strategy – phasing out all fossil fuels, starting immediately – is often diluted in the Summary for Policymakers by references to CDR and carbon capture and storage, which are meant to keep the fossil fuel industry alive.

“Overly vague language on “net zero” emissions obfuscates the most urgent policy responses: Fossil fuel phase-out, wind and solar, widespread electrification, and lowering energy and resource demand, in particular in the Global North, transformations in food systems and diets, protection and restoration of natural ecosystems in line with rights of local communities and Indigenous Peoples.

“The IPCC mitigation report needs to be read in light of the previous two Working Group reports, which highlighted the severe risks and irreversible damage associated with overshooting the 1.5°C limit and with the deployment of CDR technologies to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Geoengineering technologies will not reverse climate breakdown.”

Olivier Bois von Kursk, Policy Analyst, International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD): “The IPCC’s latest report is crystal clear: the world must phase out virtually all coal, oil and gas production by 2050 to limit global warming to 1.5°C by 2100 while safeguarding the sustainable development goals. We must start shifting energy investments away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy, and this process must begin today.

“The good news is that we can ensure long-term climate and energy security by building an energy system based on renewables and energy storage. The countries must commit to more ambitious climate goals and more than double their annual wind and solar energy investments during the next 10 years to transition away from fossil fuels in a way that is consistent with climate science, justice, and sustainable development.”

Steve Trent, CEO and founder of the Environmental Justice Foundation: “The latest IPCC report on mitigation of the climate crisis once again confirms the urgency with which we need to act. We must free every political portfolio, every business, every home, from our current carbon addiction. We must also be clear that decisive action on climate is not a ‘cost’: it is an investment, not just in our future, but in our survival.

“Such investment will provide a buoyant green jobs market as well as protecting us against damage from extreme weather and the need to adapt to a drastically altered climate: it would be the greatest cost-saving of human history. Ultimately, the money we spend today will return many times its value, but the ‘Bank of Nature’ will charge a wholly unsustainable rate of interest if we do not pay off our debts now.”

Olha Boiko, Ecoaction, Coordinator of CAN EECCA, based in Ukraine: “It is heart-breaking for me, as a Ukrainian climate activist, to be living through a war which has fossil fuel money at its core. The money, that we begged not to invest in dirty energy, is now flying over our heads in the form of bombs. The dependence of some countries on fossil fuels is being used for blackmail. We need to come out of this war better than we were.

“We need to learn how to act in a more intelligent way and put the great power of people into green recovery. I want us to be a part of building a more just and greener world which prevents fossil fuelled dictatorships from getting this much power. Science is with us, we know what we have to do.”

Tom Evans, climate diplomacy policy advisor, E3G: “Governments need to respond to this report in two ways. They must set higher climate targets for this decade to close the 1.5˚C emission gap. And we need much stronger implementation of climate policies to actually deliver those emissions cuts. The spotlights on the major emitting countries to take these two steps this year without delay. It’s not only what they promised to do at last year’s COP26 UN climate summit, but also what today’s report urgently calls for.”

Eddy Pérez, International Climate Diplomacy Manager, Climate Action Network – Réseau action climat Canada: “Today’s IPCC report confirms that the world is on the brink of unprecedented change. Governments face a choice. They can either seize this moment of transformation, to build a more just world by accelerating climate action, and putting the needs of communities, Indigenous Peoples, and workers first. Or they can remain complacent amidst escalating destruction, conflict, and poverty, and allow the fossil fuel industry to burn our chance for a livable future.”

Kelly Trout, Research Co-Director, Oil Change International: “Fossil fuel executives are exploiting a war they helped fund to try to increase their own profits and pollution, and this report shows us exactly why governments must put a stop to it. To stay below 1.5°C, we can’t afford any new oil, gas, and coal infrastructure and need to phase out what’s already built at a rapid pace.

“The positive news is that an energy system based on clean, renewable energy is both achievable and best for people’s health, development, and energy security. To get there, governments must stop listening to fossil fuel corporations and start heeding the science and the urgent pleas for action from communities facing droughts, fires, floods, and rising seas.”

Tzeporah Berman, Chair for the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative and Stand.earth International Program Director: “This report is clear that we are now facing a dangerous lock-in of fossil fuel emissions and stranded assets which will further destabilise our economy and society. This is because governments and companies have continued to recklessly expand oil, gas and coal projects. A new global fossil fuel treaty can help countries manage this risk and constrain production in a way that is fast and fair at the scale required to tackle this global crisis. You can’t put out a fire with gas and our planet is quite literally on fire.”

Colin Roche, climate justice and energy coordinator for Friends of the Earth Europe: “This report makes clear just how close we are to breaching the Paris Agreement’s 1.5-degree limit and just how urgent it is to make a clean break from fossil fuels. There can be no justification for prolonging support and subsidies for fossil fuels that put the planet on a pathway to more than 1.5C of warming – which is already a devastating compromise for vulnerable parts of the world.

“Putin’s horrific fossil fuel funded invasion of Ukraine has rocked Europe and must be the final wake-up call that breaks the stranglehold of fossil fuels on our energy system. Clean, safe energy solutions exist, and the IPCC shows they are getting cheaper. Europe must finally put people and our planet before industry profits, start decommissioning fossil fuels and go all-out for renewables, insulation and energy saving.”

Michael E Mann, Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State University: “This latest report drives home both the urgency and agency in addressing the climate crisis. While we are already experiencing dangerous climate change impacts, this report shows that we can still avert the worst consequences if we rapidly accelerate the transition from fossil fuels toward clean energy and climate-friendly practices. A Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty can be an anchor for driving forward that transition globally.”

Bill McKibben, founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org: “We’re past the point in human history where continuing to burn stuff is a bad idea, undermining both the climate and democracy. Happily, there’s a ball of burning gas hanging 93 million miles up in the sky that we can depend on. We have the tech, we need the will! At this point, a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty is a must.

Mattias Söderberg, Chief Advisor at DanChurchAid: “The report makes a strong call for action as time is running out. The good news is that we already know the solutions, but they require urgent investments. That is why the need to scale up climate finance is so important.”

Nafkote Dabi, Oxfam’s Climate Policy Lead: “No amount of adaptation can compensate for the terrible consequences of failing to hit the Paris goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C. This is a survival target and it remains within our grasp, but just barely. After a dip in 2020, carbon emissions that fuel climate change have bounced back to pre-pandemic levels. We need extraordinary cuts in the use of fossil fuels to meet our emissions targets, and that entails a dramatic shift towards sustainable renewable energy. The recent push to increase production of oil, gas and coal and backtrack on climate measures because of the crisis in Ukraine – and even to delay net-zero – is shortsighted folly.”

Sriram Madhusoodanan, International Strategy Director, Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy: “Today’s report is a reminder of the urgent need to heal humanity’s fractured relationship with the natural world. We must rapidly phase out the burning and extraction of fossil fuels while ensuring an equitable transition to justly sourced renewable energy systems. We must reject the dangerous distractions of fossil-fuel based solutions like refining natural gas for hydrogen fuels and carbon capture. As a global community, we must choose now to invest in community-controlled solutions to build a just, equitable, and people-centred economy.”

Ashfaq Khalfan, Law and Policy Director, Amnesty International: “The latest warning from IPCC scientists is clear: our reliance on fossil fuels is self-destructive and must decline rapidly if we want to stand any chance of protecting people’s human rights. All those who value human dignity and wellbeing must fully throw their weight behind the call for global climate justice. To meet their obligations in international law to protect human rights, each state must act urgently, at home and through international cooperation, to achieve a managed and equitable phase out of existing fossil fuel use and production worldwide.”

Lavetanalagi Seru, Regional Policy Coordinator, Pacific Islands Climate Action Network: “Expanding greenhouse gas emissions are undermining the fundamental human and environmental rights of the most vulnerable people and communities around the world, including here in the Pacific Islands. The scientific evidence becomes more damning with each IPCC report and makes it inevitable that those Corporations and State sponsors that are profiting off the lives and livelihoods of our island women, youth, and indigenous peoples, will soon face criminal prosecution. We must bring climate change to the International Court of Justice to protect the rights of present and future generations who call this planet home.”

Evan Gach, Programme Coordinator, Kiko Network. Coordinator, Climate Action Network Japan: “This report confirms that just moving to decarbonise by 2050 isn’t enough; climate change is outpacing our response, and avoiding its worst impacts requires urgent, decisive action from governments all around the world. Japan, as one of the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters, needs to set more ambitious emission reduction targets, along with concrete roadmaps and policy instruments to achieve them, in order to do its fair share to ensure the world avoids the worsening climate crisis. This begins with completely phasing out coal-fired power, its largest source of emissions, by 2030, and replacing it with renewable energy – not with impractical technology like ammonia and hydrogen co-firing, which won’t meaningfully reduce emissions and will only extend the life of coal power.”

Elmar Kriegler, a lead author of the IPCC report’s chapter “Mitigation pathways compatible with long-term goals” as well as a contributing author of the report’s summary for policy makers (SPM). He is co-chair of the Transformation Pathways Research Department at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research: “Getting the scientific community and governments to agree on the report’s summary for policymakers wasn’t easy – which shows one thing above all: it’s decision time now. The report is not just words, it calls for action, and it’s good that governments now recognize this. For example, we need to phase out coal worldwide. After all, the existing and planned coal-fired power plants alone would consume the budget of CO2 emissions still possible under the 1.5°C target during their operational life span.

“The costs of climate protection are economically absolutely feasible when examined on a global scale and over generations. But those costs vary greatly from region to region. CO2-intensive developing countries may face high costs. The winners are efficient industrialised countries like Germany, which are currently still importing fossil fuels but will convert. That is why a fair balance is crucial, not only within individual countries but also internationally. Because one thing is clear: The benefits of climate protection clearly exceed its costs.”

Ottmar Edenhofer, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and former co-chair of the IPCC´s working group 3 that published its report in 2014: “The report shows more clearly than ever that that we have not bent the curve of greenhouse gas emissions downward; we have only somewhat flattened its rise. But as emissions rise, so do climate risks, and the measures taken so far are too weak.

“That’s why we need new policies – and in the face of Russian aggression, these policies must combine energy security and climate security. Only with a strong carbon price can we stop the comeback of coal and at the same time diversify our energy sources and generate revenue for the necessary social compensation to cushion high energy costs.

“In Germany and Europe, the pricing of emissions must not be weakened; in the world, Europe, China and the US should form a climate club and agree on a minimum carbon pricing. The report shows that half of the emission reductions necessary worldwide can be achieved with technologies that would already be profitable at a CO2 price of below 100 euros per tonne. This is something that is already within reach today. Now politics must take that opportunity.”

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