The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—the Synthesis Report for the 6th Assessment—is being described as “a survival guide for humanity”. That is because scientific evidence now makes clear: unchecked climate disruption will make it impossible to feed all of humankind, sustain ecosystems and biodiversity in all regions, and will lead to global destabilisation, upheaval, and an acceleration of the ongoing mass extinction.
The good news is that the latest evidence reinforces previous findings that much of that devastation can be averted if we rapidly transition to energy systems that do not generate global heating pollution. The report is a “final warning” that action must begin now and spread everywhere, if everyday climate resilience and sustainable prosperity are to be achievable.
Citizens’ Climate International Executive Director Joe Robertson observed:
“The new IPCC Synthesis Report is the clearest signal to date: We cannot afford to keep investing in activities that destroy value; action to avert climate emergency is the best investment. The 2020s must be a time of unprecedented cooperation, inclusive economic development, and financial innovation—to align the human security of the most vulnerable with the fiscal stability of nations.”
The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres announced a plan to massively fast-track climate action. He called for “a quantum leap in climate action“ and specified:
“Our world needs climate action on all fronts—everything, everywhere, all at once… Leaders of developed countries must commit to reaching net zero as close as possible to 2040… some have already set a target as early as 2035 [and] Credible, comprehensive, and detailed transition plans… must contain actual emissions cuts for 2025 and 2030.”
The Secretary-General proposed a G20 Climate Solidarity Pact that includes an Acceleration Agenda. This Agenda calls for an end to coal, net-zero electricity generation by 2035 for all developed countries and 2040 for the rest of the world, and to stop all licensing or funding of new oil and gas, as well as any expansion of existing oil and gas reserves.
These measures must accompany safeguards for the most vulnerable communities, scaling up finance and capacities for adaptation and loss and damage, and promoting reforms to ensure Multilateral Development Banks such as the World Bank provide more grants and loans and fully mobilise private finance.
The report finds that the economic benefits for people’s health from air quality improvements alone would be roughly the same, or possibly even larger than the costs of reducing or avoiding emissions. Climate-resilient development becomes progressively more challenging with every increment of warming. This is why the choices made in the next few years will play a critical role in deciding our future and that of generations to come.
Deciding now to eliminate global heating pollution will reduce future climate disruption and allow future generations a liveable future.
To be effective, these choices need to be rooted in our diverse values, worldviews, and knowledge, including scientific knowledge, Indigenous Knowledge, and local knowledge. This approach will facilitate climate-resilient development and allow locally appropriate, socially acceptable solutions.
Finance, technology, and international cooperation are critical enablers for accelerated climate action. If climate goals are to be achieved, both adaptation and mitigation financing would need to increase many times over, and support positive innovations in the lives of far more people across the world.
Happily, the synthesis report is quite clear that there is sufficient global capital to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas pollution if existing barriers are reduced. Increasing finance to climate investments is important to achieve global climate goals. Governments, through public funding and clear signals to investors, are key in reducing these barriers. Investors, central banks, and financial regulators must also play their part.
Much of the trillions of dollars of financing for fossil fuels come from the private sector. Redirecting private sector finance away from fossil fuels is key. Policies such as an incrementally rising price on carbon pollution pricing with equal dividends to households, carbon border adjustment mechanisms, reforms at the World Bank, and climate risk disclosure rules for financial institutions would provide clear signals to redirect financial flows away from fossil fuels while not burdening the taxpayer.
Transformational progress is needed, and it is starting to happen. This includes the Inflation Reduction Act in the U.S., described as ‘the most significant legislation in history to tackle the climate crisis’, and the European Union’s latest Green Deal Industrial Plan, a strategy to make the block the home of clean technology and green jobs.
At the same time, food security is reaching unprecedented levels, even as debt distress and other disruptions due to COVID, conflict, and climate, continue to threaten health and wellbeing across the world. There is no time to lose. Our children are watching, and we teach them by doing what needs to be done.
The AR6 is being treated as humanity’s “final warning”, because every delay adds future disruption, risk, harm, and cost. These costs pile up—compounding and worsening conditions for nature and for humankind.
- AR6 – Synthesis Report Media Release
- AR6 – Synthesis Report YouTube Media Event
- AR6 – Synthesis Report – Address by Secretary-General António Guterres (Transcript)
- AR6 – Synthesis Report – Summary for Policy Makers
- AR6 – Synthesis Report Website