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IPCC points to need for 'radical action' as climate clock ticks down

by Megan Rowling | @meganrowling | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 5 April 2022 15:00 GMT

Aerial view shows vehicles and buildings inundated by floods in Shah Alam's Taman Sri Muda, one of the worst-hit neighbourhoods in Selangor state, Malaysia, December 21, 2021. Picture taken with a drone. REUTERS/Ebrahim Harris

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Analysts, activists and officials point to need to quickly slash fossil fuel use as climate scientists release their latest report

BARCELONA, April 4 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Limiting global warming to the most ambitious global goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius will be beyond reach without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all parts of the economy, scientists warned in a flagship U.N. report released on Monday.

But they noted growing evidence of climate action - and said reductions in planet-heating emissions on the scale needed can be made by swapping fossil fuels for solar, wind and other clean power, protecting forests and cutting demand for energy.

Here are some reactions from officials and analysts to the new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) outlining the world's options for curbing climate-heating gases and developing in a sustainable and socially fair way:

Frans Timmermans, executive vice-president, European Commission:

"Despite progress at COP26 (climate talks), global emissions are still trending in the wrong direction. Today’s report tells us we have to turn around, and quickly.

"To preserve our planet for future generations, radical action is necessary in all countries and economic sectors. ... Ambition is not enough; only action counts."

Teresa Anderson, climate justice lead, ActionAid International:

"You can feel the scientists’ frustration that mountains of evidence isn’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 techno-fixes and tree plantations to solve the problem not only amounts to wishful thinking, but would drive land conflicts and harm the food, ecosystems and communities already hardest hit by the climate crisis.”

Antonio Guterres, United Nations secretary-general:

"This report ... is a litany of broken climate promises. It is a file of shame, cataloguing the empty pledges that put us firmly on track towards an unlivable world. We are on a fast track to climate disaster...

"Climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals. But the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels. Investing in new fossil fuels infrastructure is moral and economic madness."   

Rachel Kyte, dean, The Fletcher School at Tufts University:

"We are at a moment of increasing tension around the world, with every excuse possible for distraction and delay.

"We now have to put our arms around a new form of energy security – one that embraces everyone; a new kind of politics ... We are at a moment of reckoning and the IPCC report just puts an exclamation point at the end of that.”

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." 

Ani Dasgupta, president & CEO, World Resources Institute:

"We have cost-effective options available today to significantly reduce emissions in the near-term while meeting our development goals.

“Holding global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C is still possible, but only if we act immediately ... The tools required to rapidly decarbonise the economy so that people and nature can thrive are at our fingertips - we just need our leaders to wield them.”

Sharan Burrow, general secretary, International Trade Union Confederation:

“This report lays out a stark reality: global greenhouse gas emissions need to peak before 2025, and we have to cut emissions by 43% by 2030 to give us a chance to limit global warming to 1.5°C. That’s a lot, but the report says that solar and wind energy have the potential to deliver over one-third of this target.

"...At the same time, the report is clear that we have to leave the oil and gas in the ground to survive. We need fossil fuel infrastructure and subsidies to be repurposed. This requires just transition: a plan to convert these jobs in fossil fuels to jobs in clean energy. Every country, every industry, every company, and every investor must have a plan developed, in partnership with working people and their communities, and must implement it rapidly."

Patrick Devine-Wright, IPCC lead author and University of Exeter human geography professor:

"For too long, demand for energy has been comparatively overlooked in comparison to supply issues such as whether we go for nuclear or wind. But if we can reduce demand, we also reduce risks associated with where we secure our energy from and how many new power stations we need.

"For the first time, this IPCC report recognises the importance of demand and the value of social science in understanding how to change demand. If we can tackle demand effectively, we can not only reduce emissions, but boost health, wellbeing and equity at the same time."

Mohamed Adow, director, Power Shift Africa:

“The IPCC report shows the urgency of slashing global greenhouse gas emissions. The best way to do that is to switch as fast as possible to renewables and avoid the future use of fossil fuels.

"Africa stands on the cusp of sweeping economic development. How Africa develops will play a key role in deciding whether the world avoids catastrophic climate change or not. Many African countries face other structural challenges such as poverty, low-quality infrastructure and strained national finances.

“But Africa could be the leading example in avoiding emissions by harnessing our abundant wind and solar energy. This will only be possible with significant financial support and technology sharing from richer nations, whose emissions have caused this crisis."

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.” 

Bronson Griscom, senior director of natural climate solutions, Conservation International:

"(The report) is the most conclusive endorsement yet of nature as a climate solution. It reveals that reducing the destruction of ecosystems, restoring them, and improving the management of working lands, like farms, are three of the five largest options for mitigating carbon emissions.

"The IPCC finds that delivering natural climate solutions that limit warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6F) would cost up to $400 billion a year by 2050. That’s less than current subsidies for business-as-usual agriculture and forestry."

Taylor Dimsdale, director of risk and resilience, E3G:

"Removing carbon from the atmosphere will be necessary to achieve 1.5C but the latest IPCC report also shows that it won’t be a panacea.

"To avoid worst-case scenarios and unmanageable impacts, the promise of negative emissions at some future point in time must not be used as an excuse to delay action on efficiency and the deployment of renewables now."

Madeleine Diouf Sarr, chair, Least Developed Countries group:

"This report is a resounding call to action for governments. Climate and energy are inextricably linked, and are at the heart of complex geopolitical issues.

"Ending the deadly addiction to fossil fuels and harnessing the full potential of cheap and abundant renewable energies is critical, not only to avoiding the worst climate impacts, but also to ensuring sustainable development and energy security."

Nafkote Dabi, climate policy lead, Oxfam 

"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.

"Wealthy countries are disproportionately responsible for the climate crisis and they have the double responsibility to both cut emissions at home and to support developing countries with the costs of re-planting crops and rebuilding homes after storms, and moving from dirty energy forms to cleaner, lower-carbon ones."

Anders Haug Larsen, head of policy, Rainforest Foundation Norway:

"The IPCC report shows that the greatest potential for emission reductions lies in the transition from fossil to renewable energy and through nature conservation.

"Conservation of key natural areas, such as tropical rainforest, is highlighted as particularly important as this contributes to the conservation of biological diversity as well as food and water security." 

(Reporting by Megan Rowling @meganrowling; editing by Laurie Goering. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org/climate)

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