‘Rapidly closing window of opportunity’ to avoid climate disaster, IPCC warns

20th March 2023


Global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, but there is still time to avoid irreversible damage to the environment, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) revealed yesterday.

In the final installment of its sixth assessment report, the UN body warns that there is a “rapidly closing window of opportunity” to secure a liveable and “sustainable future for all”.

However, the authors also highlight “multiple, feasible and effective” options to slash emissions and adapt to climate change, adding that these are “available now”.

Furthermore, the report – which was approved by governments worldwide – suggests that there is sufficient global capital to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions “if existing barriers are reduced”.

To limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, it estimates that CO2 emissions must be cut 48% by 2030 – in comparison to 2019 levels – 65% by 2035, 80% by 2040, and 99% by 2050.

IEMA CEO, Sarah Mukherjee MBE, said that the report is another reminder of the “unprecedented challenge we face in limiting global warming to 1.5°C.”

However, she added: “There is still a window of opportunity to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, and the report makes clear that we do have the tools needed to rapidly cut emissions at the scale required.

"We must take advantage of the time we still have left, because soon, the damage will be irreversible."

All modelled pathways that limit warming to 1.5°C with no or limited overshoot involve rapid and deep and, in most cases, immediate emissions reductions in all sectors this decade, according to the report.

It also states that overshooting this temperature threshold entails some irreversible adverse impacts, and additional risks for human and natural systems, all growing with the magnitude and duration of the overshoot.

Again, the report explains how “tried and tested” policy measures can achieve deep emission cuts if they are scaled up and applied more widely.

Political commitment, coordinated policies, international cooperation, ecosystem stewardship and inclusive governance are all cited as important for effective and equitable climate action.

The wide-ranging report also highlights the need for climate justice in the Global South, with deaths from floods, droughts and storms in regions highly vulnerable to climate change increasing by 15 times over the last decade.

Moreover, it highlights how climate, ecosystems and society are interconnected, and suggests that effective and equitable conservation of approximately 30-50% of the Earth’s land, freshwater and ocean will help ensure a healthy planet.

“Mainstreaming effective and equitable climate action will not only reduce losses and damages for nature and people, it will also provide wider benefits,” said IPCC chair Hoesung Lee.

“This synthesis report underscores the urgency of taking more ambitious action and shows that, if we act now, we can still secure a liveable sustainable future for all.”

Image credit: Shutterstock

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