On the heels of a damning report by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which speaks to the devastating effects human activity on the earth, United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, has said the message facing the petroleum industry cannot be any clearer. In a statement he released this week, Guterres said the message before the industry unequivocally states that oil and gas exploration and production must not continue; there must be a swift shift to renewable energy.
Guterres stressed that this word of caution must be heeded since the internationally agreed threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius is “perilously close.” He said, “We are at imminent risk of hitting 1.5 degrees in the near term. The only way to prevent exceeding this threshold is by urgently stepping up our efforts, and pursuing the most ambitious path…We are already at 1.2 degrees and rising.”
The UN Secretary General added, “Global Warming has accelerated in recent decades. Greenhouse gas concentrations are at record levels. Extreme weather and climate disasters are increasing in frequency and intensity. That is why this year’s United Nations climate conference in Glasgow is so important.”
Further to this, Guterres said all nations, especially the major emitters like the USA and China, need to join the net zero emissions coalition and reinforce their commitments with credible, concrete and enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions and policies before COP26 in Glasgow.
Without deep carbon pollution cuts now, he underscored that the 1.5-degree goal will fall quickly out of reach. To change the current trajectory, Guterres said there must be no new coal plants built after 2021, while adding that nations that are part of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) must phase out existing coal by 2030, with all others following suit by 2040. Guterres added, “Countries should also end all new fossil fuel exploration and production, and shift fossil fuel subsidies into renewable energy. By 2030, solar and wind capacity should quadruple and renewable energy investments should triple to maintain a net zero trajectory by mid-century.”
The UN Secretary General said there is a clear moral and economic imperative to protect the livelihoods of those on the frontlines of the climate crisis, and noted too that adaptation and resilience finance must cease being the neglected half of the climate equation. In this regard, he highlighted that only 21 percent of climate support is directed towards adaptation. “I again call on donors and the multilateral development banks to allocate at least 50 per cent of all public climate finance to protecting people, especially women and vulnerable groups. COVID-19 recovery spending must be aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement. And the decade-old promise to mobilise US$100 billion annually to support mitigation and adaptation in developing countries must be met,” the UN Secretary General expressed.
If there is a collective action on the situation at hand, the official opined that a climate catastrophe can be averted. “But, as the IPCC’s report makes clear, there is no time for delay and no room for excuses. I count on government leaders and all stakeholders to ensure COP26 is a success,” the UN official concluded.
ABOUT IPCC & ITS REPORT
The IPCC was created in 1988 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to provide policymakers with regular scientific assessments on climate change, its implications and potential future risks, as well as to put forward adaptation and mitigation options.
Through its assessments, the IPCC determines the state of knowledge on climate change. It identifies where there is agreement in the scientific community on topics related to climate change, and where further research is needed. The reports are drafted and reviewed in several stages, thus guaranteeing objectivity and transparency.
The IPCC is now in its sixth assessment cycle. The first report from this process is called Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. It was released this week. The report addresses the most up-to-date physical understanding of the climate system and climate change, bringing together the latest advances in climate science, and combining multiple lines of evidence from paleoclimate, observations, process understanding, and global and regional climate simulations. A total of 234 scientists from 66 countries are behind the first chapter of the IPCC’s sixth assessment report. Also, over 14,000 scientific papers are referenced in the report.
Some of the key findings of the report are as follows:
• Keeping to 1.5 Degrees Celsius will require “immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions” in emissions while slower action leads to a temperature of 2 Degrees Celsius and more suffering for all life on Earth.
• Drought is increasing in more than 90 percent of regions across the world
• The past five years have been the hottest on record since 1850
• The recent rate of sea-level rise has nearly tripled compared with 1901-1971
• Extreme sea-level events that occurred once a century are projected to occur at least annually.
• Under all the emissions scenarios considered, all targets for reductions will be broken this century unless huge cuts in carbon emissions take place.
• 2,400 billion tonnes of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) have been emitted by humanity since 1850. The world can afford to only leak another 400 billion tonnes to have a 66 percent chance of keeping to 1.5 Degrees Celsius.
• Many changes due to past and future greenhouse gas emissions are irreversible for centuries to millennia, especially changes in the ocean, ice sheets and global sea level.
• Under scenarios with increasing CO2 emissions, the ocean and land carbon sinks are projected to be less effective at slowing the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere.