‘Climate adaptation cannot be an afterthought’ : Green economy leaders react to new IPCC report
Leaders from across the global green economy are urging policymakers and business decision-makers to heed the findings of major new report from hundreds of climate scientists, accelerating efforts on adaptation, decarbonisation, backed with adequate levels of finance.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has today ( 28 February) published the Sixth Assessment from Working Group 2. It forecasts how, at a range of warming trajectories, physical climate impacts will materialise in terms of the economy, nature and human health.
The findings have been described as the most granular yet, with the IPCC able to provide detailed forecasts that are specific to continents and even nations and regions. They have also been described as the most harrowing yet from the global body, which convened more than 250 scientists for the creation of this report.
Ultimately, the report predicts that no geographies will avoid all climate risk in the long, medium and even short term. It outlines how the most vulnerable communities and ecosystems, including coastal communities, small island states and places already grappling with food and water insecurity, will be the worst hit.
A headline finding is that some 3.3 billion to 3.6 billion people are already “highly vulnerable” to the impacts of the climate crisis. Without concerted efforts to slash emissions and help affected regions become more resilient, the prospect a “liveable” future for these people will quickly fade out of reach.
Following on from our initial coverage of the report’s key findings, edie is using this piece to outline the reactions of leaders from across the global green economy. The general consensus is that the report must serve as a warning for policymakers and business leaders alike, and should prompt a closer look at adaptation and international financing efforts in particular.
READ ON FOR A ROUND-UP OF REACTIONS TO THE REPORT
Today’s #IPCC report is a stark reminder of the threat climate change poses to us all
It shows the changes we are seeing are affecting us much sooner and are much greater than previously thought
We cannot fail to prepare now (1/2)
— Alok Sharma (@AlokSharma_RDG) February 28, 2022
CISL’s research director for sustainable finance Nina Seega: “This report is yet another wake-up call to rich and more resilient countries to recognise their own futures and acknowledge the colossal economic cost of inaction. We welcome the report’s spotlight on the world’s most vulnerable regions where economic impacts are already extreme and governments and communities are struggling to adjust to the economic losses, reduced growth and increased inequality global warming is imposing.
“Climate impacts are also taking place closer to home and, from the staggering heatwave in Canada to flash floods in Europe, each delay that increases global temperatures even fractionally means lasting economic damage to both vulnerable and resilient countries alike.
“The report serves as an urgent call to policymakers around the world to step up their NDC commitments by COP27 and to the financial community to increase finance devoted to mitigation and adaptation substantially to enable us to stay within 1.5C warming.”
The UK Corporate Leaders Group’s programme director Beverley Cornaby: “From a UK perspective, the report highlights the vital need for the country to stay on track to meet and then exceed its climate targets in order to contribute to global cuts in emissions. Managing current challenges, such as the energy crisis, so that action and ambition on reaching net-zero are not hampered by confusion or intentional delay is essential. More than ever, we need to implement strong medium- and long-term plans – building on the commitments set out in the UK’s Net Zero Strategy and the significant leadership shown as hosts of the COP26 summit.
“Businesses have an important role to play by making climate resilience a strategic priority – both in terms of championing UK adaptation strategy and in supporting the adaptation actions in the countries in which they operate. By driving adaptation action in the UK, businesses can help support international action for countries and communities on the frontline of climate impacts.”
IEMA’s chief executive Sarah Mukherjee: “Our organisation represents more than 18,000 professionals working in environment and sustainability roles and they have been warning us about a climate disaster for years. We need to rapidly accelerate the net-zero transition for the whole economy, and urgently deploy green skills to make every job greener in order to adapt and make changes to protect our climate, biodiversity and the natural environment upon which we all depend.
Friends of the Earth’s international climate campaigner Rachel Kennerley: “Once more, richer nations publicly position themselves as doing the right thing when it’s their own short-sighted interests guiding them. What we can see in this report, as we saw at COP26 in Glasgow, is apparently strong language being watered down at the expense of our collective future.
“When this happens, people who are suffering the most from climate chaos are the ones paying the price. They need and deserve financial assistance, and it’s right that countries most responsible for historical pollution offer that financial help.
“The time for reality checks is long gone: we have the answers and means to step back from the brink of climate catastrophe. It starts with an immediate end to the age of fossil fuels and ramping up the shift to renewable energy with the governmental support to see that crucial transition through.”
CDP’s chief impact officer Nicolette Bartlett: “This stark depiction of escalating climate impacts should light a fire under governments and corporates in the high-emitting economies most responsible for climate change, whose lack of action to date disproportionally affects the most vulnerable across the planet and pushes the world ever closer to a point of no return.
“In addition to its impact on people and planet, climate change is the single greatest risk to the global economy. Companies must prepare themselves for the impacts of climate change and show that they have the ability to adapt, be it through resilient supply chains or business models, efforts toward adaptation are now the minimum requirement for survival. Inaction is a foolish business risk no company can afford. Measuring and managing environmental risks through disclosure will help to build resilience and plan for the future. There are a wealth of frameworks and standards to guide corporates through that process in line with best practice.
“This isn’t just about risk and the need to adapt, however. Today’s IPCC report demonstrates once again the clear scientific links that can be drawn between impacts and climate change, with growing evidence of who the drivers of climate change are. Corporate disclosures to CDP show a steady increase in the number of companies disclosing potential substantive litigation risks, almost quadrupling since 2018. Climate litigation cases have soared in recent years. We expect this, and other risk disclosures – such as physical damage, compliance costing and insurance- to only increase in the next few years, as the impacts of climate change become clear, more measurable, evidence of a lack of action mounts and calls for accountability continue to increase.”
The Aldersgate Group’s executive director Nick Molho: “This report makes it crystal clear that adapting to the impacts of climate change cannot be an afterthought and must be a priority across all areas of government policy. It provides further global evidence of the impact of climate change, adding to the UK’s own climate change risk assessment published in January. The UK and the international community must now urgently accelerate efforts to both cut emissions and improve their resilience to climate impacts. This is essential to protect homes, infrastructure, food production and the resilience of the global supply chains that our economies and people rely on.
“Building on the Glasgow Climate Pact, this report is also a reminder to the UK and the Global North that they must act now to deliver increased climate finance to developing economies to support them with the urgent investment required to address climate change adaptation and emission cuts. Tangible progress in this area must be a key outcome of COP27 in Egypt.”
Natura&Co’s vice president of sustainability and group affairs Marcelo Behar:“Today’s report is another serious wake-up call – there needs to be bolder action, not by 2025 or by 2030, right now. Reversing damage to nature – like halting the destruction of tropical forests like the Amazon – must be a priority for that urgent, collective action.
“We need to see an Agreement on Nature that is similar in scope and scale to the Paris Agreement, with targets on biodiversity per country and mechanisms to subsidise projects that are nature- positive. And more businesses need to prioritise supporting biodiversity alongside their carbon reduction targets and action.”
Ashden chief executive Harriet Lamb: “This IPCC report underlines the need for urgent climate action, and highlights pathways to a zero-carbon future. But if we attempt that journey without action on green skills and training, in the UK and around the world, we’ll simply be wandering in circles.
“This means boosting the number of renewable energy engineers, tradespeople who can create energy-efficient homes, and those in other key roles. And it means ensuring every job, inside and outside the climate sector, is as green as possible.
“We know the destination. We know we need to get there fast. We know we need to get there together. But none of this is possible without a serious commitment to green skills.”
The UK Green Building Council’s (UKGBC) chief executive Julie Hirigoyen: “This report is yet another dire warning that climate change is here, now, and that urgent action is required from governments, business and civil society to deal with increasing risks. The window of opportunity to take action is closing, and we are in an emergency heading for disaster.
“The report singles out cities – which house more than half the world’s population – as ‘specific hotspots of impacts and risks’ to people, property and infrastructure. It’s clear that much greater investment in adaptation measures must be prioritised in urban areas, and that nature itself offers huge potential to reduce climate risks and improve people’s lives.
“Indeed, this report goes further than any previous IPCC Reports in linking human health and wellbeing with climate and biodiversity outcomes – highlighting that the communities least able to cope are being hit hardest. We can see this unfolding in the UK as low-income households are disproportionately affected by fuel poverty, overheating and flooding precisely because they lack the capacity to invest in improvements to their homes.
“Equally, with 25% of the UK’s total carbon emissions directly attributed to the built environment, our sector has a significant role to play in decarbonisation. Emission reduction commitments aren’t enough, action is now critical. We must go further and faster, immediately. The UK Government must show clear leadership and embed ambitious climate and adaptation action across all its flagship policies, from planning reform and tougher building regulations to home retrofit incentives and ‘levelling-up.’”
The University of Cambridge’s director of Cambridge Zero, professor Emily Shuckburgh: “It is important to recognise climate change is one of the most predictable, but also one of the most preventable global crises. [The current international situation] reminds us just how fragile the geopolitics of the world can be, and how they can suddenly change so very dramatically. Climate change can drive migration, but also can be a key driver of some of the root causes of conflict, both within countries and between countries.
“It feels as though, when we’ve come through a pandemic, now more than ever, we really should be looking to how we can address that predictable and avoidable risk, to reduce our overall global threats. So, if there’s good news, it’s that solutions exist that, if implemented in a thoughtful way, really could have multiple benefits. And the reverse of cascading risks is that you have cascading opportunities, where all these systems interconnect, and you can create a more robust and resilient overall system.”
The Energy Saving Trust’s chief executive Mike Thronton: “This report continues the sounding of the alarm on catastrophic climate change, showing the devastating impacts people and places around the world are already facing and the consequences of not taking immediate action. For every moment of inaction or delay, the scale of the challenge will grow – as will the environmental, social and financial cost.
“COP26 raised hopes of faster global progress to tackle the climate emergency, but we now need policymakers around the world to turn pledges into bold action…The UK has some of the most ambitious climate pledges of any major economy, yet government still needs to show sustained leadership and demonstrate its commitment to take decisive action now.
“Government must provide certainty through investment and operational plans that give a clear roadmap for progress against the UK’s 2050 targets. This includes accelerating the shift to renewable energy sources and improving the energy efficiency of our homes. By providing certainty and confidence in its net-zero agenda, the government will enable the investment and support the behavioural shifts required for a greener, resilient and safe future.”
Former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework on Climate Change Christiana Figueres: “IPCC reports are like alarm bells for the climate crisis. This latest report is a sobering reminder that our global failure to cut emissions is leading to devastating health, economic, and social impacts around the world. But the report is also a reminder that we have the power to change this. We can prevent and protect ourselves from extreme weather events, famines, health problems and more by cutting emissions and investing in adaptation strategies. The science and the solutions are clear. It’s up to us how we shape the future.”
The Alliance of Small Island States’ lead negotiator Ambassador Conrad Hunte: “This report spoke to the collapse and possible extinction of ecosystems if we maintain our current trajectory towards emissions reductions. We must act quickly to reduce emissions — as lives and livelihoods will be the casualties of a slow race to emissions reduction.”
The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne: “We are losing time. The G7 and G20 must do more to reduce their emissions as quickly as possible. The solutions are there, the report shows that adaptation works
“. It is particularly clearer now, given the implications and vulnerability outlined in this report, that financing for loss and damage is more crucial now than ever. Dedicated finance must be provided. The big emitters need to realise that this issue will not go away – with every year that they delay reducing their emissions, more is lost. But we need to see more than nice rhetoric. We need to see action.”
WWF Scotland’s climate and energy policy manager Fabrice Leveque: “There is no sugar coating the fact that this report is a difficult read, but it’s vital we use it as a rallying cry, as preventing every fraction of a degree of warming really matters. The recent storms that have battered Scotland, and the rest of the UK, are a warning of what may be in store if we fail to play our part in limiting global temperature rises to 1.5C.
“During COP26, the Scottish Government became the first rich nation to pledge finance to help countries cope with the devastation already happening in our warming world. It’s now clearer than ever that those who did least to cause climate change are feeling the worst impacts, and so we are morally bound to do more to help those nations as well as cut our own carbon emissions as quickly as possible.”
WWF’s chief climate adviser Dr Stephen Cornelius: Our planet is in peril, and it’s being pushed to – and sometimes beyond – its limits, with the most vulnerable people and ecosystems suffering the most.
“The silver lining to the storm clouds is that not all the most extreme impacts are inevitable. With swift action, we can limit their frequency and severity and help people and ecosystems to adapt to some impacts. Nature can be our ally and a crucial buffer, if we choose to restore and protect her. World leaders must heed the warnings in this report and deliver on their climate promises with increased investment to build resilience while slashing emissions to give adaptation a fighting chance.”
Christian Aid’s climate justice advisor Nushrat Chowdhury: This report is a wake-up call to the world that those on the front lines of this crisis need much greater support if they are going to cope with climate impacts they have not caused.
“As COP president throughout 2022, the UK Government has a vital role in leading global efforts to tackle climate change.
“The main thing lacking from the outcome at COP26 was robust financial help for the world’s most vulnerable, despite repeated promises from rich nations that it would be provided. It is now vital that the UK Government spearhead efforts to mobilise much greater funding to help the climate-vulnerable adapt and to set up a fund to deal with the permanent loss and damage which cannot be adapted to. Only then will they have a legacy as COP26 President to be proud of.”
Oxfam’s head of government relations Sam Nadel said: “The IPCC report clearly shows how climate change is already claiming lives, making people poorer and reversing development gains. Every fraction of a degree of heating matters and brings extra risks to lives and livelihoods. There are three parts to the solution: we have to make every effort to limit heating to 1.5C, massively increase adaptation efforts, and urgently get finance to those recovering from climate impacts. The UK should lead on each of these, as all are needed and complement one another.
“The UK government needs to ensure that the goal to double adaptation finance agreed at COP26 is realized so that vulnerable countries can adapt to the changes they are facing. Recognition that developing countries also need support to cope with ‘loss and damage’ due to the impacts of climate change that have already happened or they cannot adapt to is a key legacy of the Glasgow summit. The UK should champion ambitious finance for loss and damage ahead of COP27.”
UCL’s chair of ecology and biodiversity Dr Kate Jones: “It has long been clear that we do not have the luxury to choose between cutting emissions and adapting to climate change. Now it becomes clearer that we not only need both, but that if we fail to act rapidly, then we risk reaching the point beyond which we can no longer adapt to climate impacts.
“This is why we must urgently turn to nature as a crucial part of our survival strategy. Protecting and restoring nature will help store more of the carbon we emit and make our landscapes more resilient to the growing extremes that climate change inflicts on every species on our planet.”
Professor Richard Betts MBE of the Met Office: “This report shows that climate change is already having widespread impacts, and further impacts are in the pipeline even if emissions are cut as rapidly as the most ambitious scenario suggests.
“We also conclude that many future climate-related risks are more severe than previous IPCC assessments.
“We urgently need to adapt to these changes to manage these unavoidable risks, as well as urgently stopping our carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels and deforestation in order to stop these risks from increasing further.”
PwC’s global climate lead Emma Cox: “Today’s report shows that the impacts of climate change are far worse than expected and efforts around adaptation and building resilience are falling short.
“Finance for adaptation is woefully trailing finance for mitigation. At COP26, Governments committed to doubling their financial contributions for adaptation (against 2019 levels) by 2025, in an effort to secure greater parity between adaptation and mitigation. But this is still far short of the $70bn in adaptation costs countries are facing today.
“The IPCC’s latest findings warn us that we need to invest more heavily in measures to manage the impacts of climate on our homes, businesses, infrastructure, communities and livelihoods. And that every fraction of a degree of warming we fail to avoid will result in the exponential increase in costs and damage we will face.”
Planet Mark’s chief executive Steve Malkin: “This report cannot be overlooked by businesses leaders as it is another reminder that climate change is having a huge physical impact on our world, way of life and economy. It is clear that we aren’t reducing emissions quick enough as climate-related impacts are already ‘widespread’ and even ‘irreversible’, in some cases, according to the IPCC. The only way this crisis can be tackled is if the public and private sectors work together in true cooperative partnership to not only tackle emissions but also to adapt to the now very clear realities of climate change.”
EcoAct’s climate-energy engineer and physical risk expert Ilian Moundib: “There is no business-as-usual under a warming climate. Every business needs to have robust mitigation and adaptation strategies in place. Any company that does not understand and manage the climate risks posed to its value chains will not thrive in the future or be driven to the rapid decarbonisation required to limit warming to 1.5C.
“It is crucial that business understands and urgently addresses both its global impacts and the impacts it will face to ensure not only its own future resilience but by extension that of our economies, our societies and the planet.”
The FAIRR Initiative’s climate economist Dr Simi Thambi: “The latest IPCC report finds with high confidence that climate change will cause extreme weather events such as droughts, floods and heatwaves to increase in frequency and intensity. The global livestock industry is particularly vulnerable to such events – from heat stress impacting animals and workers, to damage to feed crops, to increased scarcity of clean fresh water.
“There are signs that the industry is beginning to address these risks by diversifying into alternative proteins. FAIRR’s Protein Producers Index found that, in 2021, almost half of companies had some exposure to alternative proteins, up from just a quarter in 2019. 2021 saw private investment in alternative proteins grow 58% year-on-year to $4.9bn.
“With the world approaching multiple climate tipping points, investors, policymakers and the food industry as a whole must listen to the science and work towards a transition to a more sustainable protein supply chain.”
Boston Consulting Group’s partner and associate director Jens Burchardt: “Today’s report from the IPCC is another wake-up call for both policymakers and businesses to step up their efforts to combat climate change and to start implementing solutions with genuine impact.
“Alongside decisive action from governments, businesses need to lead the charge toward a more sustainable economy. All industries need to urgently prioritise implementing non-fossil solutions to protect future generations—but also their own balance sheets. We now live in an age of sustainability advantage. So there is no excuse for a lack of ambition.”
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