IPCC report: Climate scientists call for dramatic increase in funding for deep emissions cuts  

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has today published the fourth and final report of its current assessment cycle, drawing together key findings from recent years and using them to make fresh recommendations to policymakers ahead of the UN’s next climate summit, COP28, this winter.

Environment Ministers are notably meeting for the first round of pre-COP28 talks this week in Copenhagen. The two-day meeting is jointly hosted by the hosts of last year’s COP, Egypt, the hosts for this year, the UAE, and Denmark. Assessing national commitments to the Paris Agreement is a key part of the summit.

The IPCC’s report today reiterates that the world is not on track to achieve either of the Paris Agreement’s temperature pathways – 1.5C and 2C –  with stated policies likely to result in a 2.8C trajectory even if delivered in full. At this level of warming, many places will not be “liveable”, the IPCC has stated, warning of increasing risks such as coastal flooding and food and water insecurity that would put up to 3.3 billion livelihoods at risk.

Also reiterated is the fact that action permitted by the private sector is likely to undermine national commitments. The IPCC has stated, once again, that the current pipeline of fossil fuel infrastructure alone would result in a likely temperature pathway of 2.8C – 4C.

In order to give humanity the best chance of delivering the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C pathway and adverting the worst physical climate risks, the IPCC is calling for at least a sixfold increase in finance provided to emissions reductions projects by 2030. This will need to come from a mix of public and private finance. There will need to be a particular focus on directing finance to the global south, and finance will need to be spent in line with scientific, local and indigenous knowledge rather than in line with the solutions that are most politically popular.

“Accelerated climate action will only come about if there is a many-fold increase in finance,” said report author Christopher Trisos. “Insufficient and misaligned finance is holding back progress.”

The report states that there is enough capital to close environmental finance gaps, charting a rapid fall in cleantech costs and predicting further steep decreases in the future, and also emphasising the co-benefits of investment.

The crux of the calls to action, indeed, are on “effective and equitable” climate actions which also help to solve challenges such as food insecurity, water and air pollution, water access and social inequality.

As already mentioned, this report is a summary of four previous papers from the IPCC, dated August 2021, February 2022 and April 2022. The April 2022 report emphasised the importance of ensuring that global emissions peak by 2025 if the Paris Agreement is to be delivered, making the case for a more rapid fossil fuel phase out, given that emissions have continued to grow year-on-year with the exception of 2020, due to Covid-19 lockdowns.

The point of the new paper is to condense thousands of pages of science into something that is easier to digest for policymakers ahead of COP28. It also provides an opportunity for the IPCC to make bolder calls to action, updating recommendations in line with the newest science and global trends.

COP27 President Sameh Shoukry kicked off today’s ministerial meetings by urging ministers to consider the “perils of backsliding” and not “staying focused on implementations and outcomes”.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has notably created a new climate summit for this September, over concerns that agreements on climate mitigation at recent COPs have been too weak. Nations will be asked to present “credible, serious and new” plans to cut emissions for the event and Gutteres has stated that he will not tolerate “backsliding, greenwashing, blame-shifting or repackaging of announcements from previous years”.

Adaptation and repair

The crux of today’s IPCC report is the need for more ambitious pledges and rapid action to deeply cut greenhouse gas emissions. But it also covers climate adaptation and carbon dioxide removal.

As expected, the report does place a major focus on solutions that can draw down carbon, including nature-based solutions like soil restoration and tree planting, and man-made solutions including direct air capture (DAC). It recommends that, in the long-term, the world should strive to go beyond net-zero and looking to net-negative emissions.

However, it concludes that, without a rapid scaling-down of fossil fuels, these carbon-sequestering solutions will not be able to do enough to compensate for emissions in line with net-zero, let alone net-negativity. While these solutions could reverse a temperature increase past 1.5C if deployed at scale and pace, the IPCC has stated that there would still be irreversible impacts on some ecosystems.

There are concerns that representatives from major fossil fuel exporting nations may have weakened today’s report by pushing for more of a focus on man-made carbon capture solutions and for weakened language on phasing fossil fuels down and out.

On adaptation, the report reiterates that all parts of the world will be impacted by levels of climate change already baked in. While adapting to this level is possible for most, some of the most vulnerable places are already hitting ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ adaptation limits, the report states, and highlights how adaptation will become increasingly challenging to deliver the warmer the temperature trajectory.

“Adaptation options that are feasible and effective today will become constrained and less effective with increasing global warming,” the report states. “With increasing global warming, losses and damages will increase and additional human and natural systems will reach adaptation limits.”

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

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