‘Sobering reading’: Boris Johnson reacts to new IPCC report
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has responded to a major new report from thousands of the world's leading climate scientists, calling for all world leaders to treat the findings as a "wake-up call" in the run-up to COP26.
The report, from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Working Group 1, assesses the extent of physical changes to the climate as a result of human activity, covering past, present and likely future impacts.
It warns that the window in which to deliver the “deep emissions cuts” needed to prevent the worst impacts of the climate crisis is closing rapidly, meaning that our best chance of delivering the Paris Agreement is to reach “at least net-zero” by 2050. The Paris Agreement was ratified in 2015 and, at COP26 this November, a final ‘rulebook’ will be drawn up, containing updated commitments from nations.
As of summer 2020, national commitments would put the world on track for 3.2C of warming, from pre-industrial times, by 2100. More recent estimates, taking into account updated commitments from big emitters like the US, have put the trajectory at 2.4C. The Paris Agreement’s trajectories are 2C and 1.5C but, following a separate IPCC report in 2018, which assessed the difference in impact of each scenario, 2C has fast become framed as an unacceptably lacking ambition.
Responding to today’s (9 August) report, Johnson said it makes for “sobering reading”, proving that “the next decade is going to be pivotal to securing the future of our planet”.
Johnson elaborated: “I hope today’s IPCC report will be a wake-up call for the world to take action now, before we meet in Glasgow in November for the critical COP26 summit.”
“We know what must be done to limit global warming – consign coal to history and shift to clean energy sources, protect nature and provide climate finance for countries on the frontline.”
Johnson also claimed that the UK has reduced emissions more rapidly than any other G20 nation over the past 20 years. This is true, but the UK’s success is largely due to the low-carbon transition in the power sector. Emissions from other areas, including the nation’s most-emitting sector, transport, mean the UK is not on track to stay within the Fifth Carbon Budget or subsequent Sixth Carbon Budget limitations.
The Sixth Carbon Budget was written into UK law earlier this year. It will require the nation to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035, against a 1990 baseline. In contrast, the UK had been aiming for an 80% reduction by 2050, against the same baseline, until the Climate Change Act was amended in 2019.
In a recent progress report to Parliament, the UK Government’s advisory body, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), warned that there are “no coherent plans” to reduce emissions domestically this decade. The report pressed Ministers to publish a string of delayed green policy packages as soon as possible. The Transport Decarbonisation Plan has since been published, as has the National Food Strategy. Packages still outstanding include the Heat and Buildings Strategy, Hydrogen Strategy and conclusion of the Treasury’s Net-Zero Review. Key facets of each of these Strategies will be included in an overarching net-zero strategy, due ahead of COP26, which begins on 1 November.
COP26 President’s comments
COP26 President Alok Sharma has joined Johnson in commenting on the latest IPCC report.
Sharma said the report “shows all too clearly… the deficiency of our response [to the climate crisis] to date”.
Additionally, Sharma emphasised that the report confirms that “the future is not yet written; the very worst of climate change is still avoidable” – but that the window to take action is “retreating fast”.
Providing an update from visits to more than 30 nations and a recent international summit featuring representatives from more than 50 nations, Sharma added: “Now, based on all the conversations I’ve had, I can tell you that there is a clear desire amongst governments to keep 1.5C within reach.
“I’ve heard this on many occasions – at the Ministerial meeting, which I hosted in London in July, and at the G20 ministerial meeting I attended in Naples.
“But the reality is that we need far more in terms of action, and action that actually follows the facts.”
Sharma expressed disappointment that only 13 of the G20 nations met the deadline for updating their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement, with just over half of them presenting more ambitious plans than before. He also called on nations to ensure their overarching climate targets are supported with credible plans to move finance and decarbonise the world’s most-emitting sectors: power, transport and land use.