‘We need to change course urgently’: Green economy responds to IPCC report

Key figures from across the global green economy are urging world leaders and businesses to heed the latest major report from climate scientists, warning that the window of action for “effective and equitable” action is rapidly closing. Here, we round up all the reactions.  

‘We need to change course urgently’: Green economy responds to IPCC report

Pictured: IPCC chair Hoesung Lee. Image: IPCC.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has today (20 March) published the fourth and final report in its current reporting cycle, condensing findings on global warming so far, likely warming in the future and the impact of the climate crisis into a document for policymakers.

It is being described as a “final warning” that the window to deliver the emissions cuts needed to advert the worst physical climate impacts is closing, and that efforts to adapt to climate change will only become vastly more challenging and costly in a warmer future,

This is because the next round of IPCC reporting is now not due until the 2030s, by which point global emissions will already need to be halved to give the best chance of meeting the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C trajectory.

The report is also being called a “survival guide for humanity”, as it makes clear recommendations for policy interventions. Environment Ministers from across the world are meeting in Copenhagen this week for their first round of talks to set the scene for COP28.

You can read edie’s coverage of the report here, and we will also be working on a more in-depth analysis of the report’s contents. In the meantime, here is our round-up of how green economy experts are reacting.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres:

“The climate time bomb is ticking. But today’s IPCC report is a how-to guide to defuse the climate time bomb. It is a survival guide for humanity.

“As it shows, the 1.5C limit is achievable. But it will take a quantum leap in climate action… In short, our world needs climate action on all fronts — everything, everywhere, all at once.”

Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) senior associate Richard Black:

“The most significant statement in the entire Sixth Assessment Report… is that climate change threatens human wellbeing and planetary health and that there is ‘a rapidly-closing window of opportunity’ to secure a liveable future for all.

“Why is that so important? Because this is the agreed view of all the world’s governments; they make up the IPCC, they sign off its reports, and by endorsing this statement they have agreed that it is an accurate representation of reality. The tumbling costs of clean energy and Vladimir Putin’s fossil-fuelled war now provide additional reasons for governments to pour through this window and prevent its terminal closure during this pivotal decade for decarbonisation.”

KPMG in the UK’s director of climate risk & strategy, Stuart Bruce: 

“AR6 is the first comprehensive report since the Paris Agreement, and the last before the global stocktake concludes at COP28. It comes at a critical time as countries around the world, and thousands of communities, battle with the impacts of climate change and need to transition to a better future.

“Although the science has long been irrefutable, the message from the IPCC is crystal clear: our time to ignore climate change is up. This report is an urgent call to action. By the time the next IPCC report is issued in around 2030, limiting warming to 1.5C may be impossible. Rapid, deep and equitable decarbonisation is essential across all aspects of society if we are to avert the worst impacts of climate change, some of which are already starting to materialise.”

Friends of the Earth’s head of science, policy and research Mike Childs:

“Once again, with this hard-hitting global climate report, the world’s scientists are sounding a clarion call for urgent, rapid and ambitious action to prevent runaway climate breakdown. While in response, politicians make half-hearted, feeble promises to do more. It’s like Groundhog Day.”

The Climate Group’s chief executive Helen Clarkson:

“This IPCC report is a final warning that we’re about to drive off a cliff edge – we need to pump the brakes and change course urgently. It’s never been clearer what is required to reduce emissions, adapt to climate change, and ensure climate justice for all.

“We need strong political leadership and full buy in from the private sector – not just some companies, but all. Governments need to urgently increase climate finance, set targets to rapidly phase out fossil fuels and scale up clean energy to keep warming below 1.5C. We can’t afford more delay; governments must act now.”

CDP’s global director for climate change Amir Sokolowski:

“In the five years since the IPCC’s sixth cycle began with the special report on global warming of 1.5C (SR1.5), our window to 1.5C has rapidly narrowed. The IPCC’s Mitigation of Climate Change Report last April found that, since SR1.5, the likelihood of staying below 1.5C under even the most ambitious mitigation pathways has dropped by almost 10% – from 46% in SR1.5 to 38% in AR6.

“This is a direct result of governments and corporates in high-emitting economies failure to implement the needed transformation in a coherent manner. This lack of commitment to ambition and action for 1.5°C disproportionally affects the most vulnerable across the planet. Our definition of ‘high ambition’ is increasingly pale in comparison to a lack of action which results in a continued rise in emissions, and an increasingly hostile environment.

“Corporates who did not already heed the warnings of last year’s reports must wake up to the reality that climate change is the single greatest risk to the global economy, and it will impact them directly in the coming years.”

The Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership’s (CISL) director of the centre for sustainable finance, Nina Seega:

“There is enough capital in the system to close investment gaps, but to access it we must bring climate into every financial decision. This means adequately pricing climate-related financial risks. It also means multiplying our investments in and providing insurance for viable climate resilient solutions for mitigation and adaptation across the world.

“To attract such quantities of private finance, public finance as well as regulatory and policy action is required to demolish real and perceived investment barriers. Against the backdrop of a brewing banking crisis, there is an opportunity for all financial actors to work together to better align the financial system to a net-zero, nature positive and equitable economy.”

E3G’s programme lead for climate diplomacy & geopolitics, Alex Scott: 

“This is a wake-up call for finance ministers and the heads of our global financial institutions. Today’s financial system is totally unfit for the climate crisis. Investments in fossil fuels – and lack of capital for clean solutions and climate defences – are making economies, as well as our natural systems, highly vulnerable.

We need a system that can close the trillions-heavy climate financing gap and secure countries’ financial stability in the face of economic and climate shocks. This should be top of the to-do list for the new World Bank president, world leaders gathering at June’s Financing Pact Summit, and G20 finance ministers who hold the purse strings at global development banks.”

Corporate Leaders Group (CLG) UK director Beverley Cornaby:

“The IPCC has provided yet another wake-up call that climate action is not only increasingly urgent to avoid worsening impacts, but the speed of implementation increasingly insufficient. Leadership is vital from both governments and the wider economy that supports accelerated implementation of ambitious climate targets.

“For the UK, there is an immediate opportunity to demonstrate leadership and acknowledge the urgent need for more ambitious action. Next week, through publishing a refreshed Net Zero Strategy and responding to both the Climate Change Committee progress report and Chris Skidmore’s Net Zero Review, the Government can fast-track climate action and provide the clarity, consistency and stable transition plan the wider economy is calling for. To support this, businesses can review their own levels of ambition and set out clear transition plans for how they will implement emissions reductions both in their direct operations and services and across their supply chains.

“As the UK government also looks to publish its third National Adaptation Programme in the Summer, it is vital in doing so that action to reduce emissions it put in the context of the urgent need to build resilience and adapt to climate impacts. It is clear we’re not acting fast enough to address the risks and the risks are getting greater, but the awareness to act on these is low. A comprehensive five-year plan needs to set out a clear investment strategy and engagement plan that protects the most vulnerable in society and enables the UK to maintain a strong economy.”

The Aldersgate Group’s executive director Nick Molho:

“Today’s report provides an unequivocal message to all governments – set higher ambitions and act faster, or risk losing it all. It is a stark reminder of the need to set out comprehensive and ambitious delivery plans to meet net zero by 2050. To realise these ambitions and harness the potential of the private sector, it is essential that governments set out policy pathways which provide clarity and certainty for business.

“The UK Government has a unique opportunity coming up in the next couple of weeks, to set out a full and detailed response to the independent net zero review, publish an update to the Green Finance Strategy and provide further clarity on issues which hold back further decarbonisation. These include changes to the planning system, policy decisions for the built environment and heavy industry, clarity on land use and measures to decarbonise the electricity system. Urgently implementing ambitious policy measures in these areas is critical to both meet the challenge presented by climate change and set the UK economy on a sustainable trajectory for the future.”

Fauna & Flora’s climate change technical specialist Annamaria Lehoczky:

“The protection of nature is key in the fight against climate change and for the future of our planet. As outlined in the report, effective conservation of 30% – 50% of Earth’s land, freshwater and ocean areas would not only protect biodiversity and critical climate change-mitigating carbon sinks, but would build ecosystem resilience to the effects of climate change, and ensure essential ecosystem services related to food and health.

“Indigenous Peoples and local communities are on the front lines of protecting some of the most vulnerable ecosystems, in the tropics, coastal, montane and semi-arid regions, for example; and are also disproportionately exposed to the current and future effects of climate change.  Fauna & Flora emphasises the importance of supporting these stewards of nature to realise the full mitigation and adaptation benefits of ecosystem protection and restoration.

“The crises of human-induced climate change, biodiversity loss and declines in human well-being are severe and inter-connected – and they cannot be addressed in isolation.”

The Global Climate & Health Alliance’s executive director Jeni Miller:

“Because governments have delayed climate action for so long, policies currently in place mean we are headed towards 2.7C of warming – far in excess of the 1.5C target of the Paris Agreement. Left unchecked, it will be impossible to adapt quickly or extensively enough to outrun the climate tipping points and impacts expected from such uncontrolled warming.

“The IPCC makes clear that governments must make stronger commitments this year that accelerate mitigation. Fossil fuels have got to go.”

“In addition, because governments have failed to prevent the harms to human health and wellbeing that are already occurring, the level of care and preparation must be stepped up, with significant investments in adaptation, resilience, and loss and damage.”

Bupa’s chief sustainability & people officer Nigel Sullivan: 

“This IPCC Report is another stark call for immediate and bold action to address the catastrophic effects of climate change. Its findings leave no doubt that global warming has already caused irreversible changes to our planet, and that we need to act now, or it will be too late. The interlinkages between climate change, people’s health and the health of the planet are increasingly being recognised. The WHO has recognised climate change as the single biggest health threat facing humanity and this report makes it clear that climate change impacts human health – for example through increasing heat-related mortality and morbidity, the occurrence of some infectious diseases and through mental health challenges. It also makes it clear that rapid and sustained mitigation, as well as accelerating the implementation of adaptation actions this decade would reduce projected losses and damages for ecosystems and people, and deliver co-benefits, especially for air quality and human health.

“The healthcare sector is already responding to the immediate health impacts caused by extreme weather events and longer-term impacts linked to climate change. The sector must minimise its own impact on the environment, while building a sustainable and resilient system that cares for both people and planet, and it has an essential leadership role to play in accelerating action. Healthcare organisations also have the responsibility and the opportunity to use their credible position in society to make it clear that the climate crisis is also a health crisis and to influence others.

“These are complex issues and, as well as transforming ourselves,  we must work together to re-design healthcare systems and services to meet the needs of both people and planet. This will require action across government, investors, philanthropy and business. Public-private collaboration is important to drive more sustainable healthcare and Bupa, as a member of the Climate and Health Coalition and the Sustainable Healthcare Coalition, is helping to achieve this. By working together, we are confident that the healthcare sector can help accelerate the transition to a more resilient and healthy future for all.”

Baroness Brown of Cambridge, chair of the Climate Change Committee’s adaptation sub-committee:

“Nearly half the world’s population now live in places vulnerable to climate impacts; floods, fires, drought, extremes of heat and cold are affecting us all, everywhere. We need to adapt here at home, to protect our transport, coastline, homes and agriculture.

“But we need to help poorer nations to adapt as well. The IPCC spells out the need for financial support from the richest to the poorest. And with a fifth of the economic value of this country’s critical supply chains in areas at medium to very high increased risk from climate hazards, it’s increasingly in our national interest to be providing that support.”

Power Shift Africa’s director Mohamed Adow:

“[This report] is important for the whole world but nowhere is it more important than for Africa, which is on the frontline of the climate crisis. It is a wake-up call for Africa and the world.

“Africans are experiencing the worst impacts of climate breakdown, from floods, storms and droughts, like the one that is currently killing people in East Africa. It is clear that without rapid action this suffering will increase.

“The good news is that we have affordable clean energy and the technology to decarbonise the world’s energy system.  What we need now is to see this harnessed at greater speed and scale to usher in a secure and prosperous future for us all.”

Christian Aid’s chief of policy Oliver Pearce:

“This report shows the collective failure of world leaders to secure a safe and secure future for us all. They must do better.

“The science is clear, the world is not on track to deal with the biggest threat posed to humankind. If politicians continue to take us down this path we face the prospect of worsening droughts, floods and storms with the poorest and most vulnerable people bearing the brunt.

“That is why it’s imperative that nations start to provide money, following the agreement to create a Loss and Damage Fund last year, so that financial support can urgently reach the most vulnerable communities.”

Ørsted UK’s head of environment and external affairs, plus VP of offshore, Benji Sykes: 

“We hardly need a reminder of how far we still must go in the fight against climate change or how serious its consequences are. What we do need is organised and coordinated efforts to urgently accelerate progress – and the IPCC’s AR6 Report provides the framework for just that. Now, it is up to policymakers, business and investors to come together to lead the change required.

“As the Synthesis report underlines, the rapid deployment of green energy is one of the single most important actions we can take to limit global temperature increases. The good news is that if we get it right, it will not only accelerate the end to our reliance on fossil fuels but also bring wider economic benefits through supply chain and employment opportunities.

“Offshore wind will continue to be a cornerstone of these efforts and the UK Government’s ambition of delivering 50GW by 2030 remains an essential first step on the UK’s journey. But in the face of new headwinds, delivering on that target will require unprecedented focus from stakeholders in Government and across industry to accelerate the pace of deployment. This report highlights what is at stake if that focus is lost.”

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