The third part of the IPCC’s sixth report, which provides solutions to address the climate crisis, has been the one that has taken the longest to approve in the three decades of the institution’s history, evidence of the high difficulties posed by a problem as complex as the environmental crisis. However, all experts agree that we are at a critical moment: greenhouse gas emissions must peak before 2025 if we want to avoid collapse.
It has cost, but the third part of the sixth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that puts on the table the solutions to face the climate crisis is already public. At first, the scientists and rapporteurs were expected to reach an agreement last Friday in order to present the conclusions to the world on Monday morning. However, discussions have dragged on all weekend and consensus was not reached until late on Sunday. An anecdote that reflects the difficulties and contradictions in responding to a crisis as complex as the climate crisis.
In fact, the reasons for the delay in reaching consensus have been, as the BBC has learned, in the words used in the final draft. “This has been the longest approval plenary in the 34-year history of the IPCC,” admitted Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, vice president of the IPCC, on Sunday night. In total, more than 150 hours of virtual meetings. Leaks to The Guardian point out that the situation was more complex and that the delay was due to tug-of-war between scientists and governments over various issues.
But what has been the end result? The second part – presented a month ago now – warned that the planet was no longer going to be the same and that some changes were now inevitable. He also pointed out that if things are not moderated, the consequences will be tragic. Now these new pages insist that now is the time to act. Things can still be changed and the planet –and those who live on it– can be assured of a future; that, if we do it now. “We are at a crossroads,” explains the president of the IPCC, Hoesung Lee, in line with the conclusions. “The decisions we make now can ensure a livable future.” And he insists: “We have the tools and knowledge required to limit warming.”
Inger Andersen, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, also points out that things cannot be left for next year, or for next month, or even for tomorrow. The day to act is today. Failure to do so will lead to climate catastrophe. “We are on the fast track to climate disaster,” said the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, insisting that the different deliveries of the reports are a catalog of unfulfilled promises.
The report’s conclusions
Returning to this third installment of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report, the report notes that the growth of greenhouse gas emissions has slowed. But that is not to say that it has paused: it is simply now growing at a slower rate than in the previous decade. That it is good news is somewhat nuanced, because the report itself recalls that the decade between 2010 and 2019 was the absolute historical period in which emissions were greatest.
That is why, as things stand, reaching the limit of 1.5 degrees of global warming has no place. It is necessary to reduce emissions in all sectors and profoundly. “The next decade cannot follow these patterns,” Inger Andersen has warned. Changing things is feasible and the report itself gives clues as to how to do it. We must act and take measures, because the data indicates that what has been done so far is not enough.
It is necessary to reduce the use of fossil fuels and promote alternatives, such as increasing electrification, improving energy efficiency and promoting alternative fuels. The fact that clean energies are increasingly cheaper has helped, as well as the fact that they have been developed faster than expected, but work on this paradigm shift must go further than has been achieved.
In this sense, cities and urban areas must (and can) reduce emissions, either by changing their energy sources or by modifying the urban structure with more walkable environments. Modifications are also needed outside the cities, such as moving from deforestation to forest regeneration. And, of course, all sectors must be involved in the transformation.
Applying the right policies, in short, and changing the infrastructure and implementing the technology would allow us to modify our climatic reality enough to produce between now and 2050 a reduction of between 40 and 70% of greenhouse gas emissions. . This would give the planet a break, and also human beings. “The evidence also shows that these lifestyle changes can improve our health and well-being,” says Priyadarshi Shukla, co-chair of the working group responsible for the report.
The countdown is clear
Changing course is necessary. “Not doing so will mean walking like sleepwalkers towards a climate catastrophe,” insists Inger Andersen. The next few years will be critical. According to the IPCC’s conclusions, greenhouse gas emissions must reach their peak before 2025, with that year as the limit point. From there they must fall, needing to be reduced by 43% by 2030, an ambitious goal. “It’s now or never,” insists Jim Skea, another of the co-chairs of the working group, in what is, without a doubt, the type of alert that has been heard the most in the presentation of results.
If we want to stabilize the global temperature, we must reach a level of net zero in emissions. To stay at just 1.5 degrees warming, you’ll need to hit that reality in the early 50s. Taking it to 70s will see it level off at 2 degrees. These two dates would be as long as the commitment to reach the peak of emissions before 2025 is fulfilled.