UN climate report: It’s ‘now or never’ to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees

Pacific Islands students join the climate strike

A new flagship UN report on climate change out Monday indicating that harmful carbon emissions from 2010-2019 have never been higher in human history, is proof that the world is on a “fast track” to disaster, António Guterres has warned, with scientists arguing that it’s ‘now or never’ to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.

Reacting to the latest findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN Secretary-General insisted that unless governments everywhere reassess their energy policies, the world will be uninhabitable.

His comments reflected the IPCC’s insistence that all countries must reduce their fossil fuel use substantially, extend access to electricity, improve energy efficiency and increase the use of alternative fuels, such as hydrogen.

Unless action is taken soon, some major cities will be under water, Guterres said in a video message, which also forecast “unprecedented heatwaves, terrifying storms, widespread water shortages and the extinction of a million species of plants and animals”.

The UN chief added: “This is not fiction or exaggeration. It is what science tells us will result from our current energy policies. We are on a pathway to global warming of more than double the 1.5-degree (Celsius, or 2.7-degrees Fahreinheit) limit” that was agreed in Paris in 2015.

Providing the scientific proof to back up that damning assessment, the IPCC report – written by hundreds of leading scientists and agreed by 195 countries – noted that greenhouse gas emissions generated by human activity, have increased since 2010 “across all major sectors globally”.

Striking a more positive note – and insisting that it is still possible to halve emissions by 2030 – the IPCC urged governments to ramp up action to curb emissions.

The UN body also welcomed the significant decrease in the cost of renewable energy sources since 2010, by as much as 85% for solar and wind energy, and batteries.

“We are at a crossroads. The decisions we make now can secure a liveable future,” said IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee. “I am encouraged by climate action being taken in many countries. There are policies, regulations and market instruments that are proving effective. If these are scaled up and applied more widely and equitably, they can support deep emissions reductions and stimulate innovation.”

To limit global warming to around 1.5C (2.7°F), the IPCC report insisted that global greenhouse gas emissions would have to peak “before 2025 at the latest, and be reduced by 43% by 2030”.

A great deal of importance is attached to IPCC assessments because they provide governments with scientific information that they can use to develop climate policies.

They also play a key role in international negotiations to tackle climate change.

Pacific responses

Countries should cut down on their greenhouse gas emission and take greater responsibility for problems created by climate change to save island nations like Tuvalu from extinction, said Simon Kofe, Tuvalu’s Minister of Justice, Communication and Foreign Affairs.

“Tuvalu is facing the full brunt of climate change although we are the least contributor to the problem. Yet we are the ones that are facing extinction as a nation and as a people,” said Kofe, adding that countries should take action now to save not only island nations, but other countries too.

“If it doesn’t affect the big countries today, it will certainly affect them tomorrow. As a nation, we want to draw the line here and say if you save Tuvalu, you are saving the world.”

Fiji’s Environment Minister Dr Mahendra Reddy said consistent climate actions have paid off for many climate-vulnerable countries, including Fiji, and the IPCC report should encourage continued investment in projects that encourage climate action.