In March, the international authority on climate science released its new Synthesis Report on the current status of climate change, its impacts and risks, and our options to adapt to and confront the crisis in these pivotal years ahead.
Thetakeawaysfrom this massive document by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are numerous and detailed, but they are also unequivocal about our best chance at climate justice and a liveable future:
Exceeding 1.5C of warming (known as overshoot) has dangerous and irreversible consequences, even if temperatures might later be brought back below that level, and
A rapid phaseout of fossil fuels, accompanied by a rollout of renewable energy, is the clearest and most certain pathto avoid overshoot.
After eight years and six individual reports, the latest Synthesis Report marked the end of the IPCCs most recent assessment cycle. The IPCC has been conducting these cycles and producing reports since it was established in 1988, and the Sixth Assessment Report (AR) was the most comprehensive one yet.
Members of the CIEL team spent a week in Interlaken, Switzerland, engaging with representatives of the IPCCs 195 member governments and the scientists who have drafted the Synthesis Report during negotiations to finalize and approve the report, including a Summary for Policymakers. Each day, sessions went on for hours, often until late at night, until delegates finally reached consensus on every aspect of the final text of the Summary for Policymakers.
Crystallizing the thousands of pages of work done over the course of the assessment cycle,the succinct Summary for Policymakers of the Synthesis Report has a critical role in catalyzing political action.It must clearly, accurately, and urgently communicate to global decision makers about the state of science, the drivers of the climate crisis, and the most effective pathways for protecting people and the planet.
CIEL andfellow civil society observersengaged with delegates throughout the negotiations toprevent the science in the IPCCs reports frombeing compromisedduring the final stretch as a result of political pressureand to ensure that the scientific information is clearly translated for policymakers. Weadvocatedfor its conclusions to highlightrights-based approachesandreal solutions,not speculative, dangerous, and mostly ineffective technofixeslike carbon capture, carbon removal, and solar geoengineering.
The findings that the IPCC has been compiling for decades unequivocally demonstrate thatwe can prevent irreversible harm to people and the planet if we scale up proven solutions that are available now. Replacing fossil fuels with renewables, increasing energy efficiency, and reducing energy and resource use are the surest path to limiting global warming to 1.5C.
The science is clear, but there is still a significant gap between governments climate plans and pledges and the scale and pace of action needed. The negotiations last month highlighted the clash between the latest climate science and the mainstream economic models that perpetuate a business-as-usual approach.
The intensity of negotiations also demonstrated that big polluters are feeling the heat from the resounding scientific consensus and the promise of renewables which is why they are pushing risky and unproven technofixes to continue business as usual and delay a just transition, increasing the likelihood of overshoot.
We cannot ensure a livable future for allif we fail to act on the latest and most urgent alarms sounded by the IPCC last month. The most ambitious pathways put out by the IPCC set the floor, not the ceiling, for necessary climate action. Solving the climate crisis is not about what works on paper but what delivers in practice. We do not have time to waste on false solutions.
As States develop plans and make commitments for climate action in the months ahead, CIEL will be unwavering in our advocacy to heed the IPCCs findings and warnings. Global climate action must be ambitious; focus on real solutions; and center equity, social justice, climate justice, and human rights.
This post was written by Lili Fuhr, Deputy Director of the Climate & Energy Program.
Published April 6th, 2023