UN: Radical action needed to avert climate catastrophe

IPCC warns swift transition to renewables needed to avoid dangerous temperature rise, but changes are affordable

Source: Theis Kofoed Hjorth

Source: Theis Kofoed Hjorth

By Sophie Yeo

Avoiding catastrophic climate change is still within reach, but it will require a massive shift to renewable energy, according a UN report on climate change.

The changes are both technically and financially possible, said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) today, and would reduce the rate of economic growth by just 0.06% a year.

“It does not cost the world to save the planet,” said Ottmar Edenhofer, who co-chaired the report.

The latest report in the UN’s three-part series deals with how to mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The previous two have outlined the underlying science and the impacts of climate change.

5C rise

Despite global efforts to tackle climate change, emissions have continued to rise since 1970, and have accelerated over the past decade.

“Total anthropogenic GHG emissions were the highest in human history from 2000 to 2010,” warns the report, adding that population and economic growth have been key drivers of this increase in emissions.

Edenhofer said that, while the efforts required to combat global warming would come at a cost, it would not mean sacrificing overall economic growth, which is estimated to increase at between 1.6 and 3% per year.

The price tag also did not take into account the co-benefits such as improved air quality, alongside the potential added expense of increased climate impacts.

Without these efforts, the world risks warming by almost 5C by 2100, far exceeding the UN’s agreed target of limiting average global temperature to 2C, a which point the risks of climate change become unmanageable.

“Climate policy is not a free lunch, but it could be a lunch worthwhile to buy,” said Edenhofer.


While the report steers clear of prescribing policy options, it has clear relevance to those trying to come up with international and domestic solutions to the problem of ever rising emissions.

The report stresses the need for a united global effort in tackling climate change—something that the world hopes to achieve in 2015 in a new UN treaty.

Rajendra Pachauri, the chair of the IPCC, said: “What comes out very clearly from this repot is the fact that the high speed mitigation train would need to leave the station very soon, and all of global society would need to get on board.”

Climate change is not a problem that takes place within a vacuum, and decisions taken by policymakers have to balance the problems of global development, and a fair approach to emissions reductions that takes into account controversial issues including each countries’ capacity to deal with climate change and their historical responsibility for the problem.

“Effective mitigation will not be achieved if individual agents advance their own interests independently … The evidence suggests that outcomes seen as equitable can lead to more effective cooperation,” it says in the report.

EU Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said: ”The report is clear: there really is no plan B for climate change. There is only plan A: collective action to reduce emissions now.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry said: “This report makes very clear we face an issue of global willpower, not capacity.”

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