A message of hope has been delivered in the Synthesis Report (SYR) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) which summarises the state of climate change, its widespread impacts and risks, and climate change mitigation and adaptation.
“Mainstreaming effective and equitable climate action now will reduce losses and damages for nature and people” the report says, adding that “climate action provides co-benefits” and “multiple, feasible and effective options are available to reduce GHG emissions and adapt to human-caused climate change.”
According to the report released on 20 March 2023, “the current pace and scale of climate action are insufficient to tackle climate change.”
Global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have continued to increase, with unequal historical and ongoing contributions arising from unsustainable energy use, land use and land-use change, lifestyles and patterns of consumption and production across regions, between and within countries, and among individuals.
“Adverse impacts from human-caused change will intensify” states the report. This is likely to be in the form of water scarcity and food production (whereby millions will be exposed to acute food insecurity and reduced water security), health and wellbeing, infrastructure and ecosystem structure.
There have been widespread and rapid changes occurring in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere with the report adding that human-caused climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe. This has led to widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people. Vulnerable communities who have historically contributed the least to current climate change are disproportionately affected.
The report makes clear the threat climate change is to human well-being and planetary health, declaring a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.
The way forward is climate resilient development where integrating measures to adapt to climate change with actions to reduce emission in ways that provide wider benefits such as improving peoples’ health and livelihoods, reducing poverty and hunger, clean energy, water and air.
Finance, technology and international cooperation are critical enablers for accelerated climate action. If climate goals are to be achieved, both adaptation and mitigation financing would need to increase many-fold. There is sufficient global capital to close the global investment gaps but there are barriers to redirect capital to climate action. Enhancing technology innovation systems is key to accelerate the widespread adoption of technologies and practices.
Such deep, rapid and sustained mitigation and accelerated implementation of adaptation actions in this decade would reduce projected losses and damages for humans and ecosystems, and deliver many co-benefits, especially for air quality and health is one of the key outcomes of the report.
There are enablers for effective climate action: political commitment, inclusive governance, international co-operation, effective ecosystem stewardship, sharing of diverse knowledge. As well as human factors that can also enable action: collaboration, trust, sharing of benefits and burdens, recognition. Noting that some can contribute more than others.
The report concludes with an important message: “our choices will reverberate for hundreds, even thousands of years.”