The capacity of the world to respond to climate change is most lacking where risk is highest, according to an expert group commissioned by the UN to review key temperature targets of the Paris Agreement.
Pathways to limiting warming to 1.5 degrees require global emissions to peak in 2025 and be roughly halved by 2030, it concludes.
The world, however, is on a pathway to global warming of 1.5 degrees in 2021–2040 and 2 degrees around 2050, the group warns in a report issued with 10 key messages.
The global financial system overall, however, “is poorly aligned with the Paris Agreement goals, with investment in fossil fuels still outweighing climate investment,” it adds.
The “structured expert dialogue” issued its findings in Sharm El Sheik at the weekend, the culmination of almost three years of work – co-facilitated by Irish climate scientist Dr Tara Shine.
The dialogue involved 100 government representatives – “parties” to the Paris Agreement – experts and civil society representatives from all parts of the world, who reviewed critical “long-term temperature goals” – to hold global temperatures to well below 2 degrees and preferably 1.5 degrees.
Redoubling efforts to cut emissions prior to 2030 is the only way to remain on a pathway to limiting warming to 1.5 degrees “with no or limited overshoot”, the co-facilitators say.
A significant gap remains between emission reduction pledges and reductions required “to limit warming to 2 degrees, let alone 1.5 degrees”, they note. Although adaptation in building resilience for inevitable climate impacts is widespread, “it is hampered by lack of access to finance and linked to limited evidence of resulting risk reduction”.
“Parties must act not only urgently but also equitably in reducing emissions and enhancing adaptation. Continuing to scale up financial support and support for other means of implementation will enable more ambitious mitigation and effective adaptation by all parties towards achieving the long-term global goals,” the group says.
Its 10 key messages focus on the need to accelerate action. The group points out that at 1.1 degrees of warming the world is already experiencing extreme climate change and delaying action reduces options for mitigation and adaptation.
Meanwhile, climate justice campaigner and former president Mary Robinson has warned about a sense of defeatism about limiting global overheating to 1.5 degrees.
“I have been worried that there seems to some kind of attempt to say may be 1.5 degrees is not achievable any more, staying below 1.5 degrees of warming. That is not acceptable,” she said.
That was not a target, Ms Robinson stressed, but a scientific limit of a liveable world that had to be adhered to. She was speaking at a meeting at Cop27 on Saturday hosted by the Irish Government on climate justice and its role in enhancing adaptation and responding to loss and damage in vulnerable countries.
Ms Robinson, who is chair of The Elders, a group of global leaders working for peace, justice and human rights, called for a new global movement beyond the “1.5 to stay alive” campaign that was pivotal to securing the Paris Agreement, to change governments and investment priorities in a “ridiculous” scenario when $1.8 trillion was being spent on fossil fuel subsidies; “what’s destroying us”.
Community activist Constance Okollet from Uganda said the developing world did not want “payments to say sorry” from rich countries. Because they were constantly bogged down by climate change, they needed local support to drive actions to ensure their survival.
“Cop is talking, talking, talking – people are dying, dying, dying,” she added. Uganda had the recent experience of seeing thousands of people being swept away by floods “when it’s not even the rainy season”.
Climate Envoy of the Marshall Islands Tina Steege said in spite of predictions of a world of 2 degrees plus, “all that matters is 1.5 degrees, what we need to stay in our country”.
Where she lived on an atoll just 2 metres above sea level with no hills to escape to, they were facing the prospect of sea-level rise of 1.5 metres. Already all their water had become salty, and the likelihood was having to relocate people from where they had lived for thousands of years. “So adaptation is a story of grief,” she added. “I’m going to have to tell my children ‘this is the last time you will see this place’.”
Expert group summary:
The 10 key messages “structured expert dialogue” group are:
At 1.1 degrees of warming the world is already experiencing extreme climate change: Widespread and rapid changes have been observed in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere (where water is in solid form on Earth) and biosphere, many of which are accelerating, with associated risks developing sooner than expected. This threatens human wellbeing.
Knowledge about climate impacts has improved but gaps remain: Understanding the relationship between temperature limits of the long-term global goal and frequency and intensity of extreme climate events has improved. Social sciences facilitate understanding of pathways to a fair and equitable low-carbon transition. Key uncertainties include tipping points and feedback in natural systems, as well as emissions accounting and the enablers of and limits to rapid social change.
Risk of irreversible impacts increase with every increment of warming: Risks are significantly higher at 2 degrees than at 1.5 degrees of warming. Delaying action reduces options for mitigation and adaptation. Avoiding overshoot of the 1.5-degree limit reduces the risk of crossing tipping points and triggering irreversible impacts.
It is still possible to achieve the long-term global goal with immediate and sustained emission reductions: Pathways to limiting warming to 1.5 degrees require emissions to peak in 2025 and be roughly halved by 2030 and at net zero by around 2050. Overshooting the 1.5-degree limit will mean having to rely on technology to bring warming back below the limit. Key opportunities to reduce emissions include targeting methane emissions and capitalising on falling cost of renewable energy and on carbon markets.
The window of opportunity to achieve climate-resilient development is rapidly closing: Ambitious mitigation and transformative adaptation must be accompanied by efforts to address structural inequalities, marginalisation and multidimensional poverty. Climate-resilient development requires inclusive, multisectoral and forward-thinking planning, with a significant injection of resources.
The world is not on track to achieve the long-term global goal: Not enough has been done to reduce emissions. The world is on a pathway to global warming of 1.5 degrees in 2021–2040 and 2 degrees around 2050. A significant gap remains between pledged emission reductions and reductions required. The emissions gap must be urgently bridged if achieving net-zero emissions and the long-term global goal is to remain possible.
Despite progress on mitigation and adaptation, more efforts are needed: Countries are taking clear steps to reduce emissions. An increase in national climate laws, strategies and policies has led to significant avoided emissions. Adaptation action is widespread but remains incremental, with little evidence of reduced climate risk resulting from it. Some human and natural systems may be encountering, and even surpassing, their adaptation limits.
Equity is key to achieving the long-term global goal: Historical emissions are unequal. The impacts and risks associated with warming are also unevenly distributed. Countries have differing responsibilities and capacities to contribute to achieving the long-term global goal, but many are constrained by structural inequalities. Equitable action therefore requires fair consideration of the remaining carbon budget, inclusive decision-making and a just transition.
Key enablers of climate action are not aligned with the urgency of a rapid and equitable low-carbon transition: Climate finance is growing but continues to fall short of needs and commitments. The financial system overall is poorly aligned with the Paris Agreement goals, with investment in fossil fuels still outweighing climate investment. Capacity to respond to climate change remains most lacking where risk is highest. Data and methodological gaps inhibit measurement and reporting of emission reductions. Low-carbon technologies are feasible but there are economic and financial barriers to their dissemination.
Knowledge, technology and resources are needed to transform global systems in line with low-emission pathways and climate-resilient development: The financial system has sufficient capital to decarbonise economies and enhance climate resilience towards meeting the long-term global goal. Support provided by developed to developing countries can help to de-risk investment and enable technology transfer. Continued capacity-building will enable more robust and transparent reporting on emission reductions and adaptation efforts. Improved climate services will help to reduce climate impacts on lives and livelihoods.