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Time for climate action is now

Global leaders gather in Glasgow knowing countries are ready to step up climate action

Latest IPCC report provided definitive proof we are accelerating towards uncontrollable climate tipping points. Photograph: iStock

Latest IPCC report provided definitive proof we are accelerating towards uncontrollable climate tipping points. Photograph: iStock

 

The world is at a critical fork in the road. Decisions taken in coming weeks will determine what route is followed and will have far-reaching consequences for decades to come, for both Planet Earth and humanity. They will have immense consequences for the way people live and how the world generates and uses energy; conducts business, produces food and trades.

Pursuing the right course at the forthcoming Cop26 climate negotiations in Glasgow during early November will ensure we have a realistic chance of halving carbon emissions by 2030 – and then building from that point to achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century.

This is to avoid the worst effects of the climate crisis already baked in because of accelerating global temperature rise caused by human activities. Indications that momentum is building in advance of Cop26 convening, in the form of enhanced commitments by countries, augurs well for this year’s gathering.

Separate action is necessary to build resilience in adapting societies to withstand the inevitable consequences of global warming; especially countries and peoples in the developing world who are most vulnerable to inevitable climate shocks.

The prize is a better world that provides better quality of life, less pollution, greater equality and, ultimately, better profitability for business.

Critical moves, however, have to be taken to ensure an orderly transition to a green economy where fossil fuels no longer have energy supremacy and cheap renewable energy for all can be realised sooner rather than later.

The agreed objective is to ensure global temperatures stick to within a 2-degree rise above pre-industrial times and preferably 1.5 degrees – a target 195 countries committed to in 2015 when the Paris Agreement was forged; arguably the best act of multilateralism ever in the collective interest of humankind.

The rubber is finally hitting the ground on climate action on international and home fronts. Global leaders will gather in Glasgow buoyed by indications countries are prepared to step up climate action significantly. Ireland’s first carbon budget is about to be introduced and a revised climate action plan is to be unveiled, outlining how a 51 per cent reduction on emissions by 2030 based on 2018 levels is to be pursued.

Advocates for renewable energy say the unfolding global energy crisis confirms the need to move further away from coal, gas and oil as prices for those commodities rise sharply. The counter view is wind and solar are not providing the reliability and security required in global energy systems.

The latest issue of Sustainable Ireland acknowledges the considerable challenges facing Ireland, but focuses on the solutions being pursued across the economy

“The wrong response to this would be to slow down the transition to renewable energy,” Frans Timmermans, the EU’s climate chief, said at a recent meeting of environmental ministers. “The right response is to keep the momentum and perhaps even look for ways to increase the momentum.”

The evidence indicates the transition to renewable energy will in the long run help protect European customers from the vagaries of oil and gas markets. The bottom line is that the world is getting out of fossil fuels though there will inevitably be bumps and resistance along the road towards sustainability.

The latest issue of Sustainable Ireland acknowledges the considerable challenges facing Ireland, but focuses on the solutions being pursued across the economy. It is clear that major businesses understand what needs to happen. And, increasingly, they accept all parts of their supply chains have to decarbonise. Many are adopting science-based targets as a key driver of progress.

Equally, just as one country cannot do it alone, the more astute in the commercial world realise the climate challenge is best confronted by supporting collective action, and sharing know-how – especially technology breakthroughs. They also acknowledge the importance of acting in a transparent way through regular reporting of their carbon footprint, and updating of actions while embarking on a course towards genuine sustainability.

Up to now there has been too much emphasis on voluntary commitments, leading to incremental change. In recent months, however, there is growing recognition that action to address the climate crisis is urgently needed.

The latest IPCC report issued in August was the clincher for a great many people. It provided definitive proof we are accelerating towards uncontrollable climate tipping points; more frequent and ferocious extreme weather events and unrelenting sea-level rise. The prognosis is clear, the options are spelt out. The solutions are scalable and economically viable – now is the time to ratchet up the action phase, backed by relentless focus on delivery.