Report confirms world still not on track to limit global heating to safe levels (1.5 C) this century; global emissions must peak by 2025 to do so

VANCOUVER | TRADITIONAL, UNCEDED TERRITORIES OF THE xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (MUSQUEAM), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (SQUAMISH) AND səlilwətaɬ (TSLEIL-WAUTUTH) FIRST NATIONS — Governments, businesses, industry and financial institutions must significantly up their game if the world is to avoid heating beyond 1.5 C by 2030, according to a UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released today.

The report, “Mitigation of Climate Change,” is the third part of the IPCC’s four-part Sixth Assessment. Written by hundreds of scientists and based on 18,000 scientific papers, it finds existing national climate plans will put us well over the Paris Agreement target and, “If CO2 emissions continue at current rates, we will exhaust the remaining 1.5 C carbon budget in the early 2030s.” It also shows that every year, the world is adding more carbon-intensive infrastructure than it is decommissioning.

“Humanity has never been better-equipped technologically and financially to decarbonize our economies and strengthen global resilience. We have all the necessary solutions — we’re just not implementing them fast enough,” David Suzuki Foundation climate director Sabaa Khan said. “This report makes it clear: the next few years will be critical to ending the financial flows that are inconsistent with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 C objective. Canada needs to act on this IPCC report by setting an ambitious cap on oil and gas emissions.”

While all countries must decarbonize, the wealthiest one per cent per capita worldwide emit more than twice the combined share of greenhouse gases of the poorest 50 per cent, with activities like flying and driving sports utility vehicles — which emit a lot but only benefit a few — contributing to the imbalance. Limiting global warming to 1.5 C will require tackling emissions from the wealthiest 10 per cent of households who contribute about 36-45 per cent of global emissions.

The IPCC states that emissions cuts needed to keep below the 1.5 C target are four times higher than they would have been if collective global ambition and mitigation started in 2010, highlighting the need for immediate action. It also notes that, while carbon dioxide is the greatest concern, methane (much in the form of “natural” gas) and nitrous oxide emissions must also decline rapidly. Although the IPCC says carbon capture and removal — through natural methods like forest protection and planting, and technologies like direct air capture — is necessary, it comes with trade-offs, and technological fixes are often seen as excuses to delay reducing emissions.

“We must quickly wind down coal and oil and gas development, and not build any more fossil fuel infrastructure,” Foundation senior climate policy advisor Tom Green said. “Expanding oilsands and fracked gas production, and building fossil fuel pipelines moves us in the wrong direction. Technological fixes like carbon capture and storage can’t serve as excuses to continue procrastinating.”

The report lays out numerous ways to prevent the worst impacts of climate change — from electrifying global energy using renewable power and storage, to increasing financing for clean energy and rapidly phasing out fossil fuels and their infrastructure — but emphasizes the need to shift quickly.

“At the rate the world is going, we’ll more than double our 1.5 C target,” Khan said. “Canada must take this report seriously. Despite the federal government’s new emissions reduction plan, oilsands emissions are projected to rise 56 per cent by 2030. This is not sustainable.”

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