The UN-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) announced today the publication of its latest report assessing the current state of the global climate system and impacts of climate change. The report warns that while some of the major effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels, may be irreversible for thousands of years, rapid and meaningful action could still limit warming to 1.5°C, a level seen as necessary to avoid some of the direst impacts.

On a conference call discussing the release of the report, the IPCC urged investors, businesses and governments to play their part in the process of helping to limit the worst effects of climate change.

IPCC Working Group I Co-Chair Panmao Zhai said:

“Stabilizing the climate will require strong, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and reaching net zero CO2 emissions. Limiting other greenhouse gases and air pollutants, especially methane, could have benefits both for health and the climate.”

Following the release of the report, COP26 President and UK MP Alok Sharma called on governments and businesses to act on supporting the 1.5°C goal. Sharma said:

“Our message to every country, government, business and part of society is simple. The next decade is decisive, follow the science and embrace your responsibility to keep the goal of 1.5C alive.

“We can do this together, by coming forward with ambitious 2030 emission reduction targets and long-term strategies with a pathway to net zero by the middle of the century, and taking action now to end coal power, accelerate the roll out of electric vehicles, tackle deforestation and reduce methane emissions.”

Some of the key takeaways from the IPCC report include:

  • Human influence is the main driver of warming, with greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from human activity causing around 1.1°C of warming since 1850-1900.
  • CO2-dominat reductions with strong reductions in methane emissions are needed to help reverse global warming. According to the report, methane emissions, such as those released from coal mines and oil and gas operations, are now higher than they have ever been in the past 800,000 years and are above safe limits. Rapid action towards methane reduction would be crucial for reducing global warming.
  • Climate Change is already affecting every region of the planet, and will increasingly impact all regions. At 1.5°C, there will be increasing heat waves, longer warm seasons and shorter cold seasons, while 2°C of global warming, heat extremes would more often reach critical tolerance thresholds for agriculture and health.
  • Global Warming is expected to reach 1.5 or 1.6 degrees in the next 20 years. IPCC outlines several different emissions scenarios in the report, leading to the prediction that global warming is going to reach a tipping point by 2040. Urgent measures including more rapid reductions of GHG emissions, cutting the impact of the coaling industry are needed to avoid this scenario.

Commenting on the key messages for investors and businesses from the report, Pietro Bertazzi, Global Director, Policy Engagement & External Affairs at climate research provider and environmental disclosure platform CDP said:

“Whilst we are seeing huge momentum in net zero pledges from corporates globally, it is vital that companies have interim science-based targets in line with 1.5°C, that these are backed up by robust and credible transition plans, and that they can be held to account. Now is not the time for words, it is the time for action.

“We’d also urge all governments, investors and businesses to ensure that climate change isn’t approached in isolation. Environmental issues are inter-connected, and, as a result, the IPCC report confirms there is absolutely no way of managing global warming without tackling biodiversity, forests and oceans – if we don’t tackle nature and climate together, we solve neither.”

Outlining the key message for market participants, Fiona Reynolds, CEO of Principles for Responsible Investment, said:

“The financial services sector has a vital role to play in overcoming these challenges. The transition to a net-zero economy cannot be achieved without strong government leadership and robust action from the asset owners and managers alike. We encourage investors to review their commitments to tackling climate change and to take action, by setting a net zero target and supporting initiatives such as Race to Net Zero and the UN-convened Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance.

“The report is unequivocal in its findings – it should serve as a massive wake-up call that we are not going to manage the climate crisis without decisive action. In response, governments and regulators need to provide near-term accountability for net-zero targets with robust policy frameworks and credible emission reduction plans for 2030. Getting on track with a 1.5°C pathway remains feasible and represents our best chance to sustain economic growth, protect the vulnerable and manage the energy transition.”

The new report is the first of four installments constituting IPCC’s Sixth Assessment report. It was authored by 234 scientists with 14,000 scientific publications assessed by experts.

Click here to access the full IPCC report