The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released its special report: “How can humanity prevent the global temperature rise more than 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial level”.
The IPCC is a body of experts and representatives from 195 countries (all 193 UN member states and the Cook Islands and Niue, who are members of the World Meteorological Organization). It was established in 1988 under the auspices of two United Nations organizations, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and later endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly through Resolution 43/53.
In 2015 the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a body that arose from a series of UN conferences and treaties (dating back to the 1992 Rio Summit), convened the adoption of the “Paris Agreement” on climate change. The Paris Agreement represents a concerted agreement by all signatory nations to keep a global temperature rise this century well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. All 197 members of the UNFCCC (all 195 IPCC members and Palestine and the EU) have signed it, although the United States is attempting to withdraw and may do so in 2020.
In addition, that same meeting of the UNFCCC tasked the IPCC with finding out if a two-degree reduction would be enough or if the more ambitious target of 1.5 degrees is required by commissioning a special report on the differences between a two degree and 1.5 degree rise. The report suggests that a 1.5 degree warmer world would be much prefereable to a two degree warmer world in many ways.
- significantly lower risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and forest fires
- significant reduction in food scarcity and a lower likelihood of climate related poverty for hundreds of millions of people
- water stress would be 50% lower
- coral reefs, which would all die in a two degree warmer world, might survive
- 10 million fewer people affected by rising sea levels
- half the decline in fish stocks
However, the report also says that if global warming is to be limited to 1.5 degrees, drastic changes will be needed in energy usage, transport and forestry, with many of the changes needing to take place in the next 12 years.
While governments, international organisations such as the UN and large corporations will need to effect most of the changes, individual actions can have a collective impact too. One of the most effective changes that an individual can make is to reduce the consumption of meat, and in particular to reduce the proportion of meat eaten that is beef.
At UNA-UK we are doing our bit too. We have an environmental sustainability policy and print our magazine with vegetable-based inks on FSC certified 100% recycled chlorine- and acid-free paper. Individual staff members have also made pledges to reduce their impact on the environment, including by not using single use plastic bottles or disposable coffee cups.
IPCC member governments unanimously adopted the report.
UNA-UK believes there is a clear practical and moral case for limiting man made climate change to 1.5 degrees above preindustrial levels. The IPCC report provides the blueprint for doing so and the Paris agreement provides the mechanism. To this end we have been publishing a series of “Climate 2020” expert reports about the Paris Agreement (the next edition will be published in November in time for the next meeting of the UNFCCC – known as COP24). We have written a number of briefings on the IPCC and climate change over the years, and our executive director’s introduction to the 2016 issue of Climate 2020 provided a detailed analysis of the strengths and limitations of the Paris Agreement. Our Global Britain Scorecard also takes climate change as one of the key areas which demonstrates the extent of the UK’s commitment to playing a positive role in the global community.