Global perspective Human stories

'High speed mitigation train needs to leave the station,' concludes long-awaited UN climate report

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon travelled to Greenland at the end of March 2014 to see first-hand the impacts of climate change.
UN Photo/Mark Garten
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon travelled to Greenland at the end of March 2014 to see first-hand the impacts of climate change.

'High speed mitigation train needs to leave the station,' concludes long-awaited UN climate report

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the findings of a long-awaited United Nations report on the mitigation of climate change released earlier today in Berlin and urged all countries “to act swiftly and boldly” to reach a “global, ambitious and legal [climate] agreement in 2015.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's latest report, Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change, released in Berlin, Germany, states that global greenhouse gas emissions are continuing to rise at an accelerated pace and concludes that urgent action is needed to limit the increase in global mean temperature to two degrees Celsius and that action now and will be far less costly than postponing action for the future.

Highlighting the gravity of the situation and the urgency with which action must be taken, the chair of the IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri, told a press conference in Berlin where the report was released: “The high speed mitigation train needs to leave the station very soon and all of global society would need to get on board.”

In a statement issued at UN Headquarters shortly after the report's release, the Secretary-General urged “all countries to act swiftly and boldly on climate change, to bring ambitious announcements and actions to the climate summit on 23 September 2014, and to make every effort needed to reach a global, ambitious and legal climate agreement in 2015.”

Mr. Ban, who is convening the 23 September summit with leaders from Governments, businesses and civil society to raise the level of ambition, catalyze action on the ground and increase political momentum, has been using every opportunity to press for bold actions to tackle what he describes as the “defining issue of our times.”

“This new report challenges decision makers by presenting to them alternative futures and spelling out the pathway to each. The only safe path forward is to arrive at a carbon neutral world in the second half of this century,” said Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in a statement, adding: “We cannot play a waiting game where we bet on future technological miracles to emerge and save the day - and why would we?”

Sunday's IPCC release, the third installment of the Panel's Fifth Assessment report, spotlights the options for mitigating climate change and their underlying technological, economic and institutional requirements. It lays out risks, uncertainty and ethical foundations of climate change mitigation policies on the global, national and sub-national level, investigates mitigation measures for all major sectors and assesses investment and finance issues.

According to the IPCC, to keep global mean temperature to two degrees Celsius, means lowering global greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 70 percent compared with 2010 by mid-century, and to near-zero by the end of this century. Ambitious mitigation may even require removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

“Many different pathways lead to a future within the boundaries set by the two degrees Celsius goal,” said Ottmar Edenhofer, one of the three co-chairs of the working group presenting the findings of the report in Berlin. “All of these require substantial investments. Avoiding further delays in mitigation and making use of a broad variety of technologies can limit the associated costs.”

Estimates of the economic costs of mitigation vary widely, says the IPCC. In business-as-usual scenarios, consumption grows by 1.6 to 3 per cent per year. Ambitious mitigation would reduce this growth by around 0.06 percentage points a year. However, the underlying estimates do not take into account economic benefits of reduced climate change.

The report released Sunday consists of the Summary for Policymakers, a more detailed Technical Summary, the underlying 16 chapters, and three annexes. Working Group III chapter teams were formed by 235 authors and 38 review editors from 57 countries, and 180 experts provided additional input as contributing authors. More than 800 experts reviewed drafts of the report and submitted comments.

The new survey follows the release two weeks ago of the report Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability from Working Group II of the IPCC, which found that the effects of climate change are already occurring in all continents and across the oceans, and the world, for the most part, is ill-prepared for their risks. It also warned that while action can be taken, managing the phenomenon's impacts will be difficult on a rapidly warming planet.

The IPCC is the international body for assessing the science related to climate change. It was set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to provide policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation.