'Death knell for coal and fossil fuels': IPCC report sounds urgent warning on climate change

The head of the United Nations labelled a devastating new report on climate change as a “code red for humanity” as the renewables sector said a deeper, faster energy transition must now be a top priority globally.

UN secretary general António Guterres said latest analysis by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet… countries should also end all new fossil fuel exploration and production, and shift fossil fuel subsidies into renewable energy."

The report states with certainty that human activity is destroying the climate system in unprecedented ways, causing irreversible damage. Without immediate and far-reaching climate action, the world is on a razor’s edge with regards to breaching major tipping points.

The window of time to prevent warming beyond 1.5°C is rapidly closing. Implicit in the report is that rising emissions caused by a destructive dependence of fossil fuels is set to worsen climate catastrophes and that the move to renewable energy is urgent. 

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Global Climate & Energy Lead, WWF: “The report is an important moment in the lead-up to COP26 because it is all about certainty – certainty of the scale of the climate crisis and humankind’s role in driving extreme weather events, certainty of how much we have changed the planet, and certainty that things will continue to get worse unless we immediately change course. “World leaders must use every opportunity, especially the upcoming G20 Summit and COP26, to deliver climate action that responds to the ambition needed to ensure the 1.5˚C goal of the Paris Agreement does not slip out of reach.”

Dr Stephen Cornelius, Chief Adviser on Climate Change & Global lead on the IPCC, WWF: “This is a stark assessment of the frightening future that awaits us if we fail to act. With the world on the brink of irreversible harm, every fraction of a degree of warming matters to limit the dangers of climate change. It is clear that keeping global warming to 1.5°C is hugely challenging and can only be done if urgent action is taken globally to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect and restore nature.”

Dr Stephan Singer, Senior Adviser, Climate Action Network International: “Governments must interpret the findings of the latest IPCC report as an alarm bell to phase-out of fossil fuels within this decade. This report must serve as a large nail in the coffin of the fossil fuel industry. The IPCC report today shows we have the highest carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere and the highest amounts of marine acidification since at least two million years.” “Phasing out fossil fuels, massively deploying renewables, investing in energy efficiency and halting ecosystem destruction is the only obvious political action for a liveable planet. This report also implies that extreme weather events will continue at current rates of warming. This means stronger support is needed for adaptation and risk management for vulnerable communities in poorer countries.”

Dr Kristina Dahl, Senior Climate Scientist, Union of Concerned Scientists: “The latest IPCC report offers a wealth of scientific information that should be elevated and heeded. It provides a deeper understanding of sobering climate tipping points, advances in climate attribution science, and a reporting of regional climate change. While this report underscores the urgent need for climate action, prior IPCC reports and countless other studies, as well as our lived experience, have already given us more than enough evidence to know that we’re in the midst of a crisis brought to us largely by the fossil fuel industry and their political allies. The continued dithering to address climate change is no longer about the lack of scientific evidence, but rather directly tied to a lack of political will.”

Rachel Cleetus, Policy director and Lead Economist, Climate and Energy Program, Union of Concerned Scientists: “For far too long, policymakers have placed their short-term political interests and the greed of corporations ahead of the needs of their constituents. After spending decades raising the alarm about the overwhelming threats posed by unchecked climate change, our organization is beyond concerned; we’re heartbroken to see worsening, grossly inequitable impacts that could’ve been avoided harming people and critical ecosystems. We’re also alarmed by the prospect of what lies ahead—especially if nations fail to act. We urge politicians in the United States and around the globe to take stock of this sobering report and set aside their longstanding predilection for incrementalism.”

Kaisa Kosonen, Senior Political Advisor, Greenpeace Nordic: “While governments crawl towards curbing emissions, inch-by-inch, the climate crisis is right now claiming entire communities with wildfires, extreme flooding, and drought. This IPCC report has strengthened the connection between carbon emissions by humans and worsening climate extremes. “We are not going to let this report be shelved by further inaction. Instead, we’ll be taking it with us to the courts. One only needs to look at the recent court victory secured by civil society groups against Shell to realise how powerful IPCC science can be.”

Li Shuo, Senior Climate Campaigner, Greenpeace East Asia: “The scientific evidence of climate change and its impact is clear. This summer’s floods have just made it real for China. There is no reason to shy away from urgent action. Stopping the construction of China’s coal-fired power plants will greatly contribute to global climate momentum. Doing so is economically sound and is ultimately in China’s self-interest.”

Dr Doug Parr, Chief Scientist, Greenpeace UK: “This is not the first generation of world leaders to be warned by scientists about the gravity of the climate crisis, but they’re the last that can afford to ignore them. The increasing frequency, scale and intensity of climate disasters that have scorched and flooded many parts of the world in recent months is the result of past inaction. Unless world leaders finally start to act on these warnings, things will get much, much worse.”

Steve Trent, CEO and founder, Environmental Justice Foundation: ​​“The IPCC’s latest report is an important piece of rigorous science, but it doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know. We know that the climate crisis is here. We know that people are dying, from climate-driven storms, floods, wildfires, heatwaves, drought and famine, around the world. We know that while northern, industrialised nations are also suffering, the greatest impacts of climate breakdown are being felt by the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, those who have done the least to contribute to the heating of our planet. If we do act ambitiously, with a foundation of environmental justice, we will see new jobs, economic revitalization, and reinvigoration of our relationship with the natural world, making us happier and healthier.”

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