UN report finds that climate chaos could still be reduced

Brussels, 15 April 2014

The recently launched third instalment of the 5th Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finds that it is still possible to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels but only if nations raise their collective ambition to achieve a carbon neutral world in the second half of the century.

The IPCC is the international body for assessing the science related to climate change. It is providing policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation. The Working Group I (WGI) chapter of the 5th Assessment Report (AR5) was launched in September 2013, showing with extreme certainty that climate change is happening. Climate change is primarily caused by human activity and requires urgent action. The Working Group II (WGII) report launched April 2014, dealt with the risks of climate change to society, including major health risks (caused by heat waves, the spread of many infectious diseases and water-related diseases, under nutrition, etc.) and how to manage them. Health and medical organisations under the auspices of the Global Climate and Health Alliance (including Health Care Without Harm) called on governments to respond to the health risks by protecting health from climate change and by promoting health through low-carbon, sustainable development.

Working Group III (WGIII) has published its report entitled Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change on 13 April 2014 (the final report is available here).

The report makes it clear that impact of climate change can be avoided by large scale changes in the global energy mix, combined with significant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions cuts – provided that they happen fast. Scenarios show that to have a likely chance of limiting the increase in global mean temperature to 2 degrees Celsius, means lowering global emissions by 40 - 70 % 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. That is likely to require a massive, three- or four-fold increase in the share of low-carbon technology in the electricity generating sector by 2050, including renewables, together with a 10% cut in investment in fossil fuels between 2010 and 2030, some $30bn per year. Over the same period, investment in low carbon energy should double, growing $147bn per year, while energy efficiency investment should increase by more than $336bn per year. The scientists also stress that renewables are becoming economically competitive with fossil fuels and also offer a range of other benefits, including health benefits due to clean air or energy security.

‘HCWH Europe welcomes the third instalment of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report’, states Kornélia Bagi, Climate Policy Officer, ‘as it is an urgent reminder for EU decision makers before the June European Council and the UN Climate Summit 2014 in September. The health sector can play a central role in addressing climate change, not only by dealing with the health risks due to global warming, but also leading by example in mitigating its own climate footprint.  Now policy makers have to ramp up their efforts to make sure that this enormous potential of the health sector is tapped as fast as possible. Timing is key, delaying mitigation action now implies higher costs of action later, while the co-benefits of prompt actions can outweigh their costs.’

The 5th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will be completed by a Synthesis Report to be finalised in October 2014, providing a valuable input for discussions and decisions on climate change.