HomeWeather‘Devastating’ UN report to warn time running out to save planet

‘Devastating’ UN report to warn time running out to save planet


A “devastating” new UN report is expected to set out a stark message on runaway climate change in what the government hope will be a “wake-up call”.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, published on Monday, will be the first comprehensive assessment of scientific knowledge about the threat to the plant from human activity since 2013.

An interim report said global warming was likely to hit 1.5C, the disastrous limit world leaders have pledged to try to avoid, between 2030 and 2052. But reports indicate that a new landmark study will bring the window forward by a decade to 2040 at the latest.

Boris Johnson’s government said it hoped the report would prove to be a decisive “wake-up call” for countries to do more to tackle the climate crisis, as the UK prepares to host the crucial Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow in November.

Climate minister and Cop26 president Alok Sharma said he expected the report to act as “a big wake-up call for countries to do even more”, he said on Sunday. “I suspect the IPCC will reinforce the fact that we are running out of time. It will genuinely be a decisive moment in history.”

However, Labour and opposition leaders claimed Downing Street was in disarray over the UK’s plans to deal with the climate emergency – accusing the government of “dragging its feet” over a fully costed plan to cut carbon emissions.

The Treasury’s review into the cost of achieving a government target of “net zero” carbon emissions by 2050 is said to have been delayed over concerns the plan could cost the Conservative Party votes. Chancellor Rishi Sunak is increasingly concerned about the cost to the taxpayer in subsiding green technologies.

“We are in the decisive decade in our fight to avert catastrophic climate breakdown and we desperately need serious leadership,” said Luke Pollard MP, shadow environment secretary.

“Instead, we have a prime minister who is more interested in vacuous boosterism than the hard yards of policy work … and a chancellor who is dragging his feet on publishing the crucial net-zero review.”

Green MP Caroline Lucas told The Independent it was time for the government to act with a greater sense of urgency. “The government’s continued delay in publishing its net zero review is a damning indictment of ministers’ complacency over tackling the climate emergency,” she said.

Urging the government to ignore Tory MPs worried about the costs to the taxpayer, Ms Lucas added: “Suggestions that the delay is caused by Treasury fears that it could cost the Tory Party votes further undermine any claim the government might make to leadership on this issue.”

The government was also condemned for failing to rule out new fossil fuel extraction licences, allowing new oil and gas projects in the North Sea and a new coal mine in Cumbria.

Mr Sharma refused to criticise plans for further fossil fuel extraction, telling The Observer: “Future [fossil fuel] licences are going to have to adhere to the fact we have committed to go to net zero by 2050 in legislation.”

Friends of the Earth international climate campaigner Rachel Kennerley said the UK’s message to other countries at Cop26 “will be severely undermined unless the government clearly rules out new climate-wrecking oil projects, like the Cambo oil field off the Shetland Islands”.

The Independent’s own Stop Fuelling The Climate Crisis campaign is highlighting steps towards ending support for fossil fuel projects at home and overseas, as the UK looks to lead the world on the climate crisis at Cop26.

Drawing on more than 14,000 scientific papers, the IPCC review is set to provide the latest knowledge on past and potential future warming, how humans are changing the climate and how that is increasing extreme weather events and driving sea-level rises.

A summary report is being published after being approved in a process involving scientists and representatives of 195 governments over the past two weeks. That means governments have signed off on the findings, and the pressure will be on them to take more action at talks in Glasgow this November.

Insiders who have been given a preview of the report say global temperatures look certain to rise 1.5C above pre-industrial levels by 2040 at the latest, according to the Sunday Times.

Tom Rivett-Carnac, one of the climate experts who helped create the Paris Agreement in 2015, told the newspaper: “The IPCC report is going to be devastating in its reports of what is to come if we don’t deal with this. The increasing natural disasters … will, I think, turn this into quite an interesting turning-point moment over the course of the next few weeks.”

Professor Piers Forster from Leeds University, one of the scientists involved in the process, said the report would contain “quite a lot of bad news about where we are and where we’re going”. But he added that there are going to be “nuggets of optimism” in the report too.

“If we can really get our act together to cut our greenhouse gas emissions within the next 10-year time frame and to get to these net-zero targets that everyone is talking about, there’s a good chance we can try and keep temperatures in the longer term below 1.5 degrees,” he told LBC.

Doug Parr, Greenpeace UK chief scientist, said: “We don’t need more pledges, commitments and targets – we need real action right here right now to cut planet-heating emissions as fast as possible, phase out fossil fuels, transform our food system and deliver more cash to the countries worst hit by the climate crisis.”

And Fredrick Njehu, Christian Aid’s senior climate change and energy adviser for Africa, warned: “The important thing now is that rich world governments make up for lost time and act quickly to reduce emissions and deliver promised financial support for the vulnerable.”

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