IPCC AR6 report underscores importance of justice in climate action

The much-anticipated Synthesis Report of the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) gives policymakers a “final warning” while advocating for climate resilient solutions rooted in climate justice.

The report is the culmination of the work of hundreds of scientists during the AR6 cycle that began in 2015. It provides a top line overview of the findings from three Working Groups (WGI: The Physical Science Basis ; WGII: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability; and WGIII: Mitigation of Climate Change ), as well as information from three Special Reports produced during this cycle. (Global Warming of 1.5°C; Climate Change and Land; and The Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate.

Current and future generations

Key messages emphasize that human-induced climate change is already affecting many people in regions all across the world, the risks of reaching 1.5°C would present multiple risks to nature and to humans, and rapid and deep reductions in fossil fuel emissions are necessary to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

No justice, no peace

With a more integrated approach needed to tackle the climate crisis, the IPCC authors emphasize the importance of climate justice and pushing for transformational change to create a sustainable, equitable, and just world. This approach is critical to understanding the climate crisis as the richest 1% of the world’s population are responsible for double the CO2 emissions of the poorest 50%.

One of the key findings in relation to equity and inclusion in climate action is that activities that “prioritize equity, climate justice, social justice and inclusion,” lead to “more sustainable outcomes, reduce trade-offs, support transformative change and advance climate resilient development.”

“Climate justice is crucial because those who have contributed least to climate change are being disproportionately affected,” said Aditi Mukherji, one of the report’s 93 authors. “Almost half of the world’s population lives in regions that are highly vulnerable to climate change. In the last decade, deaths from floods, droughts and storms were 15 times higher in highly vulnerable regions.”

The report also puts the issue of loss and damage front and centre.  Loss and damage refers to  economic and non-economic impacts of climate change that occur despite, or in the absence of, mitigation and adaptation. Climate-induced losses and damages are exposing human societies and nature to intolerable and irreversible risks, causing deaths, damaging food production, destroying nature and reducing economic growth.

The IPCC reports with high confidence that more limits to adaptation will be reached with increasing global warming, exacerbating losses and damages that will be strongly concentrated among the poorest and most vulnerable populations.

Everything, everywhere, all at once

The IPCC describes an inclusive, equitable approach to integrating adaptation, mitigation and development. In the report, experts lay out multiple, feasible and effective options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to human-caused climate change, and they are available now.

Scaling up private finance will be a key piece of the puzzle. Financial flows must increase many-fold to meet mitigation and adaptation targets, with the authors identifying the largest gaps and opportunities in developing countries.

“Mainstreaming effective and equitable climate action will not only reduce losses and damages for nature and people, it will also provide wider benefits,” said IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee. “This Synthesis Report underscores the urgency of taking more ambitious action and shows that, if we act now, we can still secure a liveable sustainable future for all.”

In concert with the report launch, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres simultaneously launched a new action agenda that calls for ceasing all licensing or funding of new oil and gas, consistent with the findings of the International Energy Agency.

Setting the stage for COP28

The Summary Report provides a path forward for evidence-based policymaking ahead of this year’s UN Climate Conference (COP28) in Dubai. A clear message is that governments must rapidly reduce their respective emissions and embrace climate resilient solutions rooted in climate justice to minimize further losses and damages.

This report will help inform the Global Stocktake (GST), a critical component of the Paris Agreement, which assesses the collective progress and what parties achieved so far in implementing their climate plans. The first GST is set to conclude at COP28.

Climate change is throwing its hardest punches at the most vulnerable. Collective failure to cut emissions will bring further damage to lives and livelihoods of those who have done the least to cause these impacts. Integrating justice into action agendas can turbo-charge transformational changes and the climate resilient developments needed.

Read the IPCC AR6 Scientific Report

Read the IPCC AR6 Summary for Policymakers