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Climate Week NYC, 17 September 2023, New York
Good afternoon your
excellencies, ladies and gentlemen
It’s an honour to
address the opening of Climate Week NYC as the new Chair of the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change – the IPCC.
This is the decade of
climate action, and I want to use this opportunity to set out some clear
messages from the IPCC and the scientific community.
I can sum up them in
three words: urgency, agency and equity.
it is clear that climate change, unequivocally caused by human activities, is
already upon us. The speakers we’ve just heard from have provided many striking
examples of climate change impacts that already touch people’s lives directly.
Climate policies have begun
to “bend the trend” on emissions, but we have yet to put global emissions on the
steep downward path needed. Unless the world as a whole gets to net zero CO2
emissions, temperatures will continue to rise. Above 1.5°C warming, new risks
will emerge: permafrost degradation; biodiversity loss; water scarcity in
drylands; more extreme weather events; the productivity of food systems. And
sea level rise poses existential risks for small islands and low-lying coastal
Without immediate action
to reduce emissions and adapt to continued warming, threats to planetary health
and human systems are inevitable.
Fortunately, we have
the tools available to take the necessary actions. There is a critical message
of hope in the last IPCC report: we, humans, do have the agency
to avoid the worst impacts of climate change and shape our future on this
We have started to make
progress. The costs of renewable energy have fallen dramatically; wind and
solar energy are growing exponentially. Electricity is increasingly used in
markets dominated by oil and gas, for transport and heating. But this growth
has been concentrated in just a few parts of the world. Infrastructure
investment in developing countries will be key to continued expansion. We are
also seeing progress in terms of avoided deforestation and reforestation.
Together, energy and land-based opportunities offer substantial mitigation
potential in the near-term.
We have the policy
tools and the financial resources. More than half of the world’s emissions are
covered by climate laws, policies and institutions. More than a fifth are
covered by some form of carbon pricing. And there is enough money in the world
to undertake ambitious climate action. Enhanced financial flows and policies
that leverage private sector finance are needed to unlock the trillions of
Our message on agency
is blunt: we have the technologies, the know-how and the money to tackle climate
change. We need to put them to use. Now.
This brings me to my
final point. The way we deploy the tools available to us has equity
dimensions. The last IPCC report showed that those who are most vulnerable to
the effects of climate change are those who contribute, and have contributed,
least to warming. Within countries, there are large inequalities in terms of both
emissions and exposure to risk.
action that addresses the needs of the most vulnerable forms part of the pursuit
of equity on a global scale. And people will be impacted not only by
climate change but by climate action itself. Low-carbon activities and sectors
provide new economic opportunities, but there are risks for those employed in
declining sectors and the communities that host them. Ambitious climate action needs to pursue a just
transition, with consent at all levels of our societies. That consent will come only if climate action
is, and is perceived to be, genuinely and fundamentally fair.
Now, what of the future?
IPCC is just starting a new, seventh assessment cycle. IPCC governments will decide
the shape of the cycle and what reports will be produced. But already, the key considerations
are becoming apparent: remaining policy relevant, taking into account parallel activities
of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change; and focussing on informing
climate action. We will build on the excellent collaboration between IPCC’s
three Working Groups.
The voice of science is
crystal clear. Ambitious and determined climate action during this decade is
critical. Emissions are halved by 2030 in scenarios that avoid the increasingly
most dangerous effects of climate change by limiting global warming to 1.5°C. Global
net zero emissions are reached mid-century.
the new Chair of the IPCC I look forward to engaging with scientists and
decision-makers to deliver the latest scientific findings, and actionable
information for those shaping climate policies and responses at all levels and
in all sectors worldwide.
decision-makers in politics and businesses gathered here to build on the best
available science in your collective efforts to lead the transition and
accelerate transformational changes already underway.
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