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Urgent climate action can secure liveable future for all

The losses and damages we are experiencing and will continue to experience due to human-caused climate change has been brought into sharp focus in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released today.

More intense heatwaves, heavier rainfall, as experienced in Aotearoa recently, and other weather extremes further increase risks for human health and ecosystems. Climate-driven food and water insecurity is expected to rise with increased warming. When the risks combine with other adverse events, such as pandemics or conflicts, they become even more difficult to manage.

May Road in Mt Roskill, Auckland turned into a river during the flooding on Jan 27.

The good news is that although we’re running out of time, we’re not running out of options!

There are multiple, feasible and effective options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to human-caused climate change, and they’re available now say IPCC scientists in the Report, which outlines these options.

Delaying action, is however, not an option warns IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee. “‘If we act now, we can still secure a liveable sustainable future for all … Mainstreaming effective and equitable climate action will not only reduce losses and damages for nature and people, it will also provide wider benefits.”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres described the report as a ‘how-to guide to defuse the climate time bomb’. 

Climate action is needed on all fronts: “everything, everywhere, all at once,” he declared, in a reference to this year’s Best Film Academy Award winner. 

In 2018, IPCC highlighted the unprecedented scale of the challenge required to keep warming to 1.5°C. Five years later, that challenge has become even greater due to a continued increase in greenhouse gas emissions.  The pace and scale of what has been done so far, and current plans, are insufficient to tackle climate change.

More than a century of burning fossil fuels as well as unequal and unsustainable energy and land-use has led to global warming of 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels. This has resulted in the more frequent and more intense extreme weather events that have caused increasingly dangerous impacts on nature and people in every region of the world.

HPF’s Executive Director Sione Tu’itahi says it’s very clear now that the best healthy choice and the best economic choice is to advance our socia-economic, social and cultural activities within the sustainabilty rhythm and level of the whenua, Mother Nature.

“Given what we have just experienced with the Auckland flood and with Cyclone Gabrielle, working within the healthy boundaries of Papatūānuku and Rangi nui is the wise choice if we are to sustain our wellbeing and gift future generations a better future,” says Sione, who is also President of the International Union of Health Promotion and Education.


Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

The most vulnerable people and ecosystems are hit especially hard so taking the right action now could result in the transformational change essential for a sustainable, equitable world. 

“Climate justice is crucial because those who have contributed least to climate change are being disproportionately affected,” said Aditi Mukherji, one of the 93 authors of the Report. 

“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,“ she added.

In this decade, accelerated action to adapt to climate change is essential to close the gap between existing adaptation and what is needed. Meanwhile, keeping warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels requires deep, rapid and sustained greenhouse gas emissions reductions in all sectors. Emissions should be decreasing by now and will need to be cut by almost half by 2030, if warming is to be limited to 1.5°C.

To be effective, these choices need to be rooted in our diverse values, worldviews and knowledges, including scientific knowledge, Indigenous Knowledge and local knowledge. This approach will facilitate climate resilient development and allow locally appropriate, socially acceptable solutions.  

The report is the last of the Sixth Assessment Report products, released in time to inform the 2023 Global Stocktake by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. 

The Public Health Expert Briefing also has an excellent article about what the Report means for Aotearoa which you can read on their website - 

(Banner photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash)