Next decade ‘pivotal’ to secure future of planet, says UK's PM

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UK leaders are calling for urgent global action in response to a UN report on the science of climate change, that says ‘irreversible’ damage has been done, but there is still time to limit global warming to below 1.5C.

“It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land. Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred,” says the report Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

Human influence has led to heatwaves, heavy rainfall as well as agricultural and ecological droughts, it says. Without urgent action to limit warming, these will all increase.

Human influence has already contributed to 'observable' extreme weather events such as floods, says the IPCC report. Photograph:

Commenting on the report’s warnings and ahead of COP26 in Glasgow in November, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this should be a wake-up call for the world: “The next decade is going to be pivotal to securing the future of our planet. We know what must be done to limit global warming – consign coal to history and shift to clean energy sources, protect nature and provide climate finance for countries on the frontline.”

COP26 President Alok Sharma added: “The science is clear, the impacts of the climate crisis can be seen around the world and if we don’t act now, we will continue to see the worst effects impact lives, livelihoods and natural habitats.

“Our message to every country, government, business and part of society is simple. The next decade is decisive, follow the science and embrace your responsibility to keep the goal of 1.5C alive.”

Bayswater power plant, Australia. Black coal is burnt for power generation, emitting carbon dioxide into atmosphere on a sunny day. Photograph: iStock/zetter

The report highlights that cutting global emissions, starting immediately, to net zero by mid-century would give a good chance of limiting global warming to 1.5C in the long-term and help to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

The UK plans to reduce its emissions by 68 per cent by 2030 and 78 per cent by 2035, leading to net zero by 2050.

The first net zero G7 was created in May, with all countries coming forward with 2030 emission reduction targets that put them on a pathway to reaching the net zero goal by 2050.

However, António Guterres, the UN secretary general, warned that countries should be doing more now. Calling for an end to new coal plants and to new fossil fuel exploration and development, he said: “This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet.”

The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) said that up to 22 per cent of the UK's total carbon emissions are directly controlled by the built environment sector. “Delays to key initiatives, such as the Heat and Buildings strategy, have led to considerable uncertainty in the industry. The sooner the direction of travel is made clear, the quicker the costs of new technologies will come down, which is vital for consumers,” commented Julie Hirigoyen, Chief Executive at UKGBC.

Read the IPCC report on climate change here: 


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