Health & Fitness

UN climate report is our ‘final wake-up call,’ say environmental experts

A damning new U.N. report warning of certain devastation from climate change has been dubbed humanity’s “final wake-up call” by environmental experts.

Speaking to CNBC Tuesday, environmentalists outlined the role companies, countries and individuals can play in stemming the crisis. They also shared their hopes for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties, known as COP26, in November.

The U.N.’s IPCC climate panel released a highly anticipated report on Monday, warning that efforts to limit global warming to close to 1.5 degrees Celsius, or even 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, “will be beyond reach” in the next two decades without immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Implementing ‘ambitious action now’

Meeting policymakers’ 2050 temperature targets will be difficult but achievable, said Emily Kreps, global director of capital markets at CDP, a non-profit which helps companies manage their climate impact.

However, it would require “ambitious action now” from companies, governments and capital markets, she told “Squawk Box Asia” on Tuesday.

This should be viewed as our final wake-up call.

Emily Kreps

global director of capital markets, CDP

The 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold outlined in the report is a crucial global target because beyond this level, so-called tipping points become more likely. Tipping points refer to an irreversible change in the climate system, locking in further global heating.

“This should be viewed as our final wake-up call,” said Kreps, who encouraged companies to set “concrete and specific targets.”

Ulka Kelkar, director of climate at the World Resources Institute India, agreed that the pace of change needs to “accelerate rapidly.”

The phasing out of fossil fuels and implementation of renewable energies needs to happen at five-times their current pace, for instance. Meantime, the development of new, more sustainable technologies needs to ramp up, she said.

That is especially pressing in developing countries like India, that have an opportunity to bypass environmentally damaging practices.

“Over here we need to start thinking one step forward, we need to leapfrog,” she told “Street Signs Asia.”

“(That means) more renewable energy used to produce hydrogen at (a) large scale, which can be used in all of our industries” — from fertilizers and chemicals to steel production, she added.

Expectations for COP26

The report comes as a series of extreme weather events have wreaked havoc globally.

In the past few weeks alone, floods have battered Europe, China and India. Wildfires have also devastated the U.S.CanadaGreece and Turkey.

The UN report makes it “unequivocal that these events are connected to climate change and human influence on climate,” Mans Nilsson, executive director of the Stockholm Environment Institute, told “Squawk Box Europe.”

Developed countries (need to) seal the deal on a long-overdue climate finance package.

Ulka Kelkar

director, World Resources Institute India

World leaders are set to discuss the issue further when they meet at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland in November.

Kreps said she hopes the conference will produce nationally determined contributions and “science-based targets.”

Meantime, Kelkar’s expectations were three-fold.

“Developed countries (need to) seal the deal on a long overdue climate finance package,” particularly for adapting to extreme events seen lately, said Kelkar.

“The second big area is clean technology partnerships: something like green hydrogen, something like the circular economy that is using materials more efficiently. The third is the rules of carbon trading, which is a market-based instrument which allows all this mitigation to happen,” she added.

— CNBC’s Sam Meredith contributed to this report.

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