The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has published its latest assessment of the climate crisis, following its 2021 “code red for humanity” warning.

After working around the clock beyond the scheduled conclusion of the 58th Session of the IPCC, exhausted policymakers and authors announced the adoption of the final outputs of the sixth assessment cycle: the Synthesis of the Sixth Assessment Report and its Summary for Policymakers.

The scheduled week of negotiations and heated conversations needed an additional two full days and involved round-the-clock deliberations. Delegates from around the globe gave a standing ovation to IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee, the IPCC Secretariat, and the authors, expressing appreciation for their work and central contributions to the IPCC’s outputs during the sixth assessment cycle.

“Mainstreaming effective and equitable climate action will not only reduce losses and damages for nature and people, it will also provide wider benefits,” said 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.”

The report, aimed at policy-makers, states that the world faces “a critical decade” for climate action. According to the data, global emissions were higher from 2010 to 2019 than in any previous decade.

Climate Change 2023: Synthesis Report | UNEP - UN Environment Programme

The IPCC AR6 Synthesis report is the final piece of the most comprehensive assessment of climate science yet, and will be foundational to policy and decision-making during this critical decade. It shows that the only way to avoid the worst consequences of climate change is through deep, rapid cuts to fossil fuel emissions, but that current plans would consign the world to far more dangerous, frequent, and extreme impacts – hitting marginalized communities the hardest.

The report sets out what’s needed for countries to course-correct, including  ramping up mitigation efforts, scaling up adaptation to build resilience to climate impacts, and redirecting financial flows from fossil fuels towards clean energy and climate solutions.

To galvanize action, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has announced an Acceleration Agenda and will host a Climate Ambition Summit in New York in September. For Global North countries like Canada, the bar for entry to the summit includes committing to reaching net zero as close as possible to 2040, ceasing all licensing or funding of new oil and gas, and stopping any expansion of existing oil and gas reserves. Whether or not Canada steps up its climate game over the next few months to the extent needed to join the summit will be a litmus test of this government’s dedication to listening to the science and establishing a safer future.

Several environmental organizations have made statements of support for the UN’s recommendation to end public investments in fossil fuels because of their continued harm to the environment and contribution to intensifying extreme weather events around the world.

“In Canada, fossil fuels are the largest and fastest-growing source of dangerous greenhouse gas emissions. Canada’s government faces a critical moment with its federal budget next week,” said Severn Cullis-Suzuki, executive director of the David Suzuki Foundation.

“It must stop public spending on fossil fuels and instead direct public funding to proven, cost-effective, widely available climate solutions. This includes wind, solar, clean electricity, electrification of cities, energy efficiency, investment in natural infrastructure and reducing food waste.”

Caroline Brouillette, acting executive director of Climate Action Network – Réseau action climat Canada, also weighed in with a bold call to action: “Now, we need governments to shake themselves out of their dangerous complacency and finally take the baton and cut emissions across systems and sectors, invest in adaptation and respond to losses and damages, at the speed and scale required. It is time to confront, once and for all, the fossil fuel industry’s stranglehold on policy which has blocked climate action for decades. Within the next few months, the Canadian government must demonstrate how it will align its actions with science, do its fair share, and enact rapid, equitable, transformational change.”

Angela Carter, energy transitions specialist at the International Institute for Sustainable Development addresses the need for a transition to clean energy:

“The IPCC tells us that renewable energy is key to a safer future. They also warn that relying too much on carbon capture technology represents a major risk to climate safety. We know that carbon capture and storage in the oil and gas sector isn’t effective here in Canada, since existing CCS projects capture less than two per cent of the sector’s emissions, even after decades of development and billions of dollars of public investment. The growing consensus is that CCS for oil and gas won’t be enough and costs too much, and the IPCC research supports that view. Canada should prioritize more effective measures and stop spending billions on CCS.”

Featured image credit: You Tube screen capture

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