IPCC climate ‘Code Red’: A COP26 call to action?

Climate Change and Sustainability September 03, 2021

This summer, Europe recorded its highest ever temperature with Sicily hitting an extreme heat of 48.8˚C. Wildfires raged not only throughout southern Europe, but also in Siberia, Canada and California. Elsewhere across the globe we have seen devastating floods in Germany and China as well as fierce storms hitting the US east coast. Against this backdrop of extreme and sometimes fatal weather, on 9 August the world’s leading climate authority, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published its Sixth Assessment Report on climate change.

It has taken leading climate scientists more than eight years to produce the Physical Science Basis Report stating “unequivocally” that the cumulative impact of human activity since the Industrial Revolution is causing rapid and potentially catastrophic climate change such as increasingly extreme weather events, the melting of polar ice and glaciers, and sea-level rises.

The report states that within twenty years global temperatures are likely to increase by more than 1.5˚C above pre-industrial levels – the threshold below which global heating levels must remain, as set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement, to keep global populations safe from worsening climate threats. There is a scientific consensus that each additional increment of heating beyond this point is likely to have an accelerating effect on climate breakdown. The report warns that global warming is already causing irreversible climate change and rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are required to slow this process.

The IPCC report has been published in the run-up to the UN global climate summit (or Conference of the Parties) COP26 that is being held this November in Glasgow, UK. António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary General, warned that the report “is a code red for humanity. The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk.”

The Glasgow event will be the most critical COP yet. The UK has the huge responsibility, as the president of COP26, of delivering agreement on how to limit global warming to 1.5˚C while there is still a small, but shrinking, window for achieving this. There is a pressing urgency to these climate talks, touted as the world’s last chance to take the imminent and extensive action necessary to limit the devastating impacts of the climate crisis. The challenge will be to address the significant gaps between the status quo and a commitment to reduce emissions, and between commitment and action. There is an opportunity to ensure that each country is taking responsibility for its contribution to global emissions by pledging to cut its fair share through the new Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which governments have been called to resubmit before COP26.

COP26 is a pivotal moment and only by reaching consensus on reducing NDCs and limiting global heating in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement can the worst impacts of climate change be averted. The importance of these talks cannot be overstated, particularly for those vulnerable communities likely to be worst affected by climate change. In the longer term, the success of these talks will be reliant on translating the agreements made into measurable action over the next decade.

The IPCC will publish two further reports next year to help with this process. The first will focus on the impacts of the climate crisis; the second will detail the potential solutions. However, the challenge is clear for all, and the time for action is fast running out! COP26 must deliver real and sustained action to tackle climate change. A Glasgow Agreement 2021 could be a momentous turning point.

RSK at COP26

At RSK, we know what is at stake if we do not take urgent action to tackle the climate crisis. And we are stepping up – we have signed the pledge to net zero and have joined the science-based targets initiative to cut our business emissions in line with the 1.5°C pathway enshrined by the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Sustainability has always been at the heart of RSK, but we want to continue to expand our services in this field so that we can lead the climate change solution for industry. To this end, we have recently secured £1 billion of available debt facilities through the Ares European direct lending strategy, the largest private-credit-backed, sustainability-linked financing deal ever agreed in the market. These new debt facilities include an annual margin review based on the achievement of sustainability targets that are based on RSK’s Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Route Map

In the run-up to COP26, RSK has also launched our ‘Green Dialogues’ webinars, which bring together industry experts to discuss issues relating to the key themes of COP26. We have already focused on changes to transport in our ‘Ditch the car’ webinar, in which our expert panel debated the future of sustainable transport and whether to get rid of cars as part of efforts to achieve a net-zero future.

We are looking forward to exploring further key issues relating to tackling climate change in our upcoming webinars:

  • Boiler ban’ (9 September 2021) will focus on the transition from fossil fuels for heating and transport, and will offer practical solutions explaining what landlords, homeowners and the overall property sector need to know to implement the gas-free technologies that will keep Britain warm for decades to come.
  • Can we rewild land in our inner cities?’ (7 October 2021): A webinar in which leaders in the rewilding movement will discuss the challenges and benefits of rewilding high-density cities.

We are solutions focused, and we want to continue driving the conversations and ideas that will enable industry to play its part in tackling the climate crisis. To keep up with our activities and sign up for our future #GreenDialogues events, visit our website here.