17 Aug 2021 2 min read

Climate change evidence ‘unequivocal’: inaction not an option at COP26

By Justine Schafer

Less than three months remain until the UK hosts the 26th UN Climate Change Conference, known as COP26. It is timely, then, that a new report from the UN’s intergovernmental body on climate change research, the IPCC, highlights the urgency for international action like never before.

 

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The report explores the latest physical science on climate change, combining eight years of research across hundreds of experts. It states that there can be no doubt that human influence has caused the rapid and unprecedented changes to the climate system observed over the past century. It also links changes in the frequency and severity of extreme events, such as the Western North America heatwave of this year, directly to these changes in the climate with unprecedented confidence.

Every additional tonne of CO2 emitted increases changes in climate extremes. If emissions continue unchecked and warming reaches around 4°C, extreme heat events that occurred once a decade in pre-industrial times could become annual. They would also become significantly hotter.

Similarly, the frequency and severity of rainfall and droughts would increase and sea levels would likely rise by up to one metre by 2100. Changes to the oceans, ice sheets and sea levels from global warming are irreversible. Nowhere on earth would remain unaffected.

Inaction is not an option

The implication is clear: rapid, large-scale emissions reductions are needed, and time is running out. The 2015 Paris Agreement’s goal is to ‘limit global warming to well below 2, preferably 1.5, degrees’.

But these outcomes could rapidly move beyond our reach. Less than 10 years of current emissions remain before we will have exhausted the carbon budget for 1.5°C. Emissions must fall, and they must reach net zero to stabilise temperatures. In the case of the IPCC’s 1.5°C scenario, emissions reach net zero around 2050 and go net negative thereafter – reversing an overshoot of 0.1°C of warming in the first half of the century.

The IPCC is due to publish two further reports on how climate policy could reduce emissions and how countries can adapt to climate extremes in 2022.

For us at LGIM, the report reinforces our commitment to working with our clients, investee companies, tenants and policymakers to support 1.5°C through net-zero emissions by 2050. At COP26, the report will serve as undeniable scientific evidence that the cost of global inaction will rapidly become unbearable. Policymakers, investors and companies must step up – inaction is not an option.

Justine Schafer

Climate Economist

Justine is a Climate Economist in LGIM’s Climate Solutions team, helping devise metrics to measure climate exposure and impact. She joined LGIM in 2021 from Vivid Economics, a consultancy focused on ‘putting economics to good use’, where she worked on quantifying the risks and opportunities from climate change for the financial and resource-extraction sectors. Justine graduated from McGill University with a BA in Economics and Finance and from the London School of Economics with an MSc in Economics.

Justine Schafer