Climate crisis requires urgent response

Business and environmental organisations have stressed the urgent need for action in tackling the climate crisis following the publication of a seminal UN report.

In its latest assessment of climate science published on Monday, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting global warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will be beyond reach.

Only rapid and drastic reductions in greenhouse gases in the next decade can prevent climate breakdown which will see more intense heat, rainfall and associated flooding, sea level rises that could submerge entire countries, and threats to food production and security.

“If anybody still had any doubts to the scale of the climate crisis, this report must surely put those to bed,” said Matthew Fell, CBI chief policy director. “Businesses understand the vital role they must play and many are putting net zero plans in place. We need to see more of those commitments and acting on the pledges made, as soon as possible.”

WRAP said the assessment meant that businesses must embed climate change mitigation at the heart of their strategies and consumers must make their purchasing power count. “Tackling food waste, cutting calories and carbon at the same time, changing the carbon intensity of our diets, changing from goods to services, making better use of existing products, designing lightweight products, recycling more in the UK, and substituting materials can all make a contribution to net-zero,” the organisation said.

Sue Pritchard, farmer and chief executive of the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission said the science is clear that reducing emissions of short-lived but potent greenhouse gases such as methane is vital if we are to tackle climate change. “Agriculture has a major role to play but we must stop obsessing over cows and start talking about the fundamental changes that we need to make to our whole food system,” said Pritchard.

“Governments and global businesses need to lead a shift away from the heavily industrialised, commodified and wasteful food systems, which are damaging public health, decimating rural communities, and fuelling both the climate and nature crisis. They must invest in agroecological and regenerative approaches to food, farming and land use that cut emissions, protect nature, and support viable and diverse small and medium-sized family farms.”

The Environmental Audit Committee of MPs said the report shows the likely regional effects of continued warming at the current rate and demonstrates the challenges of adaptation the UK is likely to face in the coming decade. “The prime minister has inherited a favourable leadership position following years of successful decarbonisation by successive administrations,” said committee chairman Philip Dunne. “Before COP26 leaders convene in Glasgow, he must show them he has the necessary political courage, by driving the government to adopt the strategies necessary to make his high-level climate promises a reality.”

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