IPCC releases ‘final warning’ to keep 1.5°C within reach

20th Mar 2023

The planet is at an inflection point when it comes to climate change. The scientific evidence is clear. Global heating has already caused dangerous disruption in nature, human well-being, businesses and economies across all regions. And the window to keep the 1.5°C temperature goal, and avoid more catastrophic impacts, is nearly shut.

In its latest report, Climate Change 2023: Synthesis Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has given its final warning, as the emissions curve is not bending yet. On the contrary, between 2010 and 2019 we experienced the highest levels of emissions in human history.

Climate action and progress has been made, and there are solutions available for mitigation and adaptation. However, this is not enough to respond to this crisis. Immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors are needed urgently. According to the IPCC report, limiting global warming to 1.5°C requires a peak before 2025, reduce emissions by 43% by 2030, 60% by 2035 and reach net-zero in early 2050.

The next seven years are critical

Near-term action is vital to prevent climate breakdown. We only have seven years left to keep 1.5°C within reach. Organizations with validated science-based targets have proven monumental reductions are possible - cutting scope 1 and 2 emissions by 12% on average year on year - greater than the 7.6% year on year reductions required to achieve the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C goal. However, the rate at which the climate is changing means that every company needs to take action.

Logically, if science-based action is fully scaled up across the global economy, 1.5°C is also possible.

The SBTi Net-Zero Standard plays a key role in enabling companies to halve emissions in the next 5-10 years and reach net-zero by 2050. To support the private sector play its part in the fight against climate crisis, our sector-specific standards provide companies with tailored routes to help them through the target-setting process. Taking into consideration each sector’s particular barriers and opportunities, we recently launched target-setting guidance and tools for the forest, land and agriculture (FLAG), cement, and maritime sectors - accounting for 30% of global emissions.

Scaling climate action through the power of collaboration

Companies and financial institutions can be both leaders and beneficiaries in the transformation to net-zero - but they can’t do it alone. The only chance of preventing catastrophe is for businesses, governments, cities and civil society to collaborate and reinforce each other. As UN Secretary General Antonio Gueterres said: “This report is a clarion call to massively fast-track climate efforts by every country and every sector and on every timeframe. Our world needs climate action on all fronts: everything, everywhere, all at once.”

Policy-makers must focus on creating policies that ensure setting science-based targets becomes ‘business as usual’ for companies and financial institutions worldwide. No matter their size, location or sector. Without this, the world will struggle to achieve meaningful change. Corporate calls for legislative change will be critical in driving this forward.

Ending dependence on fossil fuels must be immediate

We cannot limit global warming to 1.5°C and avoid the risks of climate change without fixing our dependence on fossil fuels.

Ending finance and governmental support for new fossil fuels is vital. This will require a bold policy response to enable conditions for companies to invest in clean energies and empower citizens to play a more active role in accelerating climate action. Financial institutions are increasingly recognizing the extent of climate risks and their impact on every market sector. We have developed tools and resources for banks, investors, insurance companies, pension funds and others to set science-based targets to align their lending and investment activities with the Paris Agreement. Over 55 financial institutions have set science-based targets to date.

We are also developing science-based target setting methodologies for businesses, investors, governments and civil society to understand the transformation oil and gas companies must make to align with the Paris Agreement. Key documentation has been published this year and further updates on this project will be provided throughout this year.

The critical role of science-based targets

The clock is ticking and we are running out of time. The SBTi’s work to scale climate action is more critical than ever. Bold and ambitious policies must also support companies in reaching ambitious science-based targets to cut emissions at the pace and scale required by science, while reducing demand for fossil fuels.

We must not fail to follow science. There is still time – and an urgent need – for the private sector to make a difference. Set a science-based target for your organization and deliver transformational change today.