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Keynote address by the IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee at the ceremonial opening of COP26 Glasgow, 31 October 2021
Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honour for me to address you on behalf of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change – IPCC – at the opening of the COP26.
First, our sincere thanks to the UNFCCC Secretariat and the UK government for the successful preparation of this landmark conference. We are equally grateful to the Scottish government and the City of Glasgow for their warm welcome and hospitality.
I consider it a privilege to speak about climate change science here in Scotland, the country of rich scientific life and home to giants such as Alexander Fleming, Mary Somerville, and of course Adam Smith, the father of economics, just to name a few. Today’s scientific knowledge and its achievements stand also on their shoulders.
Prior to this conference, the IPCC released in August the first part of its ongoing Sixth Assessment Report. It clearly laid out for the policymakers and stakeholders the most up-to-date physical science basis for the understanding of the climate system and climate change.
Make no mistake – it is a sobering read. It reflects the magnitude of the collective challenge for all nations on this planet. Science shows that changes in the climate are widespread, rapid and becoming more intense and affecting every part of the world.
Since our previous Assessment Report in 2013, there have been major advances in science globally. Today, we have a much more precise and clearer picture of how the climate system works. We understand better what has changed in the past, what is changing now and what can be the changes in our future climate and why they matter for every region.
It is now unequivocal that human influence is causing climate change, making extreme events more frequent and more severe. Some recent hot extremes such as heat waves in the last ten years would have been extremely unlikely to occur without human influence on the climate system. Global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C will be exceeded during this century unless immediate, rapid, and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, especially of carbon dioxide and methane, occur in the nearest future.
We also bring a wealth of understanding about climate change at the regional level which is critically relevant for shaping government policies.
I encourage everyone to seize the moment, seize the opportunity this gathering offers. We, the scientific community, are ready to work with you on the understanding of scientific evidence of climate change, its impacts and adaptions and how these translate into realities of climate action.
We share one atmosphere, one climate system. It knows no borders. The true measure of effectiveness of our collective efforts will be the state of its condition. And science will attest to that.