IPCC Chair’s remarks at the 2022 Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity Award Ceremony

Lisbon, 13 Oct 2022
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Your Excellency, President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa

Professor Antonio Feijó, President of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation

Dr. Angela Merkel, President of the Jury of the Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,

On behalf of scientists — past, present and future — working for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and as the Chair of the IPCC, let me start by saying that we are humbled and honoured to be one of the recipients of the 2022 Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity.

We are particularly grateful to the Jury led by Dr. Angela Merkel for recognising the work of the thousands of scientists worldwide who volunteer their expertise and time to work on IPCC reports.

Today, these reports are the most authoritative scientific voice of the United Nations about climate change. They provide the world´s policymakers with robust scientific knowledge about climate change and how to tackle it.

Thank you.

We also thank the Gulbenkian Foundation for your warm welcome and generous hospitality.

This important recognition of climate change science comes at a critical time. The science delivered to the world´s policymakers through our reports is clear and unequivocal. Climate change is man-made, it is widespread and rapid, and it is intensifying.

In 2007, the year the IPCC received the Nobel Peace Prize, the IPCC’s fourth assessment report noted, and I quote:

“Continued greenhouse gas emissions at or above current rates would cause further warming and induce many changes in the global climate system during the 21st century that would very likely be larger than those observed during the 20th century” end quote.

It may be one of the 21st century’s greatest understatements. Fifteen years later the effects of climate change have arrived with a vengeance and no part of the world is being spared. And that’s with global warming of 1.1 degrees Celsius since the middle of the 19th century.

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 – which suffocate our planet – occur in the nearest future.

We should make no mistake – climate change is an imminent threat to the health of our planet, our livelihoods, our well-being, and all other species sharing this world with us. Its impacts exacerbate the problems in energy, water, food, and health of humans and ecosystems.

Today, we are not on track to limit warming to 1.5°C.

In fact, average annual greenhouse gas emissions in the last decade were the highest in human history.

The impacts and risks of climate change are becoming increasingly complex and more difficult to manage. Developing nations are particularly vulnerable.

Climate change is not happening somewhere else, to someone else. Parts of Europe recorded the hottest temperatures ever this summer. We´ve seen the stark images of wildfires in the US, France and Australia. Floods in Pakistan. The devastation Hurricane Ian inflicted on Cuba and the US, just to name a few recent extreme events filling our news feeds. Climate change made these events worse.

To put it in no uncertain terms – NOW is the time for climate action. There is no more time for half-measures or complacency.

We cannot embrace indifference or be discouraged by the scale of the challenge. We have the tools and know-how required to limit global warming. It is time to put them to use with far greater urgency.

Delays and inaction today will increase the uncertainty of limiting global warming and result in less time and fewer options for future decision-makers. Delay will lead to more permanent damage. It will mean higher costs to prevent and adapt to climate change. Delay is a losing proposition.

It is encouraging that more and more countries are taking action. But the world needs to dramatically ramp up its response to climate change. The window of opportunity is closing rapidly. Our failure to act collectively now will only multiply and increase our challenges in the future.

Our reports assess that current financial flows are three to six times below the levels needed by 2030 to limit warming to below 1.5°C or 2°C. The challenge is greatest for developing countries.

There is enough global capital and liquidity to tackle the problem. But financiers need more explicit signalling from governments and the international community. Achieving global low emissions and just transitions depend upon accelerated international financial cooperation.

It also depends upon collaboration across different stakeholders so that society can embrace policies and measures for climate solutions and for achieving sustainable development.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We face many crises today. Ominous threats to the world´s peace and security. Food crises. Energy crises. Cost of living crises.

Allow me a provocative thought: These crises pale next to the sheer magnitude and complexity of the climate challenge we face. Climate change worsens energy crises, food crises, and challenges to peace and security. It will continue damaging energy, food, water, health and biodiversity.

But we can elevate our ambitions and take decisive climate action for the benefit of our planet and humanity. Climate change warrants genuine planetary cooperation and solidarity.

By doing so, we may find ourselves inspired and better equipped to find solutions to other global challenges.

Science is an essential instrument with which to tackle climate change. For IPCC scientists, the Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity is an important recognition and encouragement.

Therefore, I´m delighted to announce that the generous purse that comes with the Prize will further boost the funding of the IPCC´s Scholarship Programme. This initiative provides scholarships for doctoral students from developing nations, supporting the work of young researchers and strengthening equity, inclusion and diversity in the IPCC’s work. Your generous contribution will allow young scientists to conduct research that advances their understanding of climate change risks and response strategies.

Receiving this prize is a collective distinction and inspiration for IPCC scientists, member governments and staff behind the IPCC. We accept it with great professional pride and humility.

After all, climate solution requires more than science and technology. It calls on everyone to work together to solve a problem that now affects every region of the world and to join in a common purpose for the sake of our planet and our fellow human beings. It asks all of us to be our brother’s and sister’s keepers.

Thank you.
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