Opening Remarks by the IPCC Chair – “Leading the pathway towards climate neutrality: the role of European NECPs”

20 October 2023, Madrid, Spain

Good morning!

Director-General for Energy of the European Commission, Ms Ditte Juul Jorgensen,

Minister of the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge, Ms Teresa Ribera Rodriguez,

Your Excellencies, distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

As the Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – the IPCC – I am grateful to the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the EU for this unique opportunity and privilege to address the opening plenary of this important conference today. I welcome the conference’s ambitious title – Leading the pathways towards climate neutrality and the role of European National Energy and Climate Plans.

Recently our UNFCCC colleagues published a synthesis of perspectives regarding the components for the first global stocktake which serves as the blueprint for a decision at COP 28 in Dubai. It is encouraging to see that many proposals submitted by UNFCCC Parties on how to keep the Paris agreement targets within reach closely mirror the findings of the IPCC sixth assessment report.

 Let me share with you some key findings from this report:

The planet has warmed by 1.1 degrees Celsius since the preindustrial era. Scientists anticipate that in this single year when we have seen many climate records broken, warming could be much closer to the 1.5 level.  It has determined that out of this 1.1 degrees Celsius of warming, more than 1 degree is attributed to human activities, including over a century of burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and unsustainable use of resources.

The scale and magnitude of many changes across the climate system are unprecedented over many centuries and thousands of years. Recent changes are widespread, rapid and intensifying in the oceans, on land and from the poles to the tropics.

Climate change is affecting every inhabited region across the globe including the European region, with human influence contributing to many observed changes such as increases in hot extremes and heavy precipitation.

We are not on track to limit warming to 1.5°C. Greenhouse gas emissions are at their highest levels in human history. Examining the policies in place by December 2020, the IPCC concluded that, without strengthening mitigation efforts, the mid-range of the anticipated rise in global temperatures during the 21st century  is over 3 °C.

Limiting warning to 1.5  degrees requires immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors. It requires early peaking of  global greenhouse gas emissions, substantial reductions  by 2030, and achieving net zero by 2050.

There is some good news: Evidence of climate action has increased; Some countries and cities have shown what’s possible. 

Policies already in place have resulted in sustained emissions reductions in some countries, notably those in Europe, and have “bent the curve” globally, even if we have yet to see a global emissions peak.

Climate legislation covers more than 50% of global emissions; more than 20% of global emissions are covered by some form of carbon pricing, albeit at levels insufficient to induce major changes. Carbon pricing has a role to play in sectors such as power generation and industry, but there is a much wider policy toolset available, including regulation and information.

Success around renewables: Since 2010, there have been sustained decreases in unit costs with reductions of 85% for solar energy, 55% for wind power, and 85% for batteries.

Many mitigation efforts have synergies with adaptation and the sustainable development goals – trade-offs can be managed, synergies enhanced.

But this is not enough; Despite this progress, the IPCC concludes that unless there are immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, 1.5°C could be beyond reach.

The scope of policies needs to be expanded, and their ambition increased;

Numerous choices exist across various sectors today, that could halve global GHG emissions in 2030 compared to 2019 levels at costs of less than $100/t CO2eq. More than half of that potential costs less than $20/tCO2eq and some measures would pay for themselves. The largest contributions to the potential lie in energy, and agriculture, forestry and land use.

Within energy, by far the largest potential of around 8 GtCO2eq lies with renewable energy, particularly wind and solar where costs have fallen dramatically in recent years.

In the short-term there are also opportunities across the demand sectors; buildings, transport and industry.

Your Excellencies, distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

We have the agency to shape our future. We can decide to reduce emissions, increase resilience through transformational adaptation, and enhance progress towards the sustainable development goals. The extent to which we implement such decisions defines where we stand.

We have a rapidly closing window of opportunity to reach climate goals through ambitious reductions in GHG emissions, deal with climate risks, stop biodiversity loss and, at the same time, improve peoples’ wellbeing – for example by reducing poverty and hunger, improving health and livelihoods and providing more people with clean energy and water.

More ambitious and determined climate action now will reduce the accumulation of GHGs in the atmosphere and avoid the need for very rapid reductions in emissions later.  Delaying action will make future emissions reductions far more challenging, costly, and disruptive.

Taking action now can also bring multiple co-benefits.   Multiple synergies exist between mitigation actions and the sustainable development goals. To mention a few: air quality and consequent health benefits from electrification of transport; more affordable energy by investing in energy efficiency; decent jobs and sustainable growth from the expansion of new industries; more sustainable cities and communities; and more sustainable agriculture and land use through better management of agricultural activities and soils.

The science is clear; the next few years are critical if we want to limit warming to 1.5°C.

Achieving climate neutrality by 2050 requires effective national energy and climate policies in line with the latest IPCC assessment report.

The IPCC, as a unique interface between scientists and governments, is poised to support and deliver timely and actionable information to policymakers at all levels. At this pivotal time, it is critical that climate policies and actions are based on the most robust, best available and most up-to-date science.

With that, I wish you a productive and successful conference.

Thank you.