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WEF climate change: ‘It’s now or never’

IN this photo in 2020, fires burn out of control in California, US, as the world sees the effects of climate change. Image: Reuters

IN this photo in 2020, fires burn out of control in California, US, as the world sees the effects of climate change. Image: Reuters

Published May 26, 2022

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THE World Economic Forum (WEF) has drawn the line in the sand and warned that “it’s now or never” to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis.

This comes after the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) landmark report, which stated that the goal of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to well below 1.5°C was disappearing from sight.

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The most ambitious goal of the 2015 Paris Climate Accords was to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius – or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit

But the IPCC, in its sixth assessment report “Mitigation of Climate Change”, said the world was so dangerously behind on climate action that within a decade it could blow past the targets crucial to containing warming to a manageable level.

“It’s now or never, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5°C,” said Professor Jim Skea, the co-chair of the report.

Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden, speaking at the WEF annual meeting in Davos yesterday, said tackling climate change required changing energy demand as well as supply.

Van Beurden said a sector-by-sector approach, supported by public-private partnerships, was the best way to achieve this, but he also urged companies to be more transparent about the way they report on sustainability.

“Tackling climate change depends, for a significant part, on switching from fossil fuels to low-carbon energy,” Van Beurden said.

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“This change in supply is necessary, but it won’t be enough. If the world wants to succeed in tackling climate change, it needs to change demand as well.”

Van Beurden’s views are in line with the IPCC report, which states that global emissions must be halved by 2030 to have any hope of limiting global warming to, or close to, 1.5°C.

HSBC group chief sustainability officer Dr Celine Herweijer said the world needed a major shift in how countries think about their energy resilience against the backdrop of a multi-decadal, yet equally urgent energy transition.

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Herweijer said the hard truth was that investment into the energy transition was not happening fast enough, adding that the goal of banks must be to break the pattern of under-investment in green assets.

“At HSBC we made an explicit commitment this March to phase down our financing of fossil fuels to what is required to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°C,” she said.

“This includes our policy to phase out thermal coal financing in the EU/OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) by 2030, and worldwide by 2040 as well as releasing a wider energy transition policy later this year.

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“A rewiring of the financial system is under way that should dramatically improve our ability to reach net zero in time – it’s early days, though.”

Old Mutual Insure managing director Garth Napier said the urgency around the issue was not being felt in action.

“We know that climate change will have the biggest impact on poor communities. We have already seen this happening with the devastating floods in KwaZulu-Natal this year,” Napier said.

“We do believe that, using our resources, we can effectively drive a just transition to a low-carbon economy that also addresses other societal challenges.

“As a life and short-term insurer, we have a significant balance sheet and have already made substantial investments in businesses, allowing others to use our capital to generate green energy, so we are playing our role as an investor.”

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