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UN climate chief: IPCC report ‘alarm clock’ moment

Christiana Figueres says impacts of climate change far more urgent and intense than previously thought

By Ed King

The UN’s lead climate diplomat says the IPCC report due out later today will provide the political momentum towards a global emissions deal in 2015.

Speaking in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting, Christiana Figueres warned the latest climate science findings are far more serious than previously thought.

“This report is an alarm clock moment,” she said, adding that impacts as a result of rising global temperatures were likely to be “faster and more intense”, with sea level rise projections a particular concern.

National delegates and leading climate scientists have spent four long days in Stockholm working through the ‘Executive Summary’ of the report, known as AR5.

Reports in the Guardian on Thursday suggest progress on this has been slow, with representatives from over 190 states suggesting changes to the 50-page document.

One delegate told Reuters “The tone is surprisingly good,” suggesting that most arguments related to sentence structure rather than the science.

Accuracy is crucial. Once published, the IPCC report and summary will inform decisions policymakers and parliaments around the planet make concerning – among others – future energy, transport and construction plans.

Scientists will be hoping there is no repeat of the last major assessment in 2007, when claims the Himalayan Glaciers could melt by 2045 were found to be wildly inaccurate, a mistake the IPCC acknowledged and apologised for.

Critics will also look closely for an explanation from scientists on why the pace of warming has slowed this century.

REPORT: How will IPCC explain temperature hiatus?

Tomorrow’s summary is expected for the first time to recommend a ‘carbon budget’ the world cannot exceed if it is to limit warming to the 2C level governments agreed to target in 2009.

This is likely to place countries under additional pressure to work out what their share of that budget is, and how they can reduce it.

They won’t have long. In just over one month 195 nations will gather in Warsaw for the main climate change summit of 2013.

Figueres says this is an opportunity to build “structure and coherance” ahead of an emissions reductions treaty.

“Governments are on track to deliver a 2015 global agreement that will be acceptable to all countries,” she said.

Figueres also welcomed UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s decision to host a world leaders climate summit in New York next September, adding it would also include representatives from business.

Earlier this week the UK, Norway and Sweden along with four other countries announced plans to fund a new report focusing on the ‘economics of climate change’.

The £8.9 million analysis will draw on the 2006 Stern Report for inspiration, and will also feature that study’s lead author – Lord Stern – as an expert reviewer.

Business pressure

Consultancy firm PwC says business is waking up to the fact that serious climate change could impact on supply chains and short term profits.

In its Low Carbon Economy Index released just ahead of the IPCC report, it praises global business for investing in energy efficiency measures, but warns many companies are heavily reliant on fossil fuels.

“The IPCC report will be the most authoritative review of the science of climate change we have ever had, with an intense review process and scrutiny over the findings,” said PwC’s Jonathan Grant.

“While there may be debate about some of the details, the main message of the report is clear: climate change is real, and governments and business need to take action to address the potential risks.”

PwC say one way business is likely to use the report is to analyse whether assets in climate vulnerable countries are safe.

Its study reveals that four out of five (83%) companies in the Global 500 index have reported physical impacts of climate change as a risk.

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