Call for urgent global reduction of fossil fuel use as Pacific dissects IPCC Working Group III report


The latest report from the world’s most authoritative source of climate science demands a substantial global reduction in fossil fuel use, improved energy efficiency, and use of alternative fuels, to limit global warming.

The message reverberated during a webinar where Pacific countries and partners delved into the main findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group III report on Mitigation of Climate Change, and its implications for the Pacific, a region already suffering from the severe impacts of climate change.

Climate scientists in the IPCC report reiterate the critical need for governments to take urgent concerted action to achieve the 1.5˚C warming limit goal. The Samoan Government, through the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE), Toeolesulusulu Cedric Schuster, supported the IPCC scientists, calling for the reorientation of development pathways.

“There is compelling evidence to show that continuing along existing development pathways will not achieve rapid and deep emission reductions,” Toeolesulusulu said in his keynote address.

“In the absence of shifts in development pathways, conventional mitigation policy instruments may not be able to limit global emissions to a degree sufficient to meet ambitious mitigation goals or they may only be able to do so at very high economic and social costs.”

The IPCC Working Group III report on Mitigation of Climate Change found among other things that “global greenhouse gas emissions have continued to rise over the past decade, despite a temporary drop in emissions due to COVID-19 pandemic.” It also highlights that global national commitments to reducing emissions need to be strengthened, if the goals of the Paris Agreement are to be achieved.

“For us in the Pacific, above 1.5degrees is not an option, it’s the only goal so we must deploy everything in our arson to ensure this is achieved. The science already confirms what we are living with on a daily basis.”

The message from. Toeolesulusulu was applauded by more than 200 participants who joined the meeting from all over the world. The webinar was hosted virtually by the Pacific Climate Change Centre (PCCC) hosted at the Secretariat of the Pacific Environment Programme (SPREP) in partnership with the Institute for Climate, Energy & Disaster Solutions at the Australian National University (ANU).

The Director General of SPREP, Sefanaia Nawadra, said the talanoa session is part of an ongoing commitment by SPREP and partners like ANU, to improve awareness around the work being done to address climate change, especially in relation to global negotiations and how they impact the people of the Pacific. He acknowledged the partnerships with Pacific Governments, including the host Government Samoa as well as the generous support of the Governments of Japan and New Zealand and the Irish Ais fund for making the webinar possible.

Looking ahead, he urged all countries to ensure their national commitments and policies are strong and transformational enough to achieve long-term emissions targets.

“Limiting global warming will require major transformations in the energy sector. A substantial reduction in fossil fuel use, improved energy efficiency, and use of alternative fuels is necessary,” Nawadra said. “Stringent mitigation measures in line with the 1.5°C goal should have a sustained impact to limit anthropogenic climate change. There would be discernible effects on greenhouse gas and aerosol concentrations as well as on air quality within years and slowed-down warming compared to a world with high greenhouse gas emission levels maintained at the current rate over the next 20 years.”

Having Pacific Authors and Editors who contributed to the IPCC WGIII report was a key part of the talanoa. Solomone Fifita of Tonga, Author of WGIII report chapter on National and sub- national policies and institutions, Pasha Carruthers, of the Cook Islands, Editor of WGIII report chapter on International Cooperation, Tutii Chilton, of Palau, Chair of the Pacific NDC hub Steering Committee, and Yvette Kerslake, of Samoa, Science to Services Technical Adviser, PCCC, shared their experiences with the participants.

Professor Frank Jotzo, lead author on WGIII chapter National and sub-national policies and institutions and Head of Energy at the Institute for Climate, Energy & Disaster Solutions at ANU, also shared on the topic “How do emissions trends compare to climate change goals in the Pacific, and how can we limit further warming?”

The Vice-Chair of the IPCC and the Director of the Institute for Climate, Energy & Disaster Solutions at ANU, Professor Mark Howden, said the IPCC Working Group III report on Mitigation of Climate Change compliments the findings of Working Group I and Working Group II reports.

“In very practical ways, it shows us what is needed to move away from the most damaging GHG trajectories and in doing so what are the benefits that could arise from global emissions reductions that work towards enhancing sustainable development, something that we have all signed on to,” Prof. Howden said. “These IPCC reports provide research-backed evidence for Pacific islands and for Pacific islanders to push for further and more rapid action to limit climate change, and that will be to the benefit of all.”

The Pacific Climate Change Centre is committed to improving the flow of practical information between met services, climate practitioners, policy makers, researchers, scientists, and those implementing policies, programmes and projects.

SPREP, PCCC and ANU have created seven factsheets, which summarise the report’s key findings for the Pacific.