Mon | Oct 15, 2018

Earth Today | Approved IPCC Special Report On 1.5°C Temperature Rise a win for SIDS

Published:Thursday | October 11, 2018 | 12:00 AMPetre Williams-Raynor /Contributing Editor
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THE approval of the Summary for Policymakers (SPM) of the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) last Saturday,is deemed a victory for small-island developing states.

"This is what we fought for. Now we have the scientific evidence that 1.5°C is the appropriate goal that the world needs to go for (as a target to cap global warming), but also that it is a hard thing to achieve," noted Professor Michael Taylor, dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology at the University of the West Indies and head of the Climate Studies Group, Mona.

"This report establishes that half a degree matters; that there is a difference between 1.5 and two degrees - the higher goal which much of the world thinks should be the target," added the physicist, who is also one of the coordinating lead authors for the 1.5 report.

Jacqueline Spence, Jamaica's climate change focal point for the IPCC, who was present at the meeting held in Korea last week, agreed.

 

Good feeling

 

"It feels good. We think we can work with what is contained in the report," she said.

"It provides hope. While clearly indicating the gravity of the situation, it also tells us that it's still possible to cap the warming at 1.5 and, beyond previous reports, we now have specific information to make that case," Spence noted.

Caribbean and other SIDS waged a long battle to have 1.5 recognised as a worthy target to shoot for, given their peculiar vulnerability to climate impacts, such as sea level rise and extreme weather events that present challenges for coastal lives and livelihoods and with implications for disease prevalence as well as water, food and economic security.

The 1.5 report and its SPM were finally commissioned by governments following the 2015 global climate talks in Paris.

The need was supported by the emergent historic Paris Agreement, which reflect the commitment to "holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 28C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels".

This was, according to the agreement, "recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change".

Caribbean must determine best use of report

Taylor said it is now necessary for the Caribbean to amplify the achievement the report represents and to craft a strategy for its effective use as a tool in climate change negotiations.

"We need to see an initial acknowledgement of how significant this report is for the Caribbean and then I hope that what is going to be happening is that the region is going to unpack the full significance of the larger report and use it as the basis of its negotiations, the basis of the planning for our countries - for adaptation, for mitigation. I am hoping that is coming in the ensuing days," he said.

"This is probably the most significant IPCC report in recent times for SIDS and their cause is well represented in this particular scientific assessment.

 

Consequences

 

The report establishes that 1.5 has its own set of consequences; it is a risky state. But then it is half a degree difference from two. And though 1.5 is risky, it is less risky than two," Taylor added.

Spence, like Taylor, is of the view that the report is significant for Jamaica and other SIDS in their bid to secure, among other things, climate financing to help their resilience to climate impacts.

"The report is a wake-up call for governments. It provides the road map for the future, sounds the alarm about complacency," she said.

"We have no more time for complacency or delay. The time for action is now," added Spence, who is also head of the Climate Branch of the Met Service.

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