Greenhouse gas emissions – particularly CO2 – are the most significant factor in creating these changes. Unless there are immediate, rapid, and large-scale reductions in emissions to limit warming to 1.5°C, in line with the Paris Agreement, this will be beyond reach. The IPCC sets out the bleak reality of our climate’s future if we do not meet this target.
Extreme temperature events that occurred on average once every 10 years between 1850 and 1900 are currently 2.8 times more likely to occur. If future warming hits a 1.5°C rise, this increases to 4.1 times more likely to occur, with rises to 2°C and 4°C resulting in 5.6 and 9.4 times increase in likelihood respectively. For 50-year events, the frequency increases even more dramatically from currently being 4.8 times more likely to occur over 1850-1900 trends up to an alarming 39.2 times more likely to occur in the event of a 4°C future warming.
The IPCC’s interactive atlas models the possible climate futures resulting variously from 1.5°C, 2°C, 3°C and 4°C warming. Future emissions will cause additional warming, and, with every increment of global warming, changes to our climate become more extreme in regional mean temperature, rainfall and soil moisture. The atlas clearly depicts the increasing intensity of these changes and shows that every region will be affected.
Promises and progress
We have already seen evidence that climate impacts are “disproportionately burdening developing countries”, with extreme weather events such as droughts leading to consequent drops in agricultural production, which both increases food insecurity and threatens economic stability. In our June edition of Industry Insights, we explored the Climate Change Committee’s latest progress report to parliament and what it revealed about the UK Government’s big promises but lack of sufficient action to achieve them. This progress gap is not only a UK problem and is evident in the significant deficit of climate finance raised by developed countries.
Article 9 of the Paris Agreement sets out the obligation for developed countries to provide financial resources to assist developing countries in meeting their responsibilities under the Convention. Furthermore, as part of a global effort, it stipulates that developed countries should take the lead in mobilising climate finance from a wide variety of sources. The COP16 Accord defined this further, with developing countries committing to the joint mobilisation of $100 billion (USD) per year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries in both mitigation and adaptation.
Climate finance plays an essential role in ensuring that countries around the world can successfully mitigate against and adapt to the impacts of climate change, and meet the globally agreed target of limiting warming to 2°C at most, and preferably to below 1.5°C. Frustratingly, it is difficult to understand exactly how much progress has been made towards the $100 billion annual target because, despite being agreed 5 years ago, there is yet to be a consensus on what kinds of finance should be counted. There are also huge inconsistencies in reporting, resulting in the over-reporting of climate finance to the order of several billion dollars. The most generous reporting put figures at around $78 billion in 2018 whilst the most pessimistic estimate it to be less than half this amount. Whichever figure is correct, it’s clear the $100 billion target is unlikely to have been met, particularly with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Aside from the question mark around the total amount actually mobilised, there have also been significant criticisms that climate finance is skewed largely towards mitigation, with not enough devoted to adaptation. This is a serious issue as, sadly, some climate changes are now irreversible and will continue regardless of future warming, with developing countries most likely to feel the brunt of their effects.