Green business figures, politicians, environmental groups, economists and more react to leading climate experts’ assessment of the solutions needed to deliver net zero
When the world’s leading climate scientists present a major report that has taken years of painstaking work to compile, doom and gloom can normally expected to follow: as we have been told but failed to adequately respond to countless times, greenhouse gas emissions are still rising and climate impacts are already causing devastation around the word, which is teetering on the precipice of even more catastrophic levels of global warming in future.
Yet while that very broad assessment certainly remains true, today’s intervention from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was always going to be a little different. The third in a trilogy of reports over the past year or so, today’s – dubbed Climate Change 2022: The Mitigation of Climate Change – was particularly highly anticipated due to its focus on solutions to the aforementioned crisis the world currently faces, in terms of technologies, policies, nature-based measures and finances.
And so today’s report’s conclusion that while the scale of the challenge is monumental – the world must peak emissions by 2025, before halving them by 2030 – it also encouragingly makes clear that the world already has all of the tools it needs to achieve these aims, in order to keep the chances of limiting global warming to 1.5C on the table.
Moreover, not only as these aims very much achievable, with the right policy measures and far bolder action from everyone in every sector, the transition is not merely affordably, but set to be hugely beneficial for the global economy, and certainly compared to the catastrophic costs of inaction.
As such, the report offers a bible or roadmap of sorts for businesses, policymakers and anyone with a stake in delivering net zero , and many have been quick to voice their views on what it could mean for the transition ahead. Here, BusinessGreen rounds up all the top reaction from business figures, politicians, campaigners, economists and more.
UN Secretary General António Guterres said:
“The jury has reached a verdict. And it is damning. This report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a litany of broken climate promises. It is a file of shame, cataloguing the empty pledges that put us firmly on track towards an unlivable world.
“We are on a fast track to climate disaster: major cities under water; unprecedented heatwaves.; terrifying storms; widespread water shortages; the extinction of a million species of plants and animals; this is not fiction or exaggeration.
“Some government and business leaders are saying one thing – but doing another. Simply put, they are lying. And the results will be catastrophic.
“This is a climate emergency. Climate scientists warn that we are already perilously close to tipping points that could lead to cascading and irreversible climate impacts. But high-emitting governments and corporations are not just turning a blind eye; they are adding fuel to the flames.
“They are choking our planet, based on their vested interests and historic investments in fossil fuels, when cheaper, renewable solutions provide green jobs, energy security, and greater price stability.
“Climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals. But the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels.
“Investing in new fossil fuels infrastructure is moral and economic madness. Such investments will soon be stranded assets – a blot on the landscape, and a blight on investment portfolios. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
“Inequalities are at unprecedented levels. The recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic is scandalously uneven. Inflation is rising, and the war in Ukraine is causing food and energy prices to skyrocket.
“But increasing fossil fuel production will only make matters worse. Choices made by countries now will make or break the commitment to 1.5 degrees.
“A shift to renewables will mend our broken global energy mix and offer hope to millions of people suffering climate impacts today. Climate promises and plans must be turned into reality and action, now.
“It is time to stop burning our planet, and start investing in the abundant renewable energy all around us.”
Inger Andersen, executive director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), said:
“This, the third report from the IPCC during the current assessment cycle, completes the full picture of the climate crisis facing humanity. And it is not a pretty picture.
“The first two IPCC reports told us that climate change is here, now, and causing huge disruption to the natural world and human wellbeing. This report tells us that we are still not doing enough to cut greenhouse gas emissions, confirming the findings of UNEP’s 2021 Emissions Gap Report.
“The last two decades saw the highest increase in emissions in human history, even though we know how much trouble we are in. The next decade cannot follow the same pattern if we are to hold global warming this century to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Half-measures won’t halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, which is what we need to do. We need to go all in.
“The IPCC tells us that we have the knowledge and technology to get it done. Through a rapid shift from fossil fuels to renewables and alternative fuels. Through moving from deforestation to restoration. Through backing nature in our landscapes, oceans and cities. Through transforming our cities into green and clean spaces. And through behaviour change to address the demand side of the equation.
“Now such an opportunity presented itself when countries rolled out stimulus packages to help kick-start economies as we faced the COVID-19 pandemic. But on the ‘green scorecard’, we failed – loud and clear. Once again, we find ourselves with an opportunity as countries seek out alternative sources of energy. Immediate needs must be met, to heat homes and keep lights on. But as we rethink hydrocarbon suppliers and our dependency on fossil fuels, the solution has to be in kick-starting the transition to renewable and cleaner sources of energy.
“The next climate COP must bring more-ambitious climate pledges and long-term strategies for 2050 to help drive such shifts. But increased action must begin this year, not next year. This month, not next month. Today, not tomorrow. Otherwise, we will, as the UN Secretary-General put it, continue to sleepwalk into climate catastrophe.”
COP26 President Alok Sharma said:
“This report makes clear that the window to keep 1.5 degrees alive is closing alarmingly fast. The warning lights are yet again flashing bright red on the climate dashboard and it is high time for governments to sit up and act before it is too late.
“That is why it is absolutely vital that as agreed in the Glasgow Climate Pact all countries, especially the G20 nations which are responsible for 80 per cent of global emissions, revisit and strengthen their 2030 emission reduction targets this year as necessary to align with the Paris temperature goal if we are to avoid the catastrophic impacts of climate change.
“But this report also gives hope that the rate of growth in emissions is slowing and that thanks to the falling cost of renewables and technological innovation it is possible to transition to a cleaner future. We know that a net zero economy presents huge opportunities for growth and the creation of good green jobs and so countries and companies need to accelerate that transition.”
Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Hands said:
“Today’s report is a reminder to the world of the grave threat of climate change. There is still a window of opportunity to act to reduce the effects.
“The UK is going further and faster to generate more cheap and clean renewable power. This will reduce our exposure to expensive global gas prices. We call on the global community to seize the moment and join us in stepping up a green transition.”
The We Mean Business coalition said:
“The case for phasing out fossil fuels builds stronger every day. The latest findings from the UN’s IPCC scientists confirms that business leaders are absolutely right to call for a rapid scaling up of renewable energy. The science is clear that we must cut global emissions in half by 2030 to protect our communities from the worst impacts of climate change. We have the technology to build a clean energy system, and there is still enough time to act, but only just. Now we need massive public-private sector collaboration to make it happen. Together we can reach our climate goals and build an affordable, secure and sustainable global energy system at a time when business and consumers need it most.”
Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP, said:
“This report confirms that the devastating future towards which we are hurtling can still be avoided if governments make the right choices right now. The heart-stopping consequences of yet more failed climate leadership are unimaginable for every single individual and species with whom we share this planet. It’s time to pick a side – the fossil fuel polluters and those who bankroll them, or the future of humanity. We already have the solutions we need, and we know that action is far cheaper than delay.
Yet our reckless government, which talks up new North Sea oil & gas drilling, while rumours abound over reviewing the moratorium on fracking, is fiddling while the world burns. It’s failing in its first duty – to keep its citizens safe. If Global Britain is to mean anything, then Ministers must rise to the challenge of the COP Presidency and demonstrate real leadership now.
“Locking us into new oil & gas for decades means we’ll have to rely on expensive, unproven and as yet unscalable carbon dioxide removal technologies. While some extraction for past emissions will be unavoidable, the impact of the giant hosepipe of carbon emissions currently gushing into the atmosphere won’t be stopped by sucking it back out with a paper straw. This ‘burn now, pay later’ approach simply gives fossil fuel companies licence to wilfully continue with business as usual, when this emergency demands the opposite.
“There’s no silver bullet to tackling the climate emergency. But we do have an array of effective, realistic and genuine solutions at our fingertips – from rapidly winding down fossil fuels, to reversing the depletion of our natural world’s carbon sinks, and developing long-lasting energy efficiency for our leaky homes. The only thing we lack is the political will to deliver them.
“The goals of energy security, tackling the cost of living crisis, and cutting climate-wrecking emissions all point in the same direction: an energy system based on renewables and energy efficiency which will deliver a safer and fairer world for all, with bountiful energy supplies, warm homes, clean air, and a thriving natural world. This report shows there’s no time left to delay.”
Eliot Whittington, director of policy at the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), said:
“This report should be read as a how-to guide for any decisionmaker interested in navigating towards security, success and a sustainable environment over the next few decades. It spells out from the first line that a prosperous future economy can and must go hand in hand with the effort to decarbonise. It makes it clear we have no time to spare, and need to urgently transform words into actions. The next decade will be decisive.
“It also is clear on the toolkit for action – we must see renewable energy, efficiency, electrification and nature restoration take off at transformative scales. We must see fossil fuels quickly phased out from the economy. We will also need to explore and develop new carbon dioxide removal approaches which will be risky but essential to achieve the goals of climate stability.”
“The new IPCC report is clear that the next decade can and must be transformative – taking the world from a trajectory of ever-increasing carbon emissions to one where they have halved. This will affect every business and every sector, and leading businesses are the ones working out what it means for them and their context and working hard to shape a future they can be part of. Catastrophic climate impacts represent threats to our society, our economy and our environment in a way that will be existential for many businesses as well. A growing number of businesses have set net zero goals and started to deliver the innovation and transformation required by this – but a much larger set of businesses need to take action and embark on this journey – delivering not empty promises but real commitments of action.”
Nick Molho, executive director of the Aldersgate Group, said:
“Today’s IPCC report is a reminder that despite the ongoing geopolitical crisis, the risks relating to climate change have not gone away and require an urgent response, including a rapid reduction in fossil fuel use. The IPCC’s companion report on adaptation and the UK’s own climate change risk assessment made clear the dangers we face now and in the future through further inaction. In response to today’s report, the UK government should press ahead with its Net Zero Strategy and should use its Energy Security Strategy expected later this week to significantly scale up renewable energy, support more electrification across key sectors and drive energy efficiency across the economy. Reducing reliance on volatile and expensive fossil fuels and accelerating the net zero transition not only makes sense to lower emissions, it also presents an opportunity to boost energy security, drive down energy bills and level up the economy.
“It is positive to see the report highlight the importance of action in this decade to mitigate the built environment’s carbon emissions. The UK must increase its ambition in this area and take action to drive investment in energy efficiency, and deliver the skills programmes required to make the most of this opportunity in line with the recommendations of the Green Jobs Taskforce. The decarbonisation of heavy industry also features as a priority in the IPCC report. The UK is off to a good start on industrial decarbonisation but must push ahead with policies that make low carbon fuels more widely available to heavy industries, whilst also growing the demand for low carbon industrial products through initiatives such as product standards and a carbon border adjustment mechanism.”
Emma Cox, global climate leader at PwC, said:
“This latest report from the IPCC highlights in stark terms the scale of mitigation required, and the pace at which we must move, to avert the worst scenarios of climate change.
“Major economies of the G20 need to commit to and deliver on the Glasgow Climate Pact, which includes bringing 2030 targets in line with the Paris Agreement goals. Such targets provide focus but targets alone cannot avert disaster – only action can do that and delays now mean greater annual cuts in future years.
“Climate policy and finance will be critical for driving transformative change. And this is only possible if governments enable finance to flow into the areas where mitigation can be most effective: electrification, the phasing out of fossil fuels, smarter urban planning; and helping consumers and businesses better manage their energy consumption and carbon emissions.”
Dr Nina Seega, research director for sustainable finance at CISL, said:
“The newest IPCC report, coupled with the recently launched adaptation report, demonstrates that early coordinated climate action is not only urgently required, if we are to stay within the relatively safe space of 1.5 degree warming, but is also economically beneficial for both developed and developing markets. Between 2015 and 2018, 23 countries have managed to decouple consumption-based CO2 emissions from economic growth. At the same time, energy emissions intensity is much higher in developing countries compared to North America, Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
“Redirection of fossil fuel subsidies, financial climate risk disclosure and carbon pricing are minimum but not sufficient requirements to drive finance towards decarbonisation. Better use of blended finance, Covid-19 recovery funding, availability of country risk hedging and guarantees are needed to facilitate technology transfer and climate mitigation finance towards developing countries.
“The report demonstrates the success in deployment of many renewable technologies as well as details many opportunities in industrial and energy decarbonisation space. If addressed in concert, nature positive projects within agriculture and sustainable forestry can also provide a cost-effective route to climate mitigation. In this context, finance is a key lever towards a net zero and a nature-positive economy.”
Michael E. Mann, distinguished professor of atmospheric science at USA’s Penn State University, said:
“This latest report drives home both the urgency and agency in addressing the climate crisis. While we are already experiencing dangerous climate change impacts, this report shows that we can still avert the worst consequences if we rapidly accelerate the transition from fossil fuels toward clean energy and climate-friendly practices. A Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty can be an anchor for driving forward that transition globally.”
Jens Burchardt, partner and associate director at Boston Consulting Group (BCG). said:
“Today, the IPCC published another seminal report on the climate crisis — this one on carbon removal. The report reminds us of the depressing reality that net zero will likely not be sufficient. Humanity has let so much fossil CO2 accumulate in the atmosphere that we will have to reach negative emissions in the second half of the century to prevent the worst effects of climate change and keep the planet hospitable for future generations.
“Beyond this, the message of the report is quite two-sided: There is massive, multi-gigaton potential in nature-based and technological carbon removal levers and we should introduce mechanisms to scale these levers as soon as possible. But humanity still emits around 50Gt CO2e each year — and few of these levers are as scalable and as economic as many mitigation options are today. There is no magic ‘CO2 hoover’ on the horizon that will save us. There is no alternative to bringing down emissions and phasing out the use of fossil fuels — fast.”
Bill McKibben, founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org, said:
“We’re past the point in human history where continuing to burn stuff is a bad idea, undermining both the climate and democracy. Happily, there’s a ball of burning gas hanging 93 million miles up in the sky that we can depend on. We have the tech, we need the will! At this point, a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty is a must.
Dr Stephen Cornelius, chief climate change adviser and WWF global lead for IPCC, said:
“This report shows that while some sectors are heading in the right direction, climate change is moving faster than we are. We cannot hold on any longer to the polluting fossil fuels that are wrecking our climate and destroying the natural world on which we all depend.
“We will miss the crucial goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C unless we dramatically scale up climate solutions to rapidly cut greenhouse gas emissions. This means investing at scale in powering our societies more efficiently, using clean renewable energy, conserving and restoring nature, moving away from unsustainable business practices and leaving no one behind in this transition. Every moment, every policy, every investment, every decision matters to avoid further climate chaos.”
The Coalition for Negative Emissions said:
“Today’s findings from the IPCC Working Group III Report reaffirm that negative emissions will play an indispensable role in delivering Net Zero. Greenhouse gas removals are essential alongside the vast reduction in overall emissions needed to stop the worst impacts of climate change.
“To ensure global temperature rise remains safely within 1.5-degrees, we must accelerate the development of the negative emissions market and promote large-scale investment in the industry. This will lead to a dramatic decrease in costs and create a pathway for hard-to-abate sectors to decarbonise.
“Negative emissions technologies that produce permanent, high-quality carbon removals can achieve multiple objectives – they can stabilise global CO2 levels, address historic emissions, and ultimately help us to realise our global climate ambitions.”
Bim Afolami, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden and chair of APPG for Renewable and Sustainable Energy, said:
“The IPCC couldn’t be clearer: we are running out of time, impacts are worse than expected, and we need to accelerate collective action on climate. But at a time of multiple global crises, this latest report offers potential solutions to avert the worst climate impacts.
“The answer is net zero. The UK has led the way and, with the UK’s COP presidency driving global action, we are continuing to lead from the front. Although cutting emissions requires greater investment, it will be far more economically and socially painful if climate change continues to wreak havoc. We cannot afford to ignore this, and Global Britain should continue to lead the way with economically viable innovations in renewable energy generation and storage, reducing waste, decarbonising industry and, above all, ensuring that we protect our natural environment.”
Rachel Kyte, Dean of The Fletcher School at Tufts University said:
“We are at a moment of increasing tension around the world, with every excuse possible for distraction and delay. We are at a point where the developed economies have kicked the can down the road for a long time – we have begun to act, begun to show we can delink growth and prosperity from the amount of carbon in the economy, and the public is persuaded that this is the way forward.
“We now have to put our arms around a new form of energy security – one that embraces everyone; a new kind of politics. This puts extraordinary pressure on the leaders of the G7 and the G20 because at the moment, that conversation is not taking place with a level of seriousness that this moment calls for. And so we are at a moment of reckoning and the IPCC report just puts an exclamation point at the end of that.”
Michael Grubb, professor of energy and climate change at University College London said:
“Over the last decade, there’s been a considerable broadening of our understanding that this issue is a lot bigger, broader, and more sophisticated. And, in some ways, even more hopeful, in the sense that we have these changes in the technologies, and we have examples of countries that have sustained emissions reductions. But we have seen that a lot of things which analysts think make sense and could be good economics still haven’t happened because of policy and politics.”
“There’s that Churchillian phrase – never waste a crisis … We’re in a situation where new zero-carbon electricity costs between half and one third of what we’re now paying for electricity. If that’s not an opportunity economically and politically, then I don’t know what is. … To solve long-term problems, you’ve sometimes got to look a long-way back. We’ve now had five decades of repeated fossil fuel crises since the 1970s. We should ensure this is the last one.”
Sam Hall, director of the Conservative Environment Network (CEN), said:
“The case for reducing fossil fuel consumption across the economy has only got stronger. Fossil fuels are now much more expensive than they were; getting off them therefore helps with the cost of living. There’s now also the additional national security imperative, to eliminate Russian fossil fuels imports. Political drivers for the government remain the same in terms of delivering on its COP presidency commitments, and net zero was a prominent commitment in the 2019 manifesto; two years out from an election, the government will want to be seen to have delivered on that. Opinion polls continue to show strong support for net-zero with clear majorities across all demographics.
“Overall, it’s clear that different goals – energy security, the cost of living, and net zero – all pull in the same direction. There is no need to trade off the short term against climate action and climate targets. The answer remains the same in all cases: clean energy deployment, reducing fossil fuel consumption, and improving energy efficiency.”
Professor Emily Shuckburgh, director of Cambridge Zero at the University of Cambridge, said:
“This is a preventable global crisis. Not only do we know how to cut emissions and adapt, but we already have almost all the tools we need to avert the worst impacts. Yet we are a long way from being on track: global pledges do not yet add up to the cuts needed and too many big emitters are not making enough progress on delivering them.”
“With less than eight months until COP27 in Egypt, the UK presidency focus must be on ensuring big emitters deliver on climate plans while themselves demonstrating global leadership.”
Gareth Redmond-King, international lead at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said:
“Last year’s IPCC report sounded the alarm, and their impacts report earlier this year was frankly terrifying. This third report, though, sets out the solutions. It sets out, in some detail, how we respond to the alarm and avoid the apocalyptic future we know we’re heading for if we don’t act.
“It is clear that the solutions are cheaper than the impacts – that acting to tackle the climate crisis is cheaper than not acting. It is now down to political leaders – particularly G20 leaders, as the largest economies and biggest emitters – to choose how bad we let things get. We have the evidence, the tools, and the public support that those leaders need to choose a safer, healthier, more prosperous future.”
Keith Anderson, ScottishPower chief executive, said:
“Today’s IPPC report rightly calls for a rapid global phase-out of fossil fuels to address the climate crisis and here in the UK, we are showing that renewable energy is the way to a cleaner, better future for us all. Investing with urgency in renewable generation and the pylons and wires in the electricity grid to transport it is critical and at ScottishPower we are investing billions to support a just transition here in the UK.
“Now is the time to turn this from a marathon into a sprint and accelerate the shift to green energy – a source of power we have in abundance in the UK – and ensure clean, homegrown electricity that gives us energy security at the same time.”
Tom Evans, policy advisor for climate diplomacy at E3G, said:
“Governments need to respond to this report in two ways. They must set higher climate targets for this decade to close the 1.5˚C emission gap. And we need much stronger implementation of climate policies to actually deliver those emissions cuts. The spotlight’s on the major emitting countries to take these two steps this year without delay. It’s not only what they promised to do at last year’s COP26 UN climate summit, but also what today’s report urgently calls for.”
Dr Stephan Singer, senior advisor at Climate Action Network International, said:
“We are glad to see that the governments agreed in this IPCC report that solar and wind power as well as energy efficiency have the largest economic potentials to cut carbon pollution the most by 2030 in this crucial decade. This must be accompanied by the protection of pristine forests and restoration of degraded ecosystems and a shift to plant-based low-carbon diets. We urge governments, particularly the large polluters, to immediately implement the findings showing that investments into clean technologies have to grow by up to six times annually on average until 2030 to have a chance to stay in the survival trajectory of no more than 1.5°C global warming eventually.”
Fionna Smyth, head of global policy and advocacy at Christian Aid, said:
“This report is a wake up call that shows we must address the root cause of the climate crisis by urgently cutting emissions. Emissions continue to go up and reversing that needs to be a global priority. Most of the people living on the front lines of the climate emergency have done the least to cause this problem. For example despite accounting for 17 per cent of the world’s population, Africans contribute just four per cent of global emissions. They need major emitters to take drastic action so that we can all have a safe and secure climate.
“The invasion of Ukraine and Russia’s control of European gas usage, has shown the folly of having a global economy reliant on fossil fuels. A shift towards decentralised, clean and ever cheaper renewables would help build a more peaceful world and also tackle the cause of the climate crisis.”