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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

9 August 2021: Today the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has published the first of its three-part 6th Assessment Report (AR6). The report is the biggest update of the state of knowledge on climate science since the release of the IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report in 2014. 

The AR6 assessment will consist of three separate reports. ‘The Physical Science Basis’ is the first AR6 report and details how the greenhouse gases we emit are causing unprecedented damage.  It covers topics like extreme weather, human attribution, the carbon budget and feedback cycles, and charts the current and future state of the climate. This is an important media moment and the voices of progressive businesses are needed to reinforce the urgency of action.  

Key developments in the report include the certainty of scientists that human influence on the climate is an established and indisputable fact; our moving closer to important temperature targets (emitting 300 billion additional tonnes of CO2 since 2014); new updated models adding to our understanding of the climate, and; the importance of rapid emissions cuts to reduce our risks of unprecedented rated of warming, which would make it harder for ecosystems and societies to adapt. To achieve this, however, governments and businesses need to follow ambitious near-term Paris-aligned climate plans.   

Clare Shine, Director and CEO, CISL: 

“The IPCC has delivered another wake-up call to the world, documenting in rigorous detail the scale and urgency of today’s climate-nature crisis. They highlight the message we see on every continent with ever more fires, floods, droughts and disasters – threats with huge human, economic and environmental cost, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable. This stark reminder comes at a time when the level of climate ambition globally has never been higher, but change is too slow and siloed. We can meet our responsibilities but not at this timid pace with current levels of inequity. We must push for bolder leadership and systems transformation for people, nature and climate and thus secure a legacy we can all be proud of.” 

Eliot Whittington, Director, Corporate Leaders Groups: 

“As the range and violence of extreme weather events from around the world reminds us, climate change is a critical and growing business risk, and the IPCC’s latest report gives the world the hard numbers showing the state and scale of that risk. Sensible and forward-looking businesses know they need to act now to change the way they do business and more and more governments are putting in place the plans and actions to deliver a resilient, net zero economy. But the sad truth is that too much government commitment fails to live up to its rhetoric and for every business committed to transformation, many more have yet to understand the significance of this challenge. We need to match our energy for climate action to the fierceness of our burning climate. Ambition needs to turn into action starting now.”  

Policy implications for the EU and UK 

  • As we head to COP26 in November it is crucial that all countries work with the UK COP presidency to urgently increase efforts to accelerate the implementation of the Paris Agreement and to keep global temperature increases to no more than 1.5°C.  
  • In  the EU the IPCC report further underlines the importance of accelerating the discussion and approving the updated climate and energy legislations contained in the Fit for 55 package and providing businesses with the tools to decarbonise the economy.  
  • In the UK the IPCC reports underlines the importance of bringing forward an ambitious Net Zero Strategy that translates its economy-wide goals into clear policies and measures able to drive delivery across the economy. Business and government need to work together to bridge the gap between present action and necessary ambition. 
  • The UK government also needs to respond to the Climate Change Committee’s recently released Climate Change Risk Assessment and ensure the country is able to cope with increasing climate impacts. 
  • Overall businesses in the UK, Europe and across the world are committed to the Paris Agreement but need the right regulatory framework to deliver the transformational economic changes needed for deep emissions cuts.   

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