Rajendra Pachauri, the chair of the UN's intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC), visited the European parliament to present the findings of the panel's fifth assessment synthesis report (SYR).
The IPCC has been producing reports since 1990 with content drawn exclusively from public sources and written by three working groups, each specialising on different aspects of climate change. Following the reports produced by the respective groups, the IPCC produces a synthesis report to summarise the combined findings of the groups' research.
"It is now evident that human actions are having a major impact on the climate […] beyond probability of 95 per cent"
The chair of the IPCC began by stressing that the SYR further corroborated the panel's historical view that climate change is man-made, saying, "it is now evident that human actions are having a major impact on the climate […] beyond probability of 95 per cent that most of the warming that has taken place over the last century has been the result of human actions".
Overall he was "satisfied with the quality and the rigorous nature" of SYR and remained hopeful that it would "act as a basis for real action to deal with the challenge of climate change".
Since the last assessment report in 2007, the scope of the study has expanded and resulted in new findings such as the impact of global warming on the oceans. Pachauri exclaimed that "90 per cent of the heat generated as a result of global warming has gone in to the oceans over the period 1970-2010 and this clearly has major implications for marine life", before adding "frankly this is where an area that a lot more research needs to be done".
The latest report points to the various areas that the warming and acidification of the oceans will impact upon, including "agriculture, health, water availability, the increase in extreme events such as heat waves and extreme precipitation events".
The main conclusion of the SYR, according to Pachauri, was the need to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and adapt to climate change as soon as possible. He highlighted the "need for us to mitigate as early as possible […] but if it were delayed this would lead […] to progressively unacceptable levels of impacts that are obviously going to cause serious disruption to human activities".
Furthermore, he discussed two target deadlines that the report indicates should be met if climate change is to be tackled successfully. First, "by 2050 we need a 40-70 per cent reduction in GHGs, using 2010 as the baseline", and, second, "if we want to keep temperature increase within two degrees centigrade by the end of the century, then we […] will have to reach zero by the end of the century, global net emissions, and may in fact be required to go in to the negative range".
The chair pointed out several ways to meet the targets set out by the IPCC, including increasing the use of "zero carbon or low carbon energy from renewables, from bio-energy and possibly carbon capture and storage".
He finished by urging EU leaders to act quickly as "the costs of mitigation will go up substantially, so we need to take a prudent, cost effective approach, and the sooner we start mitigating the better".
"We need to take a prudent, cost effective approach, and the sooner we start mitigating the better" - Rajendra Pachauri
Following Pachauri's address, the chair and the accompanying MEPs answered questions from the press and clarified the EU's position on climate change. Among the questions asked, was whether the climate change summit in Lima, due to take place in December, is necessary, as a global agreement has been set to be made during the following summit in Paris next year.
According to Pachauri, the draft agreement for Paris will be prepared in Lima; therefore COP20 will have an important role setting out the framework for an international agreement to be reached in France
MEPs Mairead McGuinness and Paul Rübig, representing parliament's science and technology options assessment panel, also answered questions from the press and clarified the EU's position on climate change. Mairead McGuinness, said first, "I think Europe has held itself as being a leader in the climate area", identifying Europe as a global pacesetter in the climate change debate.
McGuinness added, "the problem with climate change […] is that the year 2100 is not in our lifetime, and a lot of the issues we deal with politically are about today", arguing that the lack of progress in tackling climate change is due to short-sighted political decisions. However McGuinness remained hopeful for the future and said, "what the IPCC is saying is that, we do have the solutions of today that will solve this big, big issue for tomorrow".
Paul Rübig shared a similar perspective to McGuinness, commenting, "we now need a framework from the technological point of view, […] we from the political angle have to look for solutions to how we can get the climate debate [moving] in the right direction".
Rübig concluded by echoing Rajendra Pachauri's comments regarding Lima, saying, "For us a global agreement is of the utmost importance, what we can do in the European parliament is to prepare the debate, as we want to be the frontrunners, […].but this global agreement can only be done under a UN framework".