On behalf of UNDP, let me welcome you to today’s policy dialogue!
We are here today with the main purpose of hear a presentation of the latest report of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change, or the IPCC, and discuss what the findings in the Sixth Assessment Report mean for the planet, for Kyrgyzstan, and for our survival as a human species.
The IPCC was created by decision in the UN General Assembly in 1998, with the purpose to furnish governments with scientific information to help them develop climate policies. The members of the IPCC are UN Member States, and the Panel consists of experts who volunteer their time to assess volumes of published scientific papers and distil what is decidedly known about the drivers of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and how adaptation and mitigation can reduce those risks. As our Speaker today will explain, the IPCC process includes a transparent process to summarise the strength of scientific agreement and indicates where further research is needed. So, the IPCC does not conduct its own research, it simply provides the best possible summary of what is known to the world regarding climate change.
Why is this important? Well we need data to understand exactly how big a threat climate change is, and to take appropriate action to combat climate change. And the we need data to know if our actions are going to be sufficient in terms of helping the planet limit global warming.
Climate change is a global problem. Carbon dioxide concentrations in our atmosphere are now higher than at any time in the last two million years. Global surface temperatures have already risen faster since 1970 than during any other 50-year period over the previous 2,000 years. And in the words of the IPCC, these increases are unequivocally caused by human activities.
Reflecting on the Report, the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, has expressed the urgency of the situation by declaring that [I quote] “the alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk.”
Looking forward, these trends are unfortunately expected to accelerate, unless the world wakes up to understand this crisis. The greenhouse gas emissions are projected to rise by 16% to 2030, global temperatures could soar by as much as 5.7oC by the turn of the century, unless action is taken. To put this into context, a sustained rise of 2.5oC would be the highest in over three million years. The consequences will be a further intensification of natural disasters such as fires, floods, droughts at a scale that the world just cannot cope with.
A new feature in the IPCC Report is greater focus on regional climate simulations in climate risk assessments. This is highly relevant for Kyrgyzstan, where this has manifested already. Annual air temperatures have increased by 0.23oC every ten years on average, with an acceleration over the last two decades. This may not sound like much, but hot weather extremes in Kyrgyzstan are already becoming more frequent and intense, putting strain on all sectors of society as we face more unpredictable rainfall patterns, more frequent droughts, and continuing soil erosion on already scarce land.
Particularly alarming is the situation regarding glaciers in our region, which are fundamental for regenerating essential water resources. Glaciers in Kyrgyzstan have already melted by up to 17% in the last 70 years, and many could entirely disappear by year 2100. In the short term, these trends signal diminishing energy production, intensifying food insecurity, and damaging the country’s rich ecosystems and biodiversity, that over half of the country’s population depends on for their livelihoods. In the not so much longer term, it is a matter of our survival.
The picture is however not entirely bleak. There are messages of hope and optimism. We still remain with a short window to prevent the worst potential impacts of climate change by taking urgent action to reduce GHG emissions by around half in 2030 compared to 2010 levels. This is where the concept of “Net zero by mid-century” has entered the stage in global climate talks.
Rapid action can still have sustained positive effects on halting climate change, and taking actions such as reducing air pollutants – not least here in Bishkek – will contribute and allow all of us to lead healthier lives. Pursuing more green economic pathways by investing in renewable energy can help to create new jobs that lead to both better livelihoods and more sustainable and inclusive economic growth.
Kyrgyzstan’s updated carbon commitment that was presented by the President of the Kyrgyz Republic’s at the COP26 summit in Glasgow demonstrates the country’s intent to reduce emissions and adapt to climate impacts. The commitment to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 must now be turned into action by a large number of coordinated actions in many sectors.
The IPCC’s findings – and better climate science and data at country level – can inform key policy decisions in relation to these NDCs by providing the key scientific evidence and help to attract support for such actions.
But climate science must also reach the general public. I want to emphasize the role of an important stakeholder group in accelerating and making our climate action more effective, and that is academia. In this time of a climate and environmental emergency of planetary scale, it is time for scientists and educators to speak up. They can play a key role in “action for climate empowerment” by engaging all members of society in climate action.
More than ever, we need science to reach the public, with simple and accessible messages that contribute to action. Ultimately, everyone needs to understand what is climate change, how is it impacting our lives, and what we can do to contribute in reducing emissions. Some people believe that our own actions don’t matter – but in fact, all of us must become aware of how our everyday choices and consumption behaviors have an aggregate impact on the country’s ability to fight climate change and protect the environment.
This is a fight, and we can win by fighting it together. Let me conclude by thanking all partners who work very hard to raise the climate agenda to the highest level. Thank you for joining us today, and thank you for your attention.