Climate, Nature and our 1.5°C Future

By: Stephen Cornelius

The report outlines the urgent need for countries to work with cities and businesses towards a “just transition” in the face of increasing pressures from a warming world. But strong leadership and immediate action are required to limit global warming to 1.5°C to halt climate change in its tracks.

Published by WWF, the report is a synthesis of the findings from four major recent UN scientific reports, as follows.

Three special reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) under its current 6th Assessment Cycle: Global Warming of 1.5°C (published in October 2018); Climate Change and Land (published in August 2019); and Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (published in September 2019). Plus the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services (IPBES) Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (published in May 2019). 

WWF’s analysis shines a spotlight on the detailed picture of how nature – ecosystems and biodiversity – are being affected by the climate crisis, and how strong and healthy ecosystems enrich resilience and can help people adapt to climate impacts. It recognises the critical role that “nature-based solutions” play as part of the global response to the climate crisis because the necessary rapid and deep cuts to global fossil fuel emissions will not be enough. 

The worldwide lack of ambition to tackle the climate and nature crises is alarming, and countries must take immediate action to ensure global warming stays below 1.5°C. Deep decarbonisation as well as nature-based solutions must be part of all countries’ climate plans and there’s good reason to do so – they can aid climate change mitigation, reduce associated climate risks for vulnerable communities, and help bring about a more sustainable future for all.

The report looks across the globe, at the Polar Regions, Oceans, Freshwater, Grasslands and Savannahs, Forests, and the Food sector. Each section provides a synthesis of the published evidence from the four UN reports, a case study from WWF and three short recommendations. 

Protecting, restoring and managing ecosystems and biodiversity is a sustainable way to improve resilience against climate change risks and ensure that land and oceans can continue to provide food, water and other vital resources to people for years to come. 

The report demonstrates how, by saving nature, we boost the chances of staying below 1.5°C and improve the effectiveness of adaptation while laying the foundations for lives that are happy, healthy, culturally enriched and socially connected.

The scientists have done their part. Over the past year the IPCC and IPBES have amassed findings that clearly demonstrate the need for limiting global warming to 1.5°C. Our political, community and business leaders must heed their warnings about the risks of exceeding 1.5°C and the irreversible change that will happen without greater ambition to cut emissions from fossil fuels and integrate nature-based solutions.

WWF provide recommendations to national policymakers:

Make climate pledges consistent with the 1.5°C goal

Make nature-based solutions part of their countries’ climate commitments

Coordinate climate, biodiversity and sustainable development policies

Align (public) financial flows with the needed systems transformations

Address the international impacts of domestic policies

And to non-state actors:

Align with a 1.5°C and net-zero emissions world

Advocate for governments to enact enabling policies

Advance the science on nature-based solutions

Humans are currently causing an unprecedented loss of nature at the time when we need it most. Protecting and restoring nature isn’t just a moral issue: nature underpins our societies and economies and is our greatest ally in combatting the climate crisis.

You can download the report from Climate, Nature and our 1.5°C Future - A synthesis of IPCC and IPBES reports using the link at the end of this article.

Stephen Cornelius

Stephen Cornelius is WWF’s IPCC lead and Chief Adviser on Climate Change, and was editor in chief for the report. Follow him on twitter

WWF Climate, Nature and our 1.5 C future:

IPCC Global Warming of 1.5 C:

IPCC Climate Change and Land:

IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate:

IPBES Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services:

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