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We know how to stop the climate crisis from getting worse.

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The impacts on current and future generations depend on the choices our leaders make now.

Global temperature change Graph

Global surface temperature change relative to 1850–1900. Sources: IPCC Synthesis Report, 2023; WMO; IGCC

  • Here’s a to-do list for a liveable future for all:
  • Halve annual CO2 emissions by around 2030, then net zero by early 2050s
  • Phase down fossil fuels, and fast

At COP28 in 2023, countries agreed to transition away from fossil fuels, marking the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era. It’s high time: as the recent IPCC Synthesis report states, fossil fuels are overwhelmingly driving global warming, and to stay on track for the Paris Agreement targets of 1.5°C and 2°C, we need to reduce overall emissions and use of coal, gas and oil.

The world’s existing fossil fuel infrastructure is already enough to meet the projected demand and potentially to blow past the Paris targets, so the global transformation of the energy system can’t wait any longer. And it’s underway!

  • Use cheap solutions that are available now

Thankfully, many green solutions needed for that transformation are already available, and they are becoming more and more cost effective. In the Synthesis Report, the IPCC noted that, over the last decade, solar and wind energy costs decreased by 85% and 55% respectively, and the unit costs of lithium ion batteries dropped 85%. In 2025, the IEA expects renewables to surpass coal and become the largest source of electricity generation. And the recent Ember report tells us that in 2023, renewables generated a record 30% of global electricity, with record construction of new solar and wind capacity.

That is why we need to ‘electrify everything’, that is, replace fossil fuel powered transport, urban systems and so on with those powered by low- and zero-carbon electricity. Better transportation solutions, for both people and cargo across land, air and water will protect the climate and human health. Finally, reducing deforestation and shifting to more sustainable agriculture will help tackle about one fifth of the global greenhouse gas emissions.


Photo by Nicholas Doherty on Unsplash

  • Boost finance for climate action

The IPCC Synthesis report says current cash levels for climate action “fall short of the levels needed to meet climate goals across all sectors and regions” and, crucially, are still below public and private funding for fossil fuels. The insufficient funding that is available goes mainly towards reducing emissions rather than adaptation – but even those sums are not enough to limit warming to below 2°C or to 1.5°C.

The IPCC notes progress on climate finance flows has slowed down since 2018, so now, in 2024, finance must be at the forefront: we need the technical and political processes that fill the gaps in funding for energy transition, adaptation and loss and damage. And the UN climate negotiations should also send a clear signal on the need for international financial reform that would support climate action.

  • Scale necessary CO2 removal (CDR)

All scenarios where we limit temperature rise to 1.5°C require some amount of negative emissions, that is, removing CO2 from the atmosphere. It’s a small but necessary part of the solution that needs to be used carefully – first and foremost to counterbalance residual emissions in hard-to-abate sectors, where reducing them is genuinely hard for now and at least for the next few decades. CDR is not a get-out-of-jail-free card, and we need limits on how much governments and industries can rely on it.

According to the State of CDR report, we are nowhere near the amount of carbon removal we will likely need, so it needs to be scaled up with various technological, economic, environmental and other concerns in mind. Still, reducing emissions in the first place is a priority.

  • Adapt to reduce risks for nature and people
  • Focus on fairness and equity

Climate change is already wreaking havoc across the world, but some places and people are hit harder, and many of those people contributed very little to the current state of the problem. According to the IPCC Synthesis report, about 3.3-3.6 billion people are living in highly vulnerable regions, where ecosystems they depend on are already getting close to the point of no return.

Climate impacts can be fundamentally unfair, but climate action can and should prioritise equity and climate justice. There are many ways in which we can reduce emissions-intensive consumption and improve societal wellbeing at the same time. And the IPCC also stresses that making equity a priority can enable climate resilient development for all.

  • Support ecosystem-based adaptation

Of course, we need to protect and restore nature as well as make sure the parts of it which are crucial to our livelihoods and wellbeing are well-managed – there is no way around it.

But the next step is to stop hurting nature altogether by shifting to more sustainable agricultural practices like agroforestry. Ecosystem-based approaches to adaptation often have many additional benefits: for example, urban greening and restoring wetlands help protect people against urban heat and reduce flood risks.

For this to work, we really need to hurry: as warming continues and its impacts are more pronounced, many natural systems will start hitting their limits (some already are!), and relying on them for resilience and adaptation will become less effective too.

Unsplash in collaboration with Getty Images

  • Mitigation + adaptation = climate resilient development

It’s a win-win. On one hand, the faster we reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the more future impacts we avoid and the more natural resources we will have available to help us all adapt to the impacts we can no longer avoid.

On the other hand, improving the wellbeing of people and ecosystems via adaptation delivers many additional benefits, increases public support for the energy transition and ultimately helps us preserve nature’s ability to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

Synthesis of climate change by John Lang/eciu

Synthesis of climate change by John Lang/eciu

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