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Leaders urged to listen to science and act now to avert climate catastrophe

20 March 2023
by WWF -- last modified 20 March 2023

After a marathon final two days of talks, countries have approved a new climate science report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The report brings together current scientific research, with leading scientists and governments agreeing to a summary that lays bare the devastating reality and risks posed by the climate crisis, and the ways in which the world must respond.


The IPCC's Sixth Assessment Synthesis Report (AR6) spotlights the rapid emission reductions needed to meet intermediate climate targets - reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 43% by 2030 and 60% by 2035 to reach net-zero by mid-century and avoid global temperatures exceeding the dangerous 1.5°C tipping point. It recognises however, that current policies are off track to meet these targets, despite the range of cost-effective solutions available. Countries are expected to assess their progress toward achieving these targets in the global stocktake at the UN climate summit COP28 later this year.

WWF urges the European Union and other governments to heed the report's warnings and act quickly to implement its recommendations to limit the impacts of the climate crisis. It calls on leaders to rapidly slash emissions across all sectors, boost efforts to build resilience to extreme weather events and protect and restore nature. An accelerated phase-out of fossil fuels is the best way to avoid the planet overshooting 1.5°C and risking total climate catastrophe.

Dr Stephanie Roe, WWF Global Lead Scientist Climate and Energy, and Lead Author on the IPCC Working Group III report, said: "This report represents the most comprehensive collection of climate science since the last assessment came out almost a decade ago. It very clearly lays out the devastating impacts climate change is already having on our lives and ecosystems all around the world, the harsh future we all face if we don't get our act together, and the solutions we can implement now to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change."

"The European Union, like a number of countries around the world, is already achieving emissions reduction in certain sectors, but action is not yet at the scale or speed we need. This report shows again that the window of opportunity to limit warming to 1.5°C is rapidly closing. The EU has many tools and policies on the table and it's well within its power to meet this challenge, but often the political will is missing to listen to the science and make the right decisions. The sooner and more decisively the EU acts, the sooner people and nature can reap the benefits of a cleaner, safer and more stable future," added Shirley Matheson, Global NDC Enhancement Coordinator at WWF Europe.

IPCC reports are influential as they are used by policymakers and governments to inform their actions, shape UN climate change negotiations, and affect public opinion. The IPCC AR6 Synthesis Report Summary for Policymakers was discussed line-by-line by governments.

WWF welcomes this latest IPCC report, and notes that it highlights:

  • that many low-cost solutions already exist for the necessary economy-wide transformation [C.3]
  • the cost of renewables like wind and solar has dropped by up to 85% over the past decade [A.4.2]
  • the importance of nature and conservation - including the need to conserve 30% to 50% of Earth's land, freshwater and ocean to maintain the resilience of biodiversity and ecosystem services at a global scale [C.3.6]
  • the urgency of action this decade, as well as by 2035 - the date that links in to the next round of nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement [B.6.1]

Dr Stephen Cornelius, WWF Global Deputy Lead Climate and Energy said "The evidence is crystal clear, the science is unequivocal - it's just the lack of political will that's holding us back from the bold action that's necessary to avert a climate catastrophe. Leaders who ignore the science of climate change are failing their people. A rapid phase-out of fossil fuels is essential, as is protecting and restoring natural ecosystems."

"Nature is our secret ally in the fight against climate change. Natural systems have absorbed 54% of human-related carbon dioxide emissions over the past decade and have slowed global warming and helped protect humanity from much more severe climate change risks. We can't hope to limit warming to 1.5°C, adapt to climate change and save lives and livelihoods, unless we also act urgently to safeguard and restore nature. Nature is a non-negotiable part of the solution to the climate crisis."

More information on the IPCC

WWF is an independent conservation organisation, with over 30 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.