Statement By Achim Steiner at the IPCC Working Group II Approval Session Mon, Mar 31, 2014

The following are remarks by UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner at the IPCC WGII Approval Session in Yokohama, Japan

Dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

I am pleased to address the IPCC Working Group II Session on Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, contributing to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report.

The latest science cited by the IPCC assessment provides conclusive scientific evidence that human activities are causing unprecedented changes in the Earth's climate. It is time to take immediate and robust action to mitigate the impacts of climate change. The clock is ticking and time is not on our side.

As recent studies show, greenhouse gas emissions at or above current rates would induce changes in the oceans, ice caps, glaciers, the biosphere and other components of the climate system. Some of these changes would very likely be unprecedented over decades to thousands of years. Limiting climate change would require substantial and sustained reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses.

Climate change is a long term challenge but one that requires urgent action today, given the risks of a more that 2 degrees C temperature rise. For those who want to focus on the scientific question marks, that is their right to do so. But today, we need to focus on the fundamentals and on actions. Otherwise the risks we run will get higher with every passing day.

Adaptation costs for Africa, for example, could reach approximately US $50 billion by 2050 and USD $350 billion annually by 2070, should the two-degree limit be significantly exceeded. The continent is already facing adaptation costs in the range of US $7 to 15 billion per year by 2020.

A universal new UN climate agreement by 2015 is critical, backed by complementary voluntary initiatives such as those phasing down short lived climate pollutants. As work under the inclusive Green Economy shows, the benefits of a transition to a low carbon future are multiple from improved public health, food security and job generation to combating climate change now and for future generations.

The IPCC is playing a vital role, supplying policy-relevant information about climate change to the world's governments. The Fifth Assessment Report will be considered by negotiators responsible for concluding a new agreement under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

As UNEP's Emissions Gap Report shows, should the global community not immediately embark on wide ?ranging actions to narrow the greenhouse gas emissions gap, the chance of remaining on the least-cost path to keeping global temperature rise below 2 degrees C this century will swiftly diminish and open the door to insurmountable challenges.

Although pathways exist that could reach the 2 degrees C target with higher emissions, not narrowing the gap will exacerbate mitigation challenges after 2020. This will mean much higher rates of global emission reductions in the medium term, greater lock-in of carbon intense infrastructure, greater dependence on often unproven technologies in the medium term, greater cost of mitigation in the medium and long term and greater risks of failing to meet the 2 degrees C.

The stepping stone of the 2020 target can still be achieved by strengthening current pledges and by further action, including scaling up international cooperation initiatives in areas such as energy efficiency, fossil fuel subsidy reform and renewable energy. Even agriculture can contribute, as direct emission from this sector are currently responsible for 11 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions ? even more if its indirect emissions are taken into account.

The Fifth Assessment Report Working Group I report contributed to deepening the understanding of the physical science behind climate change. Working Group II Assessment, looking at the impacts, vulnerability, exposure, future risks and potential costs and benefits of climate change adaptation and linking that to the Post-2015 development agenda is vital to informing the negotiations process ahead of the next Climate Change COP.

Together with partners, UNEP supports the Programme of Research on Climate Change Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation (PROVIA), a global initiative which aims to provide direction and coherence at the international level for research on vulnerability, impacts and adaptation. PROVIA responds to the urgent call by the scientific community for a more cohesive and coordinated approach and the critical need to harmonize and communicate the growing knowledge-base on vulnerability, impacts and adaptation.

UNEP also leads on the development and implementation of the Ecosystem-based Adaptation, an approach that uses biodiversity and ecosystem services as part of an overall adaptation strategy to help communities adapt to the negative effects of climate change at the local, national, regional and global levels.

UNEP is proud for what the IPCC stands for and for what it has delivered. More than 25 years following the establishment of the Panel, we continue to support the work of this pioneering UN initiative.

At the Berlin meeting of Working Group III, when we will review the future work of the IPCC, we also need to look at ways to strengthen the panel, support its work and insure it has the needed capacity to respond and lead on climate change science and global policy guidance.

I wish you all the success and we look forward to the important contributions of the Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report.

Watch UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner's video message at the IPCC ARG WGII Opening Session: Here

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