The IPCC 1.5°C report is the 21st century's Apollo Challenge

Helen Clarkson, CEO of The Climate Group
Reading time: 3 minutes
9 October 2018

The publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C has set the international community a global challenge that needs to be seen as this century’s equivalent of the Apollo moon missions, says Helen Clarkson, CEO of The Climate Group.

60 years ago, President Kennedy famously challenged the American people to put a man on the moon in less than a decade. At the time, the technology did not exist to accomplish this feat, yet within a space of under 10 years, through a combination of imagination, technological innovation, personal bravery and political leadership, the US fulfilled Kennedy’s vision in spectacular style.

The IPCC’s new special report on limiting global warming to 1.5ºC has laid down a similar challenge today for all of us. The report makes it starkly clear that the window for keeping global warming within safe bounds is rapidly closing but that the benefits of keeping to 1.5ºC compared to even 2ºC are significant and likely to far outweigh the costs of stepping up ambition. It also makes clear that a 1.5ºC target remains technically possible meaning that we can solve climate change if we choose to.

The scale of the challenge set out in the IPCC’s Special Report is undeniably immense, but so too was that facing the Apollo program. We need to embrace the same excitement and optimism that drove those scientists and astronauts six decades ago as well as look to other periods of transformative change for inspiration. From the engineering geniuses who drove Britain’s industrial revolution in the 19th century to the Chinese entrepreneurs who have transformed China into an economic powerhouse in little over two decades, we need remind ourselves of what we are capable of when we choose to act.

The good news is that we have already started down the road to a decarbonized world. We have today the key technologies at the necessary price points to move firmly towards a 1.5ºC future. From renewables such as solar and wind, to electric vehicles and energy efficiency technologies, there is no reason not to step up our climate ambition immediately. Many of the partners in government and business that we work with are already doing this, through initiatives like RE100 and the Under2 Coalition.

The IPCC has set us a bold but exciting challenge, which we need to accept. We have to talk about reaching the 1.5ºC target not as a costly exercise but as a driver for investment that makes our economies and communities better in every way. 

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