The IPCC just issued an urgent call to action – what does this mean for the youth work sector?

The IPCC just issued an urgent call to action – what does this mean for the youth work sector? 

On 4th April, the latest installment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s Sixth Assessment Report was published. For a reminder of who the IPCC are and how the reports are produced, have a read of our response to the previous installment of the report here. 

The focus of this part of the report is the mitigation of climate change, and it goes into great detail about what must be done to reduce our emissions of Greenhouse Gases to a level which will limit the average global temperature rise to 1.5⁰C. The report is very clear that the window to take action is rapidly closing, and it will soon be too late to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Between 2010 and 2019, the time period covered in this report, global emissions have been at their highest in human history, and are still rising, albeit more slowly than in the previous ten-year period. There is strong evidence that emissions are unevenly distributed across the world and across income levels. A very small percentage of the global population is producing a disproportionate amount of Greenhouse Gas emissions (10% of households produce 34-45% of global emissions), while the vast majority of the population produce very little in comparison (50% of households produce only 13-15% of global emissions).  

The report is clear that the actions we have taken so far, as well as our planned actions for the next decade (in the form of Nationally Determined Contributions) will not be enough to limit global warming to the globally agreed target of 1.5⁰C. In fact, on our current emissions trajectory, we are likely to see 3.2⁰C of warming by 2100, which would be catastrophic for humanity and for the planet’s ecosystems. In order to limit warming even to 2⁰C, we need unprecedented emissions reductions before 2030, and in order to limit it to 1.5⁰C, emissions must peak before 2025 and start going down after that. A huge barrier to these emissions reductions, according to the report, is the continued investment in fossil fuel infrastructure. If we are to stay below 1.5⁰C of warming, we must have no new fossil fuel infrastructure, and we must work to quickly phase out the need for the infrastructure we already have. One way of doing this is to remove subsidies for fossil fuel industries and redistribute these funds to those who are most affected by the impacts of climate change. The report states that removing subsidies for fossil fuels could reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions by 10% by 2030.  

The good news from the IPCC report is that we already have all the solutions we need, we just have to implement them on a larger scale. Costs for low emissions technology has been steadily falling, and energy systems powered entirely by renewables are becoming increasingly viable. Mitigation options that cost less than 100 USD per ton of CO2 equivalent could halve emissions from the 2019 level by 2030, without reducing GDP. It is recognised in the report that the global economic benefit of limiting warming to 1.5 or 2⁰C will by far exceed the costs of mitigation. Currently, finance for mitigation falls short of what is needed, especially for developing countries; it is estimated that 3-6x more finance is needed to meaningfully mitigate the effects of the climate crisis. However, the report also judges that there is enough global capital to provide this, it just has to be mobilised.  

In order to reduce demand for high-emitting industries and enact transformational changes, there is a need for equity and for meaningful participation of all stakeholders. This includes businesses, the media, communities, indigenous peoples, and young people. Young people are especially important, as it is their futures that will be most affected by the actions we take now. Engaging young people in climate action has never been more critical as it is now. This IPCC report issues an urgent call to action that is not being picked up in the mainstream media, so it is the duty of concerned citizens to spread the message as far and wide as possible. There are many ways for youth workers to do this and to support young people to do this. Education is key to engagement; young people must understand the extent of the issues we are facing, but they also must be aware of the solutions that exist.  

We’ve gathered together some resources, inspiration and opportunities to help youth workers support the young people they work with to better understand the climate emergency on our online platform. Youth workers could also use the Climate Emergency Toolkit to get young people engaged with these issues for the first time in fun and interesting ways. It’s also important for young people to engage with other groups of stakeholders such as communities who are being affected by the impacts of climate change, and politicians who are working on climate policy. Young people can use the Scottish Youth Climate Declaration to engage with their local Councillors and MSPs about climate action and what needs to happen to limit warming to 1.5⁰C. Groups such as Fridays for Future Scotland and Teach the Future are youth-led campaigns which will give young people a taste of activism and political engagement at a grassroots level.  

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