Money, methane and metro mayors: delving into the IPCC's AR6 report

900 contibutors from 66 countries, 14,600 scientific papers, 78,000 comments for review, backing from 195 governments and a whopping 3,949 pages in total. The IPCC's AR6 Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis has landed.

And luckily a Green Alliance/The Climate Coalition open briefing was on hand to make sense of it all in just 60 minutes, with the following speakers in attendance:

  • Professor Simon Lewis, global change science, University College London (UCL)
  • Rebecca Newsom, head of politics, Greenpeace UK
  • Natasha Yorke-Edgell, head of movement building, The Climate Coalition
  • Richard Black, senior associate, Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU)

So what did they conclude?


The ECIU's Richard Black was the first to step up to the virtual podium revealing what he felt were the key takeways from the report. They was nothing we haven't really heard before: COP26 and other choices we make now will have big consequences, manmade climate change is affecting our world and weather now and fossil fuel proliferation and the conservation of our planet can never sit comfortably in the same sentence.

'Human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe. Evidence of observed changes in extremes such as heatwaves, heavy precipitation, droughts, and tropical cyclones, and, in particular, their attribution to human influence, has strengthened since the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5),' the report states.

What did standout, however, was the report's emphasis on reducing methane emissions.

"There's a particular focus in the report on methane and the importance of methane as a global warming gas," said Black. "It doesn't stay in the atmosphere for very for that long but actually delivers a very powerful global warming punch while it's there. The two main manmade sources of methane are fossil fuel production use and agricultural wastes."


Greenpeace UK head of politics Rebecca Newsom announced in no uncertain terms that money talks when it comes to an equitable and just transition to net zero. But what's happening on the ground when it comes to climate action and cash injections?

"The UK Government rightly emphasises the need for more international climate finance to support countries on the front line of the process," Newsom said. "But the words ring, totally hollow given ministers have actually decided to slash the aid budget and eat into that shrinking aid budget to make their own contribution to climate finance."

Adding to the idea that there's a big financial task ahead when it comes to meeting climate commitments was a range of commentary that came in thick and fast on the report from all corners. British Red Cross executive director of international Richard Blewitt argued that "we need to see minimum $100 billion climate finance delivered and an increased share to climate adaptation" in order to help communities to adapt to the current impacts of climate change. Global Justice Now director Nick Dearden pulled no punches when he declared the following:

“The IPCC report tells us that devastating climate damage is already locked in. But if we want to prevent the catastrophic consequences, we need to talk about what is hurtling us towards these nightmare scenarios; it’s the economy, stupid."

Global Justice Now has called for a “radical economic overhaul” to help reach net zero far sooner than the current 2050 target.

And what will the economic consequences be if we don't take more mitigating measures to avoid a severe climate scenario? Swiss Re group chief economist Jérôme Jean Haegeli shared this stark statistic following the report's publication.

"As our recent Economics of Climate Change study has shown, global economy risks shrinking by up to 18 per cent in the next 30 years if no countermeasures are taken."

Metro mayors

So away from Westminster and COP26, where are climate actions really going to gain momentum? The answer, according to speakers at the Green Alliance/The Climate Coalition open briefing, is in the offices of metro mayors.

"Local authorities and mayor's collectively with business and civil society need to be advocating for more money to actually roll out the solutions at the local level," said Newsom.

"Metro mayors, particularly, have more powers to transform local transport systems, and support a shift towards walking, cycling and public transport."

The Climate Coalition head of movement building Natasha Yorke-Edgell had this to say:

"I think what's been really interesting, particularly in the UK context at the moment, is the way that the recent local mayoral elections have really changed the level of regional competition. There is an opportunity for all kinds of leaders of local councils, typically metro mayors with more powers, and devolved governments to really try and have a bit of a race to the top in terms of leadership. This can help to increase pressure [on central government]."

Continuing she added: "At local level we know some of the audiences know that climate change is real, and accept that it's manmade and happening, but can really only connect with it when it's hyper localised. And this is where local leaders will really have an important role."

And a final note on water from the Possible Climate Futures section of the report. Something many in the water and environment (WEM) industry have already predicted but that still makes for grim reading.

'Continued global warming is projected to further intensify the global water cycle, including its variability, global monsoon precipitation and the severity of wet and dry events,' the report states.

The above is why the mantra adaptation, adaptation, adaptation is oft cited in the WEM sector. Watch our webinar Climate change adaptation reporting best practice to explore this further.

So what's next for the IPCC report? The IPCC is policy neutral, so it doesn't tell governments what to do, but rather presents a series of what if scenario statements, says Black. And we'll have to wait until February 2022 for the contribution from the second working group to be published. In the meantime we have both COP15 and COP26 to keep us busy.

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