The evidence is clear and the solutions are here – this is our last chance to secure our survival.
The UK Government must end its support for the oil and gas industry, campaigners have said, in light of a renewed warning from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
In a synthesis report published on Monday, the IPCC said there is still more public and private finance going to fossil fuels than to climate mitigation and adaptation.
It will be impossible to meet the internationally agreed target of stopping the global average temperature exceeding 1.5C above pre-industrial levels if CO2 emissions from existing fossil fuel infrastructure are not reduced, the authors said.
To meet this target requires deep and drastic emissions cuts across all sectors of society, they said, though some difficult-to-decarbonise industries, such as aviation, shipping and agriculture will have to be supported by carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS).
Current policies are projected to heat the Earth to 3.2C above pre-industrial levels, which could set off dangerous and unpredictable tipping points such as melting of the polar ice caps, scientists have previously warned.
Alexander Kirk, fossil fuel campaigner at Global Witness, said: “Year after year, the IPCC’s reports keep sounding the alarm, but business is still booming for the oil and gas industry and governments continue to top up their immense profits with billions in tax relief and other subsidies.
“This is bankrupting the planet and threatening the lives of millions while making a handful of executives and shareholders incredibly wealthy.
“All Government support for the oil and gas industry needs to be urgently redirected to renewable energy and to shifting us onto a green economy. This will also help hand a lifeline to countries that are already sinking under rising sea levels and suffering extreme drought.”
The IPCC said the cost of mitigating climate change will be less than the damage caused by higher temperatures.
They also emphasised the knock-on benefits of climate solutions such as how switching to clean energy will improve health and lower healthcare costs by reducing air pollution.
In 2017 alone, the cost to the NHS and social care because of air pollution was estimated to be £42.88 million, according to Public Health England analysis.
Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, said: “The IPCC is spot on – the fossil fuel era is over.
“So if our own Government is to heed this warning, it must cancel the Cumbria coal mine, drop the proposed Rosebank oil field and unblock onshore wind and solar with immediate effect.
“The evidence is clear and the solutions are here – this is our last chance to secure our survival.”
Environmental groups are waiting for the Government’s so-called “Green Day”, expected before the end of March, when it must respond to a High Court order and revise its net zero policies.
Mike Childs, head of science, policy and research at Friends of the Earth, said: “Strengthening this will be the Government’s best opportunity to show that it is listening to the science and put the UK on course to become a thriving green economy.
“For this to happen, we need to see a huge drive to insulate the UK’s heat-leaking homes, faster development of cheap, clean, renewable energy, fewer roads being built and an end to new fossil fuel infrastructure.”
A Government spokesperson said: “Today’s report makes clear that nations around the world must work towards far more ambitious climate commitments ahead of Cop28.
“The UK is a world leader in working towards net zero, but we need to go further and faster. That is why we are committing to building more wind, solar and nuclear capacity, as well as driving forward hydrogen and CCUS, supporting up to 480,000 well-paid green jobs, and leveraging up to £100 billion of private investment by 2030.
“This will bolster our energy security and help ensure we bring down wholesale electricity prices to among the lowest in Europe.”
Danny Halpin is the PA environment correspondent.