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Temperatures will reach record levels in the next five years

A few days ago, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported that “global temperatures are likely to reach unprecedented levels in the next five years“, due to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the natural phenomenon of El Niño. According to the report, between 2023 and 2027 the average annual temperature could exceed pre-industrial levels by 1.5°C, and will likely be the warmest period on record. This figure does not refer to the 1.5°C threshold established in the 2015 Paris Agreement. However, it has set off alarms about the effects it could cause. Warming will affect all regions of the world, but unevenly: the most vulnerable populations with the least resources, which paradoxically have contributed the least to climate change, are the ones who suffer the most and will suffer the consequences the most.

The Synthesis Report of the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was published in March 2023 and its message is clear: the measures that countries have adopted so far are not sufficient to avoid the repercussions of climate change that we are already experiencing.

Nevertheless, there is still hope. If GHG emissions are reduced and effective and urgent measures are employed, not only can losses and damages to humans and nature be reduced, but it is also possible to ensure a livable future for all. For this to be possible, climate action must focus on justice, resilient development, and equity.

The IPCC report explains how human influence has warmed the climate at an unprecedented rate and considering that in the last decade the temperature has risen by 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial values, even if all countries were to meet their climate commitments, it would not be enough to avoid exceeding 1.5 degrees.

The continued combustion of fossil fuels, unsustainable energy systems or changes in land use, and deforestation worldwide are causing more frequent and stronger extreme weather events. While developed countries have had a greater responsibility for accelerating climate change, it is the least developed countries that suffer the most from the consequences. Therefore, the idea of climate justice is a central axis around which integrated adaptation and mitigation measures must be created in order to achieve resilient development.

Towards climate justice: the centrality of finance

The concept of climate justice highlights the ethical and political dimensions of climate change and how social and economic inequalities are at the heart of the problem. This concept has become so important that in March of this year the United Nations General Assembly issued a resolution to request the opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the legal responsibilities of states, which, by “act or omission”, affect the climate.

This has several implications. On the one hand, those linked to the financing that the most vulnerable countries need to face the impact of climate change. On this point, a breakthrough was made at COP27, thanks to the historic agreement on the creation of a “loss and damage” fund to support developing countries. This fund aims to compensate countries that are already suffering negative impacts both in terms of economic losses (goods, infrastructure, productive activities) and non-economic losses to which it is not possible to assign a value, such as climate migration, loss of biodiversity on which local populations depend, or symbolic aspects or the cultural heritage generated by community ties.

This financing fund will fall on the developed countries for their historical responsibilities, although the mechanisms for its use, operation, and the modalities for payment of compensation have not yet been defined. Negotiations will take time, taking into consideration that developed countries are reluctant to accept responsibility as historical emitters. For the moment, in order to advance in the implementation of the fund, 24 countries will work together to agree on which countries should contribute, how the financing will be distributed, and what the instruments will be, among other factors.

Another central aspect is the need to advance in the implementation of measures aimed at “climate-resilient development”, which comprehensively articulates adaptation and mitigation actions with a view to sustainable development, taking into account the interdependence of social and natural systems. Each country has different capacities and opportunities to carry out climate-resilient development measures, but vulnerable countries will clearly need more funding, knowledge transfer, technology and agreements based on international cooperation.

The last aspect of climate justice highlighted in the report is the strengthening of social participation, equity and the revaluation of the knowledge of indigenous communities and vulnerable populations in local and national decision-making. Complying with national agendas and plans requires strengthening the production of local knowledge and the implementation of public policies that include the voice of these communities. This challenge goes hand in hand with the development of transdisciplinary approaches that build bridges of legitimacy and trust between science, politics and society.

The promotion of transdisciplinary, transnational, and innovative meeting spaces is essential for transformative action. One example is the Sustainability Research and Innovation Congress 2023 (SRI) to be held in June in Panama. This is the largest transdisciplinary meeting in the world, which will seek to exchange ideas and foster a space for collaboration by bringing together world leaders, decision-makers from government, civil society, funders and innovators to think about transformative ideas and actions based on the challenges of sustainability.

As WMO data and IPCC reports warn, climate action must pick up the pace if we are to avoid climate-related risks becoming even more severe in the future. There is still time and a door of hope.

*Translated from Spanish by Micaela Machado Rodrigues


Otros artículos del autor

Profesora y Doctora en Antropología de la Univ. de Buenos Aires (UBA). STeP Fellow en el Inst. Interamericano para la Investigación del Cambio Global (IAI). Especializada en las dimensiones humanas del clima y el cambio climático en el Antropoceno.


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