Bridging climate science to policy and action

The EU–Korea Climate Action project, funded by the EU Partnership Instrument, organised a Public Event on 8 October 2018 at Sheraton Grand Hotel in Incheon, Korea, in the margins of the 48th session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). During this IPCC session, the special report on global warming of 1.5°C (SR1.5), urging for a more ambitious climate action, was adopted. The Public Event gathered key figures involved in climate action, including the IPCC Chair, to discuss the implications of the SR1.5 and ways to contribute to the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

The Public Debate on 8 October 2018 provided an opportunity for stakeholders to consider scientific evidence and turn climate science into policy, and eventually to action. How realistic is the achievement of the 1.5°C target under the current policy and economic frameworks; what would have to change, what actions would have to be taken? What has to be improved for policy makers, the market and the wider public to take full account of scientific conclusions, to not at least to prevent misinterpretations and neglect of scientific evidence?

How to walk the talk?

Following a welcome address by EU Ambassador Reiterer and a keynote address by the IPCC Chairman, a panel of scientists, NGOs, EU and Korean policy-makers and business representatives discussed the conditions necessary to accelerate climate action, and how to walk the talk to keep the Earth’s surface temperature below 1.5°C in the 21st century.

The Special Report SR1.5 points out that current efforts, such as national pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, are unlikely to achieve the 1.5°C target and accelerated actions are most urgent. It is suggested that the more ambitious 1.5°C target would avoid global warming impacts compared to the 2°C target of the Paris Agreement of 2015. It also explores possible options for adaptations and mitigations, as well as the scale and pace of the transformation needed.

Priorities of the EU-Korea Climate Action confirmed

The most relevant actions of the SR1.5 are identical to the priorities of the EU-Korea Climate Action project such as: accelerating renewable energy, energy-efficient building, low-carbon mobility, circular economy and sustainable business practices. All these priorities are seen in the context of engaging multiple stakeholders, financing climate action, harvesting co-benefits of climate mitigation and adaptation measures, and instilling behavioural changes.

The role of civil society is important

The IPCC Special Report acknowledged the importance of civil society expressively for the first time. The panellists agreed that the role of civil society is crucial to give pressures to government and businesses to engage more actively in climate action.

Better and more reliable policies are needed

The panellists univocally complained about delays and ambiguity of regulations and policies that rather create confusion to stakeholders, especially businesses, which remain passive as a consequence. Central governments need to establish clear frameworks for climate action and the 1.5℃ target. Only then, local governments and businesses can follow and implement their actions accordingly. CSOs and NGOs play an important role to increase adequate pressure on policy makers.

Long-term strategies instead of short-term approaches

From the perspective of EU policy maker on the 1.5℃ target. The EU believes that scientific facts can help to solve complex climate problems and show the path of development. The EU is pursuing policies and regulations and working on the long-term strategies such as ambitious GHG emission reductions by 2030, and long-term strategies of cutting emissions by 80-95% by 2050. Mainstreaming the climate challenge across jurisdictions is required. Policies have to become more reliable by reflecting the long-term perspectives and foresight, instead of short-term approaches limited to few-years only legislative periods. In order to achieve 1.5℃ target, it is important to (a) embrace more holistic thinking and a value chain approach, (b) foster behavioural changes and social innovation, and (c) encourage participation of the citizens.

The business perspective on the 1.5℃ target

Businesses in Europe engage in programmes such as ‘Horizon 2020, and follow guidelines provided by the EU. In order to achieve the 1.5℃ target, (a) incentives and (b) human behaviour need to be reformed. Korean companies are aware of the climate change, but show considerably low commitment in practice. In order to achieve 1.5℃ target, (a) incentives and (b) practical technologies for industry are necessary. Both EU and Korean entrepreneurs would appreciate more reliable and long-term policies of central governments. For entrepreneurs, a business case is indispensable to invest in climate action.

Immediate action is a must to achieve 1.5℃ target

If we don't act now, it will cost us greatly in the future economically. The event concluded that accelerating climate action is indispensable to achieve the 1.5°C target. Long-term strategies have to be based on scientific evidence and governments have to provide reliable and credible policies that business and other stakeholders can take effective action. The role of civil society and citizens gains importance to drive governments.

The EU-Korea Climate Action will follow-up with more discussions and invites stakeholders to contribute their opinions through this platform.