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7 Jun 2024 | Press releases

Scientists sound alarm: Urgent action needed to protect mountain, downstream, and low-lying regions

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Bonn, Germany, Friday 7th June: Leading scientists and representatives from countries in mountain, downstream, and low-lying regions have issued an urgent call for G20 countries to rapidly decarbonise and limit global temperatures.

Speaking at the Bonn Climate Change Conference, the warning follows United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s Special Address on Wednesday where he said: “The difference between 1.5°C and 2°C could be the difference between extinction and survival.”

Speakers detailed the severe consequences for countries on the frontline of the climate crisis who already suffer the devastating impact of climate change, even before reaching 1.5°C of warming.

Izabella Koziell, Deputy Director General, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), said: “The Hindu Kush Himalaya, which supports nearly 2 billion people downstream, is facing an accelerating crisis. Extreme weather events and natural hazards are increasing in scale, pace, and frequency.”

Describing what Guterres called “the climate road to hell” if global leaders fail to decarbonise, Ambassador Carlos Fuller of Belize, said: “With projections of a five-meter sea level rise, Belize faces existential threats. Belize is also currently grappling with extensive forest fires that have ravaged thousands of acres of nature reserves, farmlands, and homes. This dual threat of rising sea levels and widespread forest fires underscores the urgency of addressing climate change. Clearly, even a 1.5°C  increase is proving to be too high.”

Participants called on developed countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, end all new coal, oil, and gas exploration, and accelerate the renewable energy transition. They added that developing countries need faster mobilisation of climate finance to accelerate transitions and support communities that are already reaching the hard limits to adaptation.

Dr James Kirkham, Chief Science Advisor and Coordinator of the high-level group of polar, mountain, and low-lying states, Ambition on Melting Ice (AMI), said: “Current global warming has made three meters’ sea-level rise from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet inevitable, but if we stick close to 1.5°C, we can slow that rise to take place over many centuries.  On our current emissions path, it may be reached in less than one century, wiping out the capital of Dhaka. Even coastlines in advanced economies will not remain untouched. And economies, industries, and populations [worldwide] will be plagued by the damage from irreversible sea level rise unless G20 countries cut emissions with an urgency we’ve never seen before.”

Dr Fabien Maussion, Associate Professor in Polar Environmental Change, University of Bristol, said: “Nearly all glaciers in the Alps, Scandinavia, and other mid-latitude regions will disappear if we reach 2°C. Many will disappear in just the coming few decades, because of the current heat in the system. But if we can stick very close to 1.5°C, at least a few will preserve a small amount of their ice, which is vital to some river basins in summer.”

“The Secretary General stated that, ‘the battle for 1.5°C will be won or lost in the 2020s’”, concluded Pam Pearson, Director of the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative (ICCI).  “And we still can win this battle.  With the climate conference hosted this year in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku — a city with 25% or more of its water resources coming from glaciers and snow — this is the time to stop ignoring reality, use the many solutions available, and transition rapidly off fossil fuels — but we need to act today, not tomorrow.”

Delegates at the Bonn Climate Change Conference this week also took part in the first ‘Expert Dialogue’ on the impact of climate change on mountains, signalling the growing recognition that mountains are the canary in the coal mine when it comes to climate change.


Notes:

A recording of the press conference can be accessed on this YouTube link.

All speakers are available for interview, in Bonn or virtually.

Media contacts:

Annie Dare, ICIMOD: Annie.Dare@icimod.org

James Whiteman, Blakeney: icimod@theblakeneygroup.com

Irene Quaile, ICCI: @iccinet.org,

Amy Imdieke, ICCI: amy@iccinet.org

More information:

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