The IPCC publishes its synthesis report – but what does it mean for development?


“Climate change impacts are projected to slow down economic growth, make poverty reduction more difficult, further erode food security, and prolong existing and create new poverty traps, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hotspots of hunger.”

That was the grim message today from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – considered the world’s leading authority on the subject – as it published its synthesis report, pulling together the findings of the three reports it’s published since September 2013.

Join CAFOD in taking action on climate change

The IPCC’s package of reports has been unanimously endorsed by the world’s governments. This gives a sense of its importance. So too does its timing – landing a month before the next round of UN climate talks kick off in Lima in December. These are the last global talks before next year’s Paris climate summit, at which world leaders will be pressed to agree a new international deal on tackling climate change.

In today’s report, the IPCC said starkly that the extent of human influence on the climate is clear. The period between 1983 and 2012 was the warmest 30 year period of the last 1,400 years. And the effects of that warming are being seen around the globe, from the acidification of the ocean to the melting of arctic ice and poorer crop yields in many countries. CAFOD’s own research finds that it’s the world’s most vulnerable who are suffering, with 400m of the poorest people most at risk from the impacts of climate change. The IPCC made clear today the urgency of limiting the effects of climate change if we’re to achieve sustainable development and eradicate poverty.

But the report also offers a glimmer of hope that it’s not too late to avoid the worst effects of climate change. This will require a huge shift away from polluting fossil fuels to investment in sustainable energy solutions – the IPCC makes the point we need a 100% fossil-free energy system. By 2050, most of the world’s electricity must – and can – be produced from low carbon sources. Sustainable energy offers a solution to CAFOD’s partners, many of whom are currently cut off from reliable, sustainable energy access. And the IPCC points out this shift would be economically affordable – limiting warning to below two degrees through the 21st century would shave about 0.04 to 0.14 per cent off annual growth.

To make these changes however – and to protect those most at risk – will require political will on a level never previously seen. So CAFOD’s asking political leaders to work together to prevent climate change pushing people deeper into poverty, and to support the transition from polluting fossil fuels to sustainable energy access for all. While the political process rumbles on, lending your voice to CAFOD’s climate campaign is a way for individual voices to help protect those most at risk.

 CAFOD’s Pope Paul VI lecture this year takes places on Friday 7th November in London. Delivered by Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo of the Vatican, it will consider themes such as climate change, poverty, social inclusion and sustainable development, reflecting on the Catholic response to these most pressing issues of our time. To book your free tickets, please visit

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