Sir Patrick Vallance spoke out as he joined senior scientific advisers from around the world to issue a statement ahead of the COP26 climate talks, calling on leaders to take urgent action to limit warming to 1.5C — beyond which more severe impacts of global warming will be felt.
The statement, signed by nearly 40 chief scientists and equivalents, said it was still possible to curb temperature rises to 1.5C, but only with steep reductions in global emissions by 2030 and reducing them to zero overall by 2050.
Asked on Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s assertion that he isn’t telling anyone not to eat meat, Sir Patrick said that “little things” like cycling to work and reducing flying “all add up to make a difference” in tackling climate change.
He told Sky News: “Those little things all add up across millions of people to make a difference. They’re not the solution but they’re part of the solution.”
Asked about Mr Sunak’s decision to cut domestic air passenger travel duty, Sir Patrick said: “This is not a UK specific issue.” He added that behavioural changes will be “critically important as we go into this”, but said technology will also play a significant part.
The statement from scientific advisors said limiting warming “will require rapid, urgent and sustained action and significant behavioural, socioeconomic and technological transformations across the world”.
“This must begin with rapid scale-up and deployment of a wide range of existing and novel technological solutions.”
Governments should focus on piloting and scaling up existing green technologies over the next decade, accelerate development of next-generation solutions, and involve every part of society in the green transition, which must be affordable, accessible and fair, they said.
Sir Patrick told BBC Breakfast of his key message to world leaders ahead of the COP26 summit. “The key message is that 1.5C is both important and achievable, but it requires urgent action — evidence-based, science-based action,” he said.
“We need collaboration internationally across science to make sure that we get science innovation across the world globally accessible, and we need to build capacity for research and development in those countries which need it in order to get to the solution.”
Asked what a good result from COP26 would look like, he said there is a “need to commit to active plans” and a “lot needs to happen this decade”.
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