Accelerate now or the Paris agreement could be unreachable

5th of June

When it comes to climate change, there is no shortage on reports: starting with the IPCC’s well-known final report, then Kees Vendrik’s National Climate Platform, followed by the report of the Expert Team Energy System 2050 on the energy transition. What do these various reports mean for the KIN? And what can the KIN add? According to Detlef van Vuuren, a lot.

Detlef van Vuuren

Van Vuuren is one of the Dutch co-authors of the IPCC reports and a member of the KIN Programme Working Group. ‘These publications show that the KIN is urgently needed. There is no doubt about the seriousness of the climate problem. We have to act now. But the opportunities for turning the tide are getting narrower,’ Van Vuuren said. ‘Everyone is struggling with what needs to be implemented. A plan of how it should work in practice is missing from the scientific side. An overall pictures is missing, for example, on how to reach zero emissions. The current scenarios project a possible path: but they are not about real choices and how to implement measures. It is precisely that practical knowledge and how to apply it that is of added value. That requires an independent organisation that can work out what paths are available. And that is the purpose of the KIN.’

Every 0.1 degree warming has far-reaching consequences

Van Vuuren, who works at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL), co-wrote the IPCC’s ‘final report’, which was presented last March. The message is clear: ‘The current generation has to deal with a world that is either getting much too warm or a world that is getting somewhat warmer. The decisive moment for those two scenarios, at or over 1.5 degrees of warming, is now. Every increase that we avoid matters because the various scenarios in the IPCC report show that every 0.1 degree has far-reaching consequences.’ 

Show some courage and make choices

In slightly different terms, the reports mentioned above appeal to the governments with the same message: show some courage and make choices. Van Vuuren remains optimistic. Even though the current policies are still largely inadequate, there are hopeful developments. Technological developments continue, and he also sees more and more parties demanding action: ‘Municipalities, cities and provinces are knocking on PBL’s door asking what to do. They want to start. The KIN can play a role in bringing practical knowledge to them and working with them. That is not happening yet. How we go to zero is a political choice, but as scientists, we can outline the possibile routes and present the consequences and conditions of each route. The search for a balance has to continue. The task is so big that we need a broad coalition to carry it out. We need to pull as hard as we can while ensuring support, because the rope must not break either.’