Dr Hoesung Lee, Chair of IPCC, calls for urgent action in exclusive Climate TV interview

Ilario D'Amato
5 December 2015

Dr Housing Lee, Chairman, IPCC

PARIS: Science and economics are very clear: “we must act now” on climate change, and in doing so “we can build a better world”, says Dr Hoesung Lee, recently elected Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in a rare and exclusive interview on The Climate Group’s digital channel Climate TV.

The IPCC is the scientific intergovernmental body that reviews the international evidence of climate change effects, setting the bar on what governments should do to solve the issue.

“Our mandate is to provide a scientifically robust and comprehensive assessment of climate change, its impact and response measures,” says Dr Hoesung Lee, “so that policymakers can make informed decisions.”

Such decisions are even more important now that the climate negotiations in Paris are reaching a tipping point, after an intense week which culminated in the negotiators producing a draft text ready to be discussed by heads of state next week.

Since 2007, the IPCC has made very clear in its Fourth Assessment Report that an increase of more than 2 degrees Celsius in global warming based on the pre-industrial levels, “poses significant risks to many unique and threatened systems including many biodiversity hotspots.”

The 2 degree threshold is even seen by some scientists as too optimistic, since it will likely cause the disappearance of many small islands that even today are already threatened by sea-level rise caused by climate change.


But there is reason to be optimistic, underlines Dr Hoesung Lee, since this time governments all over the world submitted their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or INDCs, months before Conference of the Parties (COP21) began.

This raised ambition for many countries. For example the US and China submitted strong national climate plans that will slow global temperature rise and unleash the opportunities of a low carbon economy. However, the collective targets set out in the INDCs will not be enough to keep global warming below the 2 degree increase, a recent UN report indicated.

“I am confident that these INDCs are not the final word in what countries are ready to do and achieve over time,” remarked Christiana FigueresExecutive SecretaryUNFCCC, presenting the report. “The journey to a climate safe-future is underway and the Paris agreement to be inked in Paris can confirm, and catalyze that transition.”

The IPCC chief Dr Hoesung Lee shares the same optimism about the potential of the COP21: “The Paris COP21 is a very important, historical event, just by the fact that 185 countries have submitted willingness to take action. I think it’s a very historical first step toward 2 degree stabilization.”


With negotiations still ongoing, there is much debate about the possibility of finding a fair, ambitious climate deal here in Paris. “If the agreement and decisions are ground in the science that the IPCC has been telling to the world through,” says Dr Hoesung Lee, “it will be a very successful conference.

“It is possible if we act now. It is possible if we are able to have an incentive structure that encourages the investment in climate resilient technologies and infrastructures.”

Alongside national governments, many forward-thinking companies are also investing in such measures, very much in accordance with the science behind IPCC’s analysis and suggestions.


Almost 50 leading global businesses – such as Google, Microsoft, Ikea, Unilever and Nestlé – have joined The Climate Group’s initiative RE100 in partnership with CDP, aimed at supporting influential companies around the world as they switch to 100% renewable energy.

At the same time, sub-national governments are taking bold steps to protect their citizens – often going well beyond their national counterparts. Many have joined The Climate Group’s States & Regions Alliance, which showcases the opportunities for local governments in tackling climate change.

“All actors must be on board to resolve the climate change problem: governments, business sectors, civil societies,” remarks Dr Hoesung Lee in the Climate TV video.

“Business has a very important role to play here, because they are the ones who make decisions about the investment now and for the future. There is a growing awareness on the part of business to take action right now.”

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