Two people hold banner saying "no false solutions" and "Friends of the Earth International" at the UN climate conference COP26

Amsterdam, 20 March 2023. UN climate science body highlights the peril of accelerating climate impacts, warns of the need for rapid emissions cuts and transformational system change, but puts dangerous negative emissions technologies on the table.

Sara Shaw, Programme Coordinator at Friends of the Earth International, commented:

“It’s very alarming to see carbon dioxide removal featuring in the IPCC report. We can’t rely on risky, untested and downright dangerous removals technologies just because big polluters want us to stick to the status quo. A fair and fast phaseout of oil, gas and coal needs to happen in this decade, and it can, with the right political will.

“This report is the most dire and troubling assessment yet of the spiralling climate impacts we all face if systemic changes are not made now. We must heed the IPCC’s urgent messages, without falling into the trap of assuming that carbon dioxide removal will save the day.”

Today’s IPCC AR6 Synthesis Report confirms that human activity has caused a level of warming that is unprecedented in the last 2000 years. The impacts of climate change are most keenly felt in vulnerable regions, where a storm, drought or flood is 15 times more likely to kill people.

Scientists warn of the need for rapid emissions reductions at source, and a halt to new exploitation of oil, gas and coal. Emissions from existing fossil fuel infrastructure alone would exceed the safe carbon budget and 1.5 degrees threshold.

Friends of the Earth International is concerned that, despite the dire and profound warnings from scientists, many of the IPCC synthesis report’s predictions for the future assume that the world will overshoot 1.5 degrees of warming, but can rely on negative emissions technologies to reverse it later on.

Hemantha Withanage, Chair of Friends of the Earth International, added:

“In my country, Sri Lanka, the impacts of climate change are being felt now. We have no time to chase fairy tales like carbon removal technologies to suck carbon out of the air. The IPCC evidence is clear: climate change is killing people, nature and planet. The answers are obvious: a fair and fast phaseout of fossil fuels, and finance for a just transition. The fantasy of overshooting safe limits and betting on risky technofixes is certainly not a cure for the problem.

Carbon removal is founded on the idea that carbon dioxide which has already been emitted can be removed from the atmosphere using nature-based methods like tree planting, or engineered methods like Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) or Direct Air Capture (often combined with CCS as DACCS). Friends of the Earth International’s research has shown the myriad problems with nature based removals: such projects spell landgrabbing and rights violations, mainly of vulnerable communities in the Global South, and are set to worsen the climate crisis, not solve it.

Overshoot is the idea that we can breach the 1.5 degrees warming guardrail set in the Paris Agreement, and then use carbon removal to stabilise temperature rise and reduce back down to 1.5 degrees over time. The IPCC synthesis report itself warns that “Overshoot entails adverse impacts, some irreversible, and additional risks for human and natural systems, all growing with the magnitude and duration of overshoot.”


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