Photo: Secretary-General António Guterres addresses the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. 19 January 2017. Credit: World Economic Forum/Valeriano Di Domenico. - Photo: 2021

Avert the Worst Impacts of Climate Disruption

Viewpoint by António Guterres

Chancellor Angela Merkel and the German government convened this year’s Petersberg Climate Dialogue virtually on May 6 with Alok Sharma, the UK Chair-designate of 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), in Glasgow, from November 1 to November 12, 2021. UN Secretary-General António Guterres also spoke. Following are major excerpts from his remarks.

NEW YORK (IDN | UNDG*) — Six months ahead of COP26, and still deep in the COVID-19 crisis, I would like to share my assessment of where we stand.

Last year was yet another unprecedented period of extreme weather and climate disasters. Carbon dioxide concentrations again rose to a new high —148 per cent above pre-industrial levels.

This is the highest level for 3 million years—when the Earth’s temperature was as much as 3 degrees hotter and sea levels some 15 metres higher. Last year was already 1.2 degrees Celsius hotter than pre-industrial times —dangerously close to the 1.5-degree limit set by the scientific community.

Under current commitments, we are still heading for a disastrous temperature rise of 2.4 degrees by the end of the century.

We stand at the edge of the abyss.

But if we work together, we can avert the worst impacts of climate disruption, and use the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic to steer us on a cleaner, greener path.

To address climate change, it is clear to me that we need an equal balance between mitigation and adaptation, backed by finance and technological support.

This will allow both developed and developing countries to fully mobilize to reach global net zero emissions by mid-century and build resilience to changes to come.

On mitigation, I see encouraging signs from some major economies. Countries representing 68 per cent per cent of the global economy and 61 per cent per cent of emissions have committed to net zero emissions by 2050. But we need all countries—especially in the—to close the mitigation gap further by COP26.

The bottom line is that, by 2030, we must cut global emissions by 45 per cent compared to 2010 levels to get to net zero emissions by 2050. That is how we will keep hope of 1.5 degrees alive.

A top priority must be to end coal use by 2030 in OECD countries and by 2040 across the globe. And the move from polluting to renewable energy must be a just transition, involving local governments, unions and the private sector to support affected communities and generate green jobs.

We can no longer afford big fossil fuel infrastructure anywhere. Such investments simply deepen our predicament. And they are not even cost-effective. Fossil fuels are now more expensive than renewables.

So, we need the shareholders of multilateral development banks and development finance institutions to work with the management of these banks on funding a low-carbon, climate-resilient development that is aligned with the 1.5-degree goal.

I welcome countries that have pledged to end fossil fuel finance and subsidies. It is time to put a price on carbon and shift taxation from income to carbon.

I remain deeply worried about the lack of progress on adaptation.

Already people are dying, farms are failing, millions face displacement. There is a false dichotomy that says adaptation finance can only increase at the expense of mitigation finance. We need both.

With reduced fiscal space, high debts and mounting climate impacts, developing countries need mitigation and adaptation finance in equal measure.

Yet adaptation finance to developing countries is a mere 21 per cent of climate finance. This represents $16.8 billion dollars.

Actual annual adaptation costs in the developing world alone are estimated at $70 billion dollars, and these could rise to $300 billion by 2030.

I reiterate my call to donors and multilateral development banks to ensure that at least 50 per cent of climate finance is for adaption and resilience. 

And I ask them to make concrete proposals so small island developing States and the least developed countries can access climate finance more easily.

The success of COP26 rests on achieving a breakthrough on adaptation and finance.

This is a matter of urgency and trust.

Developed countries must honour their long-standing promise to provide $100 billion dollars annually for climate action in developing countries.

The upcoming G7 Summit is a pivotal moment.

I call on the leaders of the G7 to take the lead, with other developed countries following, to make substantial climate finance pledges for the coming five years. For some, this means at least doubling their latest climate commitments.

There are six months until COP26. We must make them count.

I encourage all ministers to start working on an ambitious and balanced political deal that supports developing countries.

And I ask all stakeholders to make sure that their plans and initiatives are ambitious, credible and verifiable.

There must be no doubt on the environmental integrity of our actions—from Article 6 negotiations to private sector net zero commitments.

We have a small and narrowing window of opportunity to do the right thing.

Our future is in your hands.

Let us use the pandemic recovery and COP26 to promote a safe and sustainable future for all nations and people. [IDN-InDepthNews – 06 May 2021]

* UNDG is the UN Department of Global Communications.

Image Credit: Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations.

IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

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