UN chief opens cli­mate meet, calls for hope over sur­ren­der

‘We’re still in it,’ US House leader tells sum­mit

Kuwait Times - - Front Page -

MADRID: Con­fronted with a cli­mate cri­sis threat­en­ing civ­i­liza­tion it­self, hu­man­ity must choose be­tween hope and sur­ren­der, UN chief An­to­nio Guter­res told the open­ing ple­nary of a UN cli­mate con­fer­ence yes­ter­day. “One is the path of sur­ren­der, where we have sleep­walked past the point of no re­turn, jeop­ar­diz­ing the health and safety of ev­ery­one on this planet,” Guter­res said. “Do we re­ally want to be re­mem­bered as the gen­er­a­tion that buried its head in the sand, that fid­dled while the planet burned?”

In a sep­a­rate fo­rum mo­ments ear­lier, US Con­gres­sional leader Nancy Pelosi told the “COP25” con­fer­ence that the world could still count on the United States de­spite Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s de­ci­sion to pull out of the Paris Agree­ment. States and cities home to two-thirds of the US pop­u­la­tion are com­mit­ted to the tar­gets set by the 2015 agree­ment, as are all the Demo­cratic can­di­dates for pres­i­dent, ac­cord­ing the US re­search groups.

“We’re here to say to all of you, on be­half of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and the Congress of the United States, we’re still in it, we’re still in it,” Pelosi said to ap­plause at a fo­rum of heads of state from cli­mate-vul­ner­a­ble na­tions.

Lead­ing the 15-strong Con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion, Pelosi came to Madrid even as her col­leagues in the House con­sider ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment against Trump.

“We see this as an ex­is­ten­tial threat,” she said. “We have not lived up to the chal­lenge. We have a moral re­spon­si­bil­ity to fu­ture gen­er­a­tions to pass on this planet in a bet­ter way,” Pelosi said. “We see cli­mate change as a public health is­sue,” she said, stand­ing along­side heads of state from Costa Rica and Bangladesh. “We see it as an eco­nomic is­sue be­cause this is the way to new green tech­nolo­gies,” she con­tin­ued. “And we see it as a na­tional se­cu­rity is­sue.”

Trump has dis­missed global warm­ing as a hoax, and dis­man­tled many of the cli­mate and environmen­tal pro­tec­tion poli­cies set in place by his pre­de­ces­sor Barack Obama. Last month Trump gave for­mal no­tice of the US with­drawal from the 196-na­tion Paris cli­mate treaty, which calls for cap­ping global warm­ing at well be­low two de­grees Cel­sius, and 1.5C if pos­si­ble.

In his im­pas­sioned ap­peal, Guter­res cited new find­ings from the World Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WMO) con­firm­ing that the last five years have been the hottest ever recorded. Con­cen­tra­tion of plan­et­warm­ing CO2 in the at­mos­phere has also reached levels not seen in three to five mil­lion years, the WMO will re­port this week. “The last time there was a com­pa­ra­ble con­cen­tra­tion,” Guter­res said, “the tem­per­a­ture was two to three de­grees Cel­sius warmer, and sea levels were 10 to 20 me­tres higher than to­day.”

A ma­jor UN sci­ence re­port last year re­set the Paris ac­cord’s thresh­old for a cli­mate-safe world from 2C to 1.5C, con­clud­ing that the global econ­omy must be “car­bon neu­tral” by 2050 to stay un­der that thresh­old.

“What is still lack­ing is po­lit­i­cal will - to put a price on car­bon, to stop sub­si­dies on fos­sil fu­els, to stop build­ing coal power plants,” Guter­res said. “The best avail­able sci­ence, through the In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change (IPCC), tells us to­day that go­ing be­yond that (1.5C) would lead us to cat­a­strophic dis­as­ter.”

Pres­i­dent Hilda Heine of the Marshall Is­lands warned that breach­ing the 1.5C bar­rier would spell the end of her wa­ter-bound home­land. “The most vul­ner­a­ble atoll na­tions like my coun­try al­ready face death row” due to ris­ing seas and dev­as­tat­ing storm surges,” she said via a re­mote video link-up. Gov­ern­ments that fail to come for­ward with strong car­bon-cut­ting com­mit­ments over the next year are ef­fec­tively “pass­ing sen­tence on our fu­ture, forc­ing our coun­try to die.”

The talks in Madrid are fo­cused on fi­nal­iz­ing rules for global car­bon mar­kets, and set­ting up a fund to help coun­tries al­ready reel­ing from cli­ma­teen­hanced heat­waves, droughts, floods and storms made worse by ris­ing seas. Front­line ne­go­tia­tors de­scribe COP25 as “tech­ni­cal talks” set­ting the stage for next year’s meet­ing in Glas­gow, where coun­tries must con­front the yawn­ing gap be­tween the Paris tar­gets and cur­rent emissions.

But events out­side the con­fer­ence hall in Madrid may change the agenda. “A key ques­tion will be to what ex­tent the grow­ing so­cial move­ments through­out the world will be fac­tored into de­ci­sions of the COP25,” said Lau­rence Tu­biana, CEO of the Euro­pean Cli­mate Foun­da­tion and, as a for­mer ne­go­tia­tor for France, a main ar­chi­tect of the Paris Agree­ment.

A cli­mate ac­tion group steeped in civil dis­obe­di­ence, mean­while, laid plans to descend on the Span­ish cap­i­tal. “Ex­tinc­tion Re­bel­lion calls on Rebels With­out Bor­ders to come to Madrid,” the group said in a tweet, us­ing the hash­tag #Ul­ti­ma­tum­COP25. “Ex­tinc­tion Re­bel­lion re­minds lead­ers they can­not flee the cli­mate and eco­log­i­cal emer­gency,” the group said sep­a­rately in a press re­lease. “Civil dis­obe­di­ence and direct non­vi­o­lent ac­tions co­or­di­nated by global rebels will fill Madrid’s streets and squares.” — Agen­cies

— AFP

MADRID: UN Sec­re­tary Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res gives a speech at the UN Cli­mate Change Con­fer­ence COP25 yes­ter­day.

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