UN: Cli­mate ‘point of no re­turn’ nears

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - FRONT PAGE - —STORY BY AP AND REUTERS

UN Sec­re­tary Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res says on the eve of a two-week in­ter­na­tional cli­mate con­fer­ence in Madrid that ef­forts to stop cli­mate change have been “ut­terly in­ad­e­quate” so far. Grow­ing de­mands from cit­i­zens, par­tic­u­larly young peo­ple, have shown that there is wide­spread de­sire for cli­mate ac­tion, but what is lack­ing is “po­lit­i­cal will,” says the UN chief.

MADRID—THE world’s ef­forts to stop cli­mate change have been “ut­terly in­ad­e­quate” so far and there is a dan­ger global warm­ing could pass the “point of no re­turn,” UN Sec­re­tary Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res said on Sun­day.

Speak­ing be­fore the start on Mon­day of a two-week in­ter­na­tional cli­mate con­fer­ence in Madrid, the UN chief said the im­pact of ris­ing tem­per­a­tures—in­clud­ing more ex­treme weather—was al­ready be­ing felt around the world, with dra­matic con­se­quences for hu­mans and other species.

Over the last decade, more than 20 mil­lion peo­ple have been driven from their homes by fiercer weather and wors­en­ing wild­fires—a prob­lem set to worsen un­less lead­ers act swiftly to head off surg­ing cli­mate threats, an­tipoverty char­ity Ox­fam

said on Mon­day.

Much of the dis­place­ment caused by cy­clones, floods and fires ap­peared tem­po­rary and, in some cases, due to bet­ter ef­forts to evac­u­ate peo­ple ahead of dan­ger, Ox­fam re­searchers said.

But its “sheer scale” was a sur­prise, said Tim Gore, Ox­fam’s cli­mate pol­icy leader, with is­land na­tions like Cuba, Do­minica and Tu­valu see­ing on av­er­age close to 5 per­cent of their peo­ple out of their homes in any given year.

Po­lit­i­cal will lack­ing

“This is the warm­ing world we have long been warn­ing about. Now we’re see­ing it play out be­fore our eyes,” Gore said.

Guter­res noted that the world had the sci­en­tific knowl­edge and the tech­ni­cal means to limit global warm­ing, but “what is lack­ing is po­lit­i­cal will.”

“The point of no re­turn is no longer over the hori­zon,” he told re­porters in the Span­ish cap­i­tal. “It is in sight and hurtling to­ward us.”

Stop war on na­ture

Del­e­gates from al­most 200 coun­tries will try to put the fin­ish­ing touches on the rules gov­ern­ing the 2015 Paris cli­mate ac­cord at the Dec. 2-13 meet­ing. These in­cluded how to cre­ate func­tion­ing in­ter­na­tional emis­sions trad­ing sys­tems and com­pen­sate poor coun­tries for losses they suf­fer from ris­ing sea lev­els and other con­se­quences of cli­mate change.

Guter­res cited mount­ing sci­en­tific ev­i­dence for the im­pact that man-made emis­sions of green­house gases were al­ready hav­ing on the planet, in­clud­ing record tem­per­a­tures and melt­ing po­lar ice.

But he in­sisted that his mes­sage was “one of hope, not of de­spair. Our war against na­ture must stop and we know that that is pos­si­ble.”

Coun­tries agreed in Paris four years ago to limit global warm­ing to well be­low 2 de­grees Cel­sius, ideally 1.5 C by the end of the cen­tury com­pared with prein­dus­trial times.

Al­ready, av­er­age tem­per­a­tures have in­creased by about 1 C, leav­ing lit­tle room for the more am­bi­tious tar­get to be met.

Grow­ing de­mands from cit­i­zens, par­tic­u­larly young peo­ple, have shown that there is wide­spread de­sire for cli­mate ac­tion, ac­cord­ing to Guter­res. “What is still lack­ing is po­lit­i­cal will,” he said.

He noted that some 70 coun­tries—many of them among the most vul­ner­a­ble to cli­mate change—had pledged to stop emit­ting more green­house gases by 2050.

“But we also see clearly that the world’s largest emit­ters are not pulling their weight. And without them, our goal is un­reach­able,” he said.

The UN chief said he hoped the meet­ing in Madrid would see gov­ern­ments make more am­bi­tious pledges ahead of a dead­line to do so next year.

Mar­ket for emis­sions

He also said that cre­at­ing a world­wide mar­ket for emis­sions, which is a key ele­ment of the sixth ar­ti­cle of the Paris ac­cord, re­mained one of the most con­tentious is­sues for ne­go­tia­tors.

The Ox­fam study, re­leased as the UN cli­mate ne­go­ti­a­tions start in Madrid, ex­am­ined the num­bers of peo­ple dis­placed in­side their home coun­tries by cli­mate-fu­eled dis­as­ters be­tween 2008 and 2018, based on gov­ern­ment and in­ter­na­tional agency data, as well as me­dia re­ports.

Seven of the top 10 coun­tries with the high­est dis­place­ment by pro­por­tion of their pop­u­la­tion were devel­op­ing is­land states, largely in the Pa­cific and the Caribbean, the report found.

But around 80 per­cent of all peo­ple forced from their homes by weather dis­as­ters over the last decade were in Asia, where large pop­u­la­tions in coun­tries from the Philip­pines to Sri Lanka live in ar­eas threat­ened by cy­clones or flood­ing, it said.

Over­all, the num­ber of weather dis­as­ters con­sid­ered ex­treme grew five­fold over the last decade, re­searchers said.

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