UN: Climate ‘point of no return’ nears
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.