UN chief: Choose hope or cli­mate sur­ren­der

GLOBAL ECON­OMY MUST BE ‘CAR­BON NEU­TRAL’ BY 2050

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Con­fronted with a cli­mate cri­sis threat­en­ing civil­i­sa­tion 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, jeop­ar­dis­ing 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 US de­spite Pres­i­dent Donald Trump’s de­ci­sion to pull out of the Paris Agree­ment.

“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. 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.

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.”

Con­fronted with a cli­mate cri­sis threat­en­ing civil­i­sa­tion it­self, hu­man­ity must choose be­tween hope and sur­ren­der, UN chief An­to­nio Guter­res told the open­ing ple­nary of the UN COP25 cli­mate con­fer­ence yes­ter­day.

“One is the path of sur­ren­der, where we have sleep­walked past the point of no re­turn, jeop­ar­dis­ing 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 an im­pas­sioned ap­peal, the UN chief worked through a long list of wor­ry­ing signs, in­clud­ing new fig­ures re­leased yes­ter­day by the World Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WMO).

WHAT DID THE WMO REPORT SAY?

The last five years have been the hottest ever recorded, the WMO said, and the con­cen­tra­tion of planet warm­ing CO2 in the at­mos­phere has reached lev­els not seen in three to five mil­lion years. “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.” The 2015 Paris Agree­ment calls for cap­ping global warm­ing at “well un­der” 2C, and 1.5C if pos­si­ble. A ma­jor UN sci­ence report re­set the thresh­old for a cli­mate-safe world from 2C to 1.5C.

WHAT ARE THE VIS­I­BLE SIGNS OF CLI­MATE CHANGE?

“Per­mafrost in the Arc­tic is thaw­ing 70 years ahead of pro­jec­tions,” Guter­res con­tin­ued. “Antarc­tica is melt­ing three times as fast as a decade ago. Ocean lev­els are ris­ing quicker than ex­pected.”

“More than two-thirds of the world’s megac­i­ties are lo­cated by the sea.”

More than 150 mil­lion peo­ple will find them­selves in coastal flood zones by 2050, ac­cord­ing to re­cent re­search. To pre­vent tem­per­a­tures from ris­ing more than 1.5 de­grees, the global econ­omy must be car­bon neu­tral by mid-cen­tury, a land­mark UN report said last year.

“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,” Guter­res said.

WHAT IS THE MEET­ING IN MADRID ALL ABOUT?

Po­lit­i­cal lead­ers and cli­mate diplo­mats are meet­ing in Madrid for two weeks of talks amid a grow­ing sense of cri­sis. Ac­cord­ing to Guter­res, “the point of no re­turn is no longer over the hori­zon. What is lack­ing is po­lit­i­cal will”.

This con­fer­ence of the par­ties, or COP25, was due to be held in Chile but was can­celled by the gov­ern­ment due to weeks of civil dis­tur­bances. Spain then stepped in to host the event, which will see 29,000 at­ten­dees over the two weeks of talks.

SO WHAT WILL THE LEAD­ERS TRY TO ACHIEVE IN MADRID?

The chair of the two-week cli­mate sum­mit at­tended by nearly 200 coun­tries warned at its open­ing that those re­fus­ing to ad­just to the planet’s ris­ing tem­per­a­tures “will be on the wrong side of his­tory”.

Chile’s en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter, Carolina Sch­midt, said that the December 2-13 meet­ing needs to lay the ground­work for mov­ing to­ward car­bon-neu­tral economies while be­ing sen­si­tive to the poor­est and those most vul­ner­a­ble to ris­ing tem­per­a­tures — some­thing that pol­i­cy­mak­ers have termed “just tran­si­tion”.

“Those who don’t want to see it will be on the wrong side of his­tory,” she said, call­ing on gov­ern­ments to make more am­bi­tious pledges to re­duce emis­sions of green­house gases ahead of a dead­line to do so next year.

Do we re­ally want to be re­mem­bered as the gen­er­a­tion that buried its head in the sand, that fid­dled while the planet burned?” An­to­nio Guter­res | United Na­tions Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral

WHAT WAS THE ORIG­I­NAL

AIM OF THE 2015 PARIS AC­CORD?

The sum­mit in Madrid aims to put the fin­ish­ing touches to the rules gov­ern­ing the 2015 Paris ac­cord. That in­volves cre­at­ing a func­tion­ing in­ter­na­tional emis­sions-trad­ing sys­tem and com­pen­sat­ing poor coun­tries for losses they suf­fer from ris­ing sea lev­els and other con­se­quences of cli­mate change.

“We have a com­mon chal­lenge but with dif­fer­en­ti­ated needs and ur­gen­cies, which we can only over­come if we work to­gether,” said Sch­midt as her coun­try took over the chair­ing of the meet­ing from Poland.

And what ex­actly did the coun­tries pledge to do? Coun­tries agreed in Paris four years ago to limit global warm­ing to well be­low 2 de­grees Cel­sius, ideally 1.5C by the end of the cen­tury com­pared with prein­dus­trial times.

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

SCAN ME Gulf News Edi­to­rial: We have run out of time on cli­mate change

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