UN chief: Choose hope or climate surrender
GLOBAL ECONOMY MUST BE ‘CARBON NEUTRAL’ BY 2050
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.
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