UN chief warns of ‘point of no re­turn’ on cli­mate change

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Aritz Parra and Frank Jordans

MADRID — U.N. Se­cret ary- Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res said Sun­day that 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.”

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

He noted that the world has 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,” Guter­res told re­porters. “It is in sight and hurtling to­ward us.”

Del­e­gates from al­most 200 coun­tries will try to put the fin­ish­ing touches on the rules gov­ern­ing the 2015 Paris cli­mate ac­cord at this meet­ing, in­clud­ing 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 are al­ready hav­ing on the planet, i nclud­ing 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 3.6 de­grees Fahren­heit, ideally 2.7 de­grees Fahren­heit, by the end of the cen­tury com­pared with prein­dus­trial times.

Guter­res said grow­ing de­mands from cit­i­zens, par­tic­u­larly young peo­ple, have shown there is wide­spread de­sire for cli­mate ac­tion.

“What is still lack­ing is po­lit­i­cal will,” he said. “Po­lit­i­cal will to put a price on car­bon. Po­lit­i­cal will to stop sub­si­dies on fos­sil fu­els. Po­lit­i­cal will to stop build­ing coal power plants from 2020 on­wards. Po­lit­i­cal will to shift tax­a­tion from in­come to car­bon. Tax­ing pol­lu­tion in­stead of peo­ple.”

Guter­res noted that some 70 coun­tries — many among the most vul­ner­a­ble to cli­mate change — have 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 U.N. chief said he hoped the meet­ing in Madrid would see gov­ern­ments make more am­bi­tious pledges ahead of a dead­line to do so next year.

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.

“We are here to find answers for Ar­ti­cle 6, not to find ex­cuses,” Guter­res said.

Some of the world’s largest car­bon emit­ters — the United States, China and In­dia — will be rep­re­sented by min­is­ters or lower-level of­fi­cials.

The U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tion of Pres­i­dent Donald Trump, which has an­nounced the in­ten­tion to with­draw from the Paris agree­ment, is rep­re­sented by Mar­cia Ber­ni­cat, prin­ci­pal deputy as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of State for Oceans and In­ter­na­tional En­vi­ron­men­tal and Sci­en­tific Af­fairs. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is lead­ing a del­e­ga­tion of Demo­cratic law­mak­ers to the talks.

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