UN chief pushes cli­mate fight

Mov­ing to­ward car­bon-neu­tral economies the goal of global sum­mit

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Aritz Parra and Frank Jordans

An­to­nio Guter­res urged rep­re­sen­ta­tives from nearly 200 coun­tries not to give up against cli­mate change.

MADRID — U.N. Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res urged coun­tries Mon­day not to lose hope in the fight against cli­mate change, as rep­re­sen­ta­tives from nearly 200 coun­tries gath­ered in Madrid for a two-week meet­ing on tack­ling global warm­ing.

In his open­ing speech to del­e­gates, Guter­res cited re­cent sci­en­tific data show­ing that levels of heat-trap­ping gases have hit a record high, reach­ing levels not seen for at least 3 mil­lion years when sea levels were 33-66 feet higher than to­day.

Un­less emissions of car­bon diox­ide and other green­house gases are sharply cut, tem­per­a­tures could rise to twice the thresh­old set in the 2015 Paris ac­cord by the end of the cen­tury, he warned.

“Do we re­ally want to be re­mem­bered as the gen­er­a­tion that buried its head in the sand, that fid­dled while the planet burned?” Guter­res asked.

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

“Those who don’t want to see it will be on the wrong side of his­tory,” said Sch­midt, who is chair­ing the meet­ing.

She called on gov­ern­ments to make more am­bi­tious pledges to re­duce emissions of green­house gases ahead of a dead­line to do so next year.

The sum­mit, which moved to the Span­ish cap­i­tal af­ter Chile had to pull out amid anti-govern­ment protests, 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,” Sch­midt said.

Coun­tries agreed in Paris four years ago to limit global warm­ing to well be­low 3.6 Fahren­heit, ide­ally 2.7F by the end of the cen­tury com­pared with pre-in­dus­trial times.

Al­ready, av­er­age tem­per­a­tures have in­creased by about 1.8 F, leav­ing little room for the more am­bi­tious tar­get to be met.

Guter­res called out big green­house gas emit­ters still build­ing coal-fired power plants, say­ing that un­less the world stops burn­ing coal, “all our ef­forts to tackle cli­mate change will be doomed.”

He noted that had coun­tries started cut­ting their emissions dras­ti­cally a decade ago, reach­ing the Paris goal would have been much eas­ier.

“Ten years ago, if coun­tries had acted on the sci­ence, they would have needed to re­duce emissions by 3.3% each year,” he said.

“To­day, we need to re­duce emissions by 7.6% each year.”

“The im­pact on all life on the planet — in­clud­ing ours — would be cat­a­strophic,” he added. “The only so­lu­tion is rapid, am­bi­tious, trans­for­ma­tive ac­tion by all — gov­ern­ments, re­gions, cities, busi­nesses and civil so­ci­ety, all work­ing to­ward a com­mon goal.”

Or­ga­niz­ers ex­pect about 29,000 vis­i­tors at the meet­ing, in­clud­ing 50 heads of state and govern­ment for Mon­day’s open­ing ses­sion.

In con­trast to the Euro­pean Union, which sent its newly sworn-in ex­ec­u­tive lead­er­ship team to the sum­mit, the rest of the world’s largest car­bon emit­ters — the United States, China and In­dia — have sent lower-level min­is­ters and of­fi­cials.

The U.S. sent a del­e­ga­tion, led by Am­bas­sador Mar­cia Ber­ni­cat, a se­nior State Depart­ment of­fi­cial, even though Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has for­mally be­gun the process of pulling the coun­try out of the Paris ac­cord.

How­ever, that won’t be tech­ni­cally com­pleted un­til Nov. 4, 2020.

But Demo­cratic mem­bers of Congress led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the na­tion re­mains com­mit­ted to the 2015 agree­ment’s goals and that cli­mate change poses a threat to public health, the econ­omy and na­tional se­cu­rity. “We’re still in it,” Pelosi said.

Asked about com­ments by Spain’s in­terim prime min­is­ter, Pe­dro Sanchez, that “only a hand­ful of fa­nat­ics deny the ev­i­dence” of man-made global warm­ing, Pelosi re­sponded that she had “three words that de­scribe how we ad­dress this: sci­ence, sci­ence and sci­ence. And maybe four: sci­ence, again.”

“If we can stick with the sci­ence, I think we can come up with some sane solutions to it all,” she said.

MANU FER­NAN­DEZ/AP

From left, Spain’s in­terim Prime Min­is­ter Pe­dro Sanchez, sum­mit chair Carolina Sch­midt and UN Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res take part at the cli­mate sum­mit.

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