Nations must declare climate emergency, says Guterres

Antonio Guterres
United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

New York: Nations should declare a state of climate emergency until the world has reached net zero carbon emissions, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told a summit of world leaders on Saturday.

“Can anybody still deny that we are facing a dramatic emergency?” he said at the virtual Climate Ambition Summit to mark the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement that aims to limit temperature rise to as close to 1.5 degrees.

“That is why today, I call on all leaders worldwide to declare a state of climate emergency in their countries until carbon neutrality is reached. Some 38 countries have already done so, recognizing the urgency and the stakes,” he said.

The United Nations, Britain and France co-convened the Climate Ambition Summit 2020, in partnership with Chile and Italy, exactly five years since the adoption of the Paris Agreement.

The summit is a major step on the road to the next UN Climate Conference, COP26, which will be hosted by the UK next November in Glasgow.

Guterres said the recovery from Covid-19 presents an opportunity to set the economies and societies on a green path in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“But that is not yet happening. So far, the members of the G20 are spending 50 per cent more in their stimulus and rescue packages on sectors linked to fossil fuel production and consumption, than on low-carbon energy. This is unacceptable,” he said.

“The trillions of dollars needed for Covid recovery is money that we are borrowing from future generations. This is a moral test. We cannot use these resources to lock in policies that burden future generations with a mountain of debt on a broken planet,” he said.

And so the central objective of the United Nations for 2021 is to build a truly Global Coalition for Carbon Neutrality by the middle of the century.

But that promise is not enough.

“To make it a reality, we need meaningful cuts now to reduce global emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 compared with 2010 levels. This must be fully reflected in the revised and strengthened Nationally Determined Contributions that the Paris signatories are obliged to submit well before COP26 next year in Glasgow,” the Secretary General said.

“I commend those leaders that will come forward today with new targets for 2025 and 2030. The United Kingdom has pledged to cut emissions by 68 per cent by 2030 compared to 1990. The European Union has agreed to cut their emissions by at least 55 per cent by 2030 compared to 1990. These decisions deserve to be emulated.”

Every country, city, financial institution and company needs to adopt plans to reach net zero emissions by 2050 — and start executing them now, including by providing clear short-term targets.

Key emitting sectors such as shipping, aviation and industry must also present and implement new, transformational roadmaps in line with this goal.

“Technology is on our side,” he said.

Renewable energy is getting less expensive with every passing day.

Climate action can be the catalyst for millions of new jobs, better health and resilient infrastructure.

“But let us remember that this transition must be just — and also recognizes that women’s leadership is good for climate action,” Guterres said.

“Five years after Paris, we are still not going in the right direction. Paris promised to limit temperature rise to as close to 1.5 degrees as possible. But the commitments made in Paris were far from enough to get there.”

And even those commitments are not being met.

“Carbon dioxide levels are at record highs. Today, we are 1.2 degrees hotter than before the industrial revolution.”

“If we don’t change course, we may be headed for a catastrophic temperature rise of more than 3 degrees this century,” the UN Secretary-General added.

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