At the opening of the Climate Ambition summit that was held online to mark five years since the Paris climate deal, UN chief Antonio Guterres called on governments to declare a “state of climate emergency” and make good on their promises to slash carbon pollution as they recover from the pandemic.
“If we don’t change course, we may be headed for a catastrophic temperature rise of more than 3.0 degrees this century,” he stressed as he called on all leaders worldwide to act with more urgency.
More than 75 heads of state are expected to announce renewed emissions cutting targets or signal great intent to help the most vulnerable nations deal with increasingly frequent climate disasters.
The Paris deal enjoined nations to limit warming to “well below” 2C via sweeping cuts to greenhouse gas emissions but progress has stalled.
The UN wanted emissions to fall 7.6 percent annually through 2030 to keep the 1.5C temperature cap viable. In 2020, as the pandemic brought lockdowns and restrictions on movement, emissions fell a record 7 percent. Yet, Guterres rued that governments were missing the chance to green their economic recoveries.
G20 nations, responsible for the lion’s share of carbon pollution, were spending 50 percent more on sectors linked to fossil fuel than on low-carbon energy in their rescue packages.
Guterres urged countries that had already announced net-zero targets to make good on their promises and to accelerate emissions cuts in line with the science.
The pandemic has given the world the golden opportunity to restart with new priorities, especially where the long term but potentially devastating concern of climate change is concerned.
World leaders should be keeping the future in mind as they deal with the pandemic and plan the path to an eventual recovery that is greener and kinder on our planet, for the benefit of future generations that may be inoculated against Covid-19 but will still have to deal with the repercussions of a changing climate.*