International

UN chief demands bigger climate action

UN chief demands bigger climate action
Antonio Guterres (File)
Madrid, Dec 11 (IANS) | Publish Date: 12/11/2019 1:02:06 PM IST

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday in a stern warning called on the nations advocating for fossil fuels and creating roadblocks in carbon neutral transition asking them to end those activities soon.

“I also call on anyone who is still lobbying their governments for a slow transition or even no transition - to end those activities now. The world is watching,” he emphasised in his address in the final week of the United Nations climate talks, COP25, which is being hosted in Madrid.

Shifting taxes from income to carbon, ending subsidies for fossil fuels, and ending investments in and construction of coal plants by 2020 are all efforts that will benefit from bold and genuine business buy-in and support, he said.

In 2020, many governments will present enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). We expect to see carbon neutrality strategies for 2050, and the decarbonisation of key sectors, such as energy, industry, construction and transport, added the UN Secretary General.

“In support of these efforts, I am calling on you, leaders from the private sector, to challenge your governments to use this opportunity to make clear their economic development policies that will enable your companies to invest decisively in a net-zero future,” Guterres said.

“We are still seeing too many bureaucratic and regulatory obstacles, including perverse fossil fuel subsidies and many other expressions of government action slowing down the private sector commitment to climate action.

“Only through positive ambition can private and public partners successfully drive ambitious climate action, particularly in hard-to-abate sectors,” the UN chief said.

To limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, there is a need to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. “While we see some incremental steps towards sustainable business models, it is nowhere near the scope or scale required. What we need is not an incremental approach, but a transformational one. We need businesses to unite behind the science by taking rapid and ambitious action across their operations and value chains,” Guterres said.

I am encouraged that more than 170 major companies have already committed to set scientific, verifiable emission reduction targets aligned with a 1.5-degree future through the aBusiness Ambition for 1.5 degrees’ campaign, he added.

By stepping up and setting science-based targets, these companies are pioneering new ways of doing business and driving systemic change throughout the global economy,” he said.

They are also sending a clear signal to consumers, investors and governments that they intend to lead as the global economy undergoes a just transition to a net-zero future by 2050.

At the same time, the financial community is increasingly demonstrating commitment to the opportunities of a green economy.

Investors managing close to $4 trillion dollars in assets have committed to converting their investment portfolios to net-zero emissions by 2050 through the UN-convened Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance, and the markets are shifting more and more each day, Guterres said. But business and financial actors can’t do this alone, he stressed.

“As we saw at the Climate Action Summit in September, the determination demonstrated by business and financial leaders offers a potential path of hope. As businesses back away from fossil fuels it helps send market signals to massively scale up innovative solutions. 

While we thank those leaders, we urgently need more to join and shift the pace to higher gears,” Guterres said.

The magnitude of the climate crisis is jeopardizing our future and life on the planet as we know it. Climate change is already disrupting people, business operations, economies and ecosystems around the world.

More than ever we need governments, regions, cities, businesses and civil society to work together towards a common goal of a more just, sustainable and prosperous world,” he said, adding he has come back to COP25 to appeal for a successful conclusion of the conference and increased climate action and ambition, he noted.

Thunberg accuses world leaders of ‘creative PR’

Teenage activist Greta Thunberg has called upon world leaders to stop using “clever accounting and creative PR” to avoid real action on climate change.

Speaking at a UN climate change summit, Thunberg said the next decade would define the planet’s future, the BBC reported on Wednesday.

She accused world leaders of making constant attempts to find loopholes to avoid making substantial changes. The teenage activist’s appearance came after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro called her a “brat”.

“The real danger is when politicians and CEOs are making it look like real action is happening when, in fact, almost nothing is being done apart from clever accounting and creative PR,” the 16-year-old Swede told the COP25 Climate Conference in Madrid, drawing applause.

Summits on climate change seemed “to have turned into some kind of opportunity for countries to negotiate loopholes and to avoid raising their ambition”, she added. The clock was ticking as the decade comes to a close, she said. “In just three weeks we will enter a new decade, a decade that will define our future. Right now, we are desperate for any sign of hope,” she said.

This was meant to be a big moment in the talks, the elixir of the “Greta effect” bringing new energy to a flagging process.

The teenager is almost certainly the most famous person here, attracting far more attention than other celebrities like Al Gore, and the UN badly needs a boost.

Her talk came over as measured, grounded in the latest research, and avoided the flash of hurt and anger she displayed in New York in September.

Looking around the hall, it was striking how many of the national delegations had not turned up for this morning session at the conference.

A snub by the big fossil fuel economies? Or maybe they were too busy in the negotiations themselves?

In any event, the passion among the millions of young people who’ve taken to the streets to demand action on climate change feels very remote from the diplomatic struggles in these halls.

Thunberg’s speech comes after the far-right Brazilian leader lashed out at her after she expressed concern about the killing of indigenous Brazilians in the Amazon.

“Greta said that the Indians died because they were defending the Amazon,” Bolsonaro told reporters.

“It’s impressive that the press is giving space to a brat like that,” he added, using the Portuguese word for brat “pirralha”.

The activist responded by changing her Twitter bio to Pirralha.


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