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U.N. Chief Warns The World About Not Doing Enough To Prevent Climate Disruptions

The Paris Agreement has been ratified by 184 parties, including India, and entered into force in November 2016.

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Climate change, U.S.
Waves from Hurricane Florence pound the Bogue Inlet Pier in Emerald Isle, N.C. VOA
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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday said the world was in deep trouble and not doing enough or moving fast enough to prevent irreversible and catastrophic climate disruption.

“Climate change is running faster than we are, and we must catch up sooner rather than later before it is too late,” he said in his remarks at the official opening of the two-week long UN climate negotiations, known as COP24, that saw governments and delegates from nearly 200 countries in this Polish city.

“We are in trouble. We are in deep trouble with the climate change. For many, people, regions, and even countries, this is already a matter of life and death.

“This meeting is the most important gathering on climate change since the Paris Agreement was signed (in 2015),” he said.

He was categorically clear in saying “Our job here in Katowice is to finalise the Paris Agreement Work Programme — the rule book for implementation. I remind all parties that this is a deadline you set for yourselves.”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres', climate
UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ press conference with the national and international press to present the results of his visit to Mali and to answer the many questions of journalists.

The rule book will govern national pledges to keep the rise in global temperature to under 1.5 degrees Celsius, and ensuring adequate finances to developing nations.

Climate experts told IANS that the priority outcome at the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) will be the finalisation of the ‘Paris rule book’, a Bible for transparent implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement — the first global treaty to reduce emissions by all rich and poor nations.

The COP24 negotiations with the participation of more than 20,000 people from nearly 200 countries are going to be held in the backdrop of grim news on climate change from three UN environment bodies.

This meeting is the most important gathering on climate change since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015.

“It is hard to overstate the urgency of our situation. Even as we witness devastating climate impacts causing havoc across the world, we are still not doing enough, nor moving fast enough, to prevent irreversible and catastrophic climate disruption,” Guterres said.

Climate change, emissions, Global Warming
U.N. Climate chief Patricia Espinosa (C) is flanked by officials during a press conference at the COP24 climate change summit in Katowice, Poland, VOA

“Nor are we doing enough to capitalize on the enormous social, economic and environmental opportunities of climate action.

“And so, I want to deliver four simple messages.”

First: Science demands a significantly more ambitious response, he said.

Second: The Paris Agreement provides the framework for action, so “we must operationalise it”.

Third: “We have a collective responsibility to invest in averting global climate chaos, to consolidate the financial commitments made in Paris and to assist the most vulnerable communities and nations.”

And fourth: Climate action offers a compelling path to transform our world for the better.

“Let me turn first to science,” he said.

According to the World Meteorological Organization, the 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years, with the top four in the past four years.

Climate change, carbon
This undated photo provided by the U.S. Forest Service shows yellow-cedar trees growing along Sheep Lake east of the Cascade crest in Washington State. Adding and restoring forests is a cheap way to get substantial amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere, a new report says. VOA

The concentration of carbon dioxide is the highest it has been in three million years.

Emissions are now growing again.

The recent special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finds that warming could reach 1.5 degrees as soon as 2030, with devastating impacts.

“The latest UN Environment Programme Emissions Gap Report tells us that the current Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement will lead to global warming of about three degrees by the end of the century,” the Secretary-General said.

He said emissions must decline by 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030 and be net zero by 2050.

Renewable energy will need to supply half to two-thirds of the world’s primary energy by 2050 with a corresponding reduction in fossil fuels.

“We need to embrace low-carbon, climate-resilient sustainable development.”

Climate change, Australia
The coal-fired Plant Scherer, one of the nation’s top carbon dioxide emitters, stands in the distance in Juliette, Georgia. VOA

Ensuring adequate finances to developing nations for sustainable low-emissions, he said: “Some 75 per cent of the infrastructure needed by 2050 still remains to be built.”

“Governments and investors need to bet on the green economy, not the grey. That means embracing carbon pricing, eliminating harmful fossil fuel subsidies and investing in clean technologies.

“We also have a collective responsibility to assist the most vulnerable communities and countries — such as small island nations and the least developed countries — by supporting adaptation and resilience.

“Making clear progress to mobilise the pledged $100 billion a year will provide a much-needed positive political signal,” the UN Secretary General said.

“I have appointed the President of France and the Prime Minister of Jamaica to lead the mobilisation of the international community, both public and private, to reach that target in the context of preparation of the Climate Summit I have convened in September of next year.”

“I also urge member states to swiftly implement the replenishment of the Green Climate Fund. It is an investment in a safer, less costly future,” he added.

Also Read: To Help Poor Countries Adapt To Global Warming: World Bank Doubles Its Funding

Poland is hosting a COP for the third time. The two previous COPs were held in Pozna (2008) and in Warsaw (2013). Poland also presided over a COP in Bonn in 1999.

The Paris Agreement has been ratified by 184 parties, including India, and entered into force in November 2016.

The commitments contained in it include the annual $100 billion goal from donor nations for lower-income countries and develop national climate plans by 2020, including their self-determined goals and targets. (IANS)

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Green Groups In Brazil Prepare A Climate Change Plan

A Brazilian version would draw on linkages between about 150 civil society groups who worked closely over the last year to oppose Bolsonaro's campaign

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Brazil, rainforests
This photo released by the Brazilian Environmental and Renewable Natural Resources Institute (Ibama) shows an illegally deforested area on Pirititi indigenous lands as Ibama agents inspect Roraima state in Brazil's Amazon basin. VOA

With its wooden walls and posters on protecting forests and fauna, Brazil’s pavilion at the U.N. climate talks in Poland offers no hint of the angst at home and abroad over mixed messages on global warming from its president-elect.

But campaign promises made by Jair Bolsonaro that could weaken protection for the Amazon rainforest are a hot topic of conversation among visitors, said Caio Henrique Scarmocin, one of three hosts on the stand.

At the conference, whose outcome will be key to implementing the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, scientists and environmental activists said they were laying the groundwork should calls for Bolsonaro to protect Brazil’s forests fail.

Campaign statements from Bolsonaro, who takes power in January, suggested indigenous lands could be opened up to economic exploitation, including agribusiness and mining, and environmental fines eased.

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Brazil’s President-elect Jair Bolsonaro arrives for a meeting in Brasilia. VOA

The ability of Ibama, Brazil’s environmental protection agency, to fine those who break environmental laws is one of the government’s best defenses against the destruction of forests, stoking fears of a deforestation spike under the new government.

Bolsonaro, who campaigned on a far-right platform, also pushed the Brazilian government to withdraw its offer to host next year’s U.N. climate conference.

“He has a hostile approach over environmental issues,” said Paulo Barreto, a researcher with Imazon, a Brazilian institute monitoring deforestation in the Amazon.

Brazil is home to about 60 percent of the Amazon rainforest, considered by many as nature’s best weapon against global warming, because trees absorb and store carbon from the air.

Alfredo Sirkis, executive secretary of the Brazilian Forum on Climate Change, said he thought dialogue with the incoming government was still possible.

Rainforest, Brazil
In this May 4, 2018 photo released by Ibama, the Brazilian Environmental and Renewable Natural Resources Institute, members of a specialized inspection group of Ibama walk with their weapons up through an area affected by illegal mining, after landing in helicopters in Munduruku indigenous lands in Para state in Brazil’s Amazon basin. VOA

But if environmental roll-backs proceed, there was a “contingency plan,” he told journalists.

A coalition would assemble regional governments committed to respecting Brazil’s emissions reduction goals set under the Paris pact, said Sirkis.

Governors in as many as seven Brazilian states, including Amazonas, Pernambuco, the Federal District, Espirito Santo, Parana and Rio Grande do Sul, had already expressed interest in joining, he said.

“This is for starters,” said the former congressman.

A spokesman for the presidency of Brazil at the climate talks declined to comment.

U.S. shows the way

The plan has similarities with “We Are Still In,” a U.S. group of more than 3,500 mayors, governors and business leaders who have promised they will not retreat from the Paris deal.

Brazil, cuban doctors, rainforest
Brazil’s President-elect Jair Bolsonaro talks to the media, in Brasilia, Brazil. VOA

Last year, U.S. President Donald Trump gave notice the United States would leave the accord — although it cannot formally withdraw until 2020 — arguing it was bad for the economy.

Mauricio Voivodic, executive director of WWF-Brazil, said his group had been in touch with the U.S. campaign through WWF-US, which is part of the “We Are Still In” secretariat.

The American coalition has its own pavilion at the U.N. climate talks.

“We are learning from ‘We Are Still In’ the importance of sub-national (governments) and companies enhancing commitments for the implementation of the Paris Agreement,” Voivodic said.

But WWF-Brazil is not yet trying to emulate the model because it wants to prioritize dialogue already under way with the transition government, he added.

“It could be an option, but we are not going in the direction of starting planning this,” said Voivodic.

Deforestation, Brazil
Brazil Surpasses 2020 Target to Cut Deforestation Emissions. Flickr

Brazil’s future environment minister told Reuters on Monday his “inclination” was not to leave the Paris Agreement, after Bolsonaro said on the campaign trail he might quit the deal, under which countries set their own targets to cut emissions.

Marcio Astrini, public policy coordinator for Greenpeace Brazil, said he also looked to the United States as a vague blueprint to build a similar “resistance movement.”

A Brazilian version would draw on linkages between about 150 civil society groups who worked closely over the last year to oppose Bolsonaro’s campaign, he said.

Also Read: Many Countries Refused To Endorse Landmark Study as Climate Conference Enters Second Week

Also mirroring tactics used in the United States, his group does not exclude filing lawsuits to push back against potential weakening of environmental and climate regulations in Brazil.

“It’s on the table,” he said, adding that it was still a last-resort option. (VOA)