Climate crisis has reached ‘point of no return’ — UN chief

Published December 1, 2019, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Agence France-Presse

MADRID — The devastating impacts of glob­al warming that threaten humanity are a pushback from Nature under assault, UN chief Antonio Guterres warned Sunday ahead of a key climate conference.

Guterres flagged a UN report to be released in a few days confirming the last five years are the warmest on record, with 2019 likely to be the second hottest ever (AFP Photo/CRISTINA QUICLER)
Guterres flagged a UN report to be released in a few days confirming the last five years are the warmest on record, with 2019 likely to be the second hottest ever (AFP Photo/CRISTINA QUICLER/MANILA BULLETIN)

“For many decades the human species has been at war with the planet, and now the planet is fighting back,” he said, decrying “utterly inadequate” efforts of the world’s major economies to curb carbon pollution.

“We are confronted with a global climate crisis and the point of no return is no longer over the horizon, it is in sight and hurtling towards us.”

Guterres flagged a UN report to be released Tues­day confirming the last five years are the warmest on record, with 2019 likely to be the second hottest ever.

“Climate-related disasters are becoming more frequent, more deadly, more destructive,” he said on the eve of the 196-nation COP25 climate change talks in Madrid.

Human health and food security are at risk, he added, noting that air pollution associated with climate change accounts for seven million premature deaths every year.

The Paris Agreement calls for capping global warming at under two degrees Celsius, but recent sci­ence has made clear that the treaty’s aspiration goal of 1.5C is a far safer threshold.

A UN Environment Programme report last week concluded that CO2 emissions would need to drop by a vertiginously steep 7.6 percent per year over the next decade to stay within that limit.

But Guterres insisted that the 1.5C goal is doable. All that is missing, he said, is political will.

“Let’s be clear — up to now, our efforts to reach this target have been utterly inadequate,” he said.

“The world’s largest emitters are not pulling their weight.”

Current national pledges — if carried out — would see global temperatures rise by at least 3C, a recipe for human misery, according to scientists.

Pelosi in Madrid

The UN chief’s comments were clearly aimed at the handful of coun­tries responsible for more than half of global greenhouse gas emissions, though he did not call them out by name.

President Donald Trump has set in motion the process that will see the United States withdraw from the Paris deal by year’s end.

At the same time, a US Congres­sional delegation going to Madrid will be headed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, listed by the Spanish government among heads of state and VIPs.

“We want to give every opportu­nity to the US to remain within the commitments in the fight against climate change,” a spokesperson for the Spanish prime minister’s office told AFP.

Other major emitters — China, India, Russia and Brazil — have given scant indication that they will deepen their commitments in the near term.

Guterres did single out the Euro­pean Union as playing a constructive role.

“Europe has an absolutely es­sential role to play, and must be a cornerstone in the global negotia­tions leading to carbon neutrality,” he said.

The European Commission’s new president Ursula Von der Leyen is trying to steer the bloc towards a tar­get of “zero net emission” by 2050, but continues to face resistance from some members, including Poland and Hungary.

To help speed the transition of the financial sector, which continues to invest heavily in the fossil fuels driving global warming, Guterres announced the appointment of cur­rent Bank of England governor Mark Carney as special envoy on climate action and finance, effective Janu­ary. (With a report from Thomson Reuters Foundation)

 
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