Another desperate UN warning on greenhouse emissions
ON Monday, United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the men and women of the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) unveiled one of the most consequential reports in recent times on where the Earth’s environment is heading.
Mr Guterres could hardly have been more dramatic or urgent in his remarks at the launch of the UNEP Gap Report, cautioning that if nothing changes in 2030 emissions will be 22 gigatonnes higher than the 1.5-degree limit earlier agreed on by scientists.
“It [the report] shows greenhouse emissions reaching [an] all-time high — a 1.2 per cent increase on last year — when those levels should [instead] be shooting down. And those emissions are shattering temperature records. June, July, August, September, and October were all the hottest on record,” said Mr Guterres.
He said present trends are racing the planet “down a dead end, three-degree temperature rise”, and described the emissions gap as “more like an emissions canyon… A canyon littered with broken promises, broken lives, and broken records”.
The UN chief placed the blame for these stark developments on the failure of leadership, a betrayal of the vulnerable, and a massive missed opportunity at a time, ironically, when renewables have never been cheaper or more accessible.
There is, of course, a large remnant of leaders across the developed world who have dismissed climate change as nothing more than a hoax, while completely ignoring the evidence-based science.
We are encouraged, however, by the UN boss’ suggestion that all is not lost because it is still possible, he says, to make the 1.5-degree limit a reality if the road map established by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is followed.
Not that it would be easy to achieve. That would require what he termed “tearing out the poisoned root of the climate crisis — fossil fuels. And it demands a just, equitable renewables transition”.
Said Mr Guterres: “Leaders must drastically up their game now, with record ambition, record action, and record emissions reductions. The next round of national climate plans… must be backed with the finance, technology, support, and partnerships to make them possible.”
Much hope is being pinned on the outcome of next week’s 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference, more commonly referred to as COP28, to be held November 30 to December 12 in Dubai. Critically, a Global Stocktake at COP28 will show just how far the world is from meeting the goals of the Paris agreement.
Mr Guterres believes: “The response to the Global Stocktake must light the fuse to an explosion of ambition in 2025… No more greenwashing. No more foot-dragging.”
Specifically, countries must commit to triple renewables capacity, double energy efficiency, and bring clean power to all, by 2030. Countries that have not yet done so must put in their contributions to the Green Climate Fund.
Developed countries, he appealed, must honour their promise of US$100 billion a year in climate finance, and deliver a clear plan on how they will meet their commitment to double adaptation finance to at least US$40 billion a year by 2025.
“Otherwise, we’re simply inflating the lifeboats while breaking the oars,” says Mr Guterres.
We hope the world is listening.