New Brunswick Tribune

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

UN Secretary-General defines the global warming goal as “life support”

Key sentence:

  • UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the objective of decreasing global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is “on life support.
  • To achieve the objective mentioned by Guterres, one option is to cut carbon emissions in half by 2030.

As UN climate talks enter their last days, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the objective of decreasing global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is “on life support.” Still, he adds that “hope should be preserved until the last moment.”

Guterres said in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press on Thursday that the talks in Glasgow, Scotland, which are slated to end on Friday, will “quite likely” not produce the carbon-cutting pledges he says are needed to protect the Earth from warming above the 1.5-degree threshold.

The discussions have failed to achieve any of the UN’s three stated goals for the yearly meeting, known as COP26. To achieve the objective mentioned by Guterres, one option is to cut carbon emissions in half by 2030.

The other two are for rich countries to follow through on a 12-year vow to provide $100 billion in financial climate aid to developing countries each year. Half of that goes to emerging nations to help them adapt to the worst effects of climate change.

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The Conference of Parties (COP) is a global decision-making organisation established in the early 1990s to execute the United Nations Framework Conventions on Climate Change and subsequent climate agreements. It meets once a year.

The Glasgow discussions, according to Guterres, are “at a critical juncture” and must achieve more than achieving a weak settlement that all participating countries agree to endorse.

“The worst thing would be to negotiate a compromise based on the lowest common denominator, which would fail to address the enormous difficulties we face,” Guterres added.

That’s because the overarching aim of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century “is still within reach but on life support,” according to Guterres. The Earth has already warmed by 1.1 degrees Celsius, leaving only a fraction of a degree before crossing the barrier.

UN Chief Says Global Warming Goal on ;Life Support

Negotiations are coming to a close.

Less than 36 hours before the expected end of the talks, Guterres said that if negotiators cannot agree on significant carbon-cutting targets — “which very likely will not happen” — state leaders will be required to make new pledges at high-level gatherings next year and in 2023.

At this point, he believes it is “extremely necessary” for countries to renew their targets and send top leaders to the climate talks every year. On the other hand, Guterres refused to indicate when he believes the 1.5-degree goal will have to be abandoned.

“It’s not important to talk about what your fourth or fifth step will be when you’re on the verge of the abyss,” Guterres remarked. “What’s vital to talk about is what your initial step will be. Because if your first step is incorrect, you will not have the opportunity to hunt for a second or third one.”

Guterres cited a Wednesday evening agreement between the US and China to reduce emissions this decade as one of the causes he is optimistic about victory in Glasgow. 

He described China’s announcement that its carbon emissions would peak by 2030 as a significant shift in the country’s viewpoint.

The UN Secretary-General expressed hope that two thorny issues that have eluded resolution for the past six years can be resolved in Glasgow: creating workable markets for trading carbon credits and transparency that demonstrates that promised pollution-reduction actions are being taken.

During a 25-minute interview with the Associated Press, Guterres stated, “Now is the time to find consensus by increasing ambition in all areas: reduction, adaptation, and funding in a balanced approach.”

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