Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations. (Credits: Reuters)
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Monday asserted that both developing and developed nations “must do their job” to reach the goal of net zero emissions by 2050, expressing hope that countries such as the US, China, India, Europe will understand they need to do the maximum without waiting for what the others are doing.
Guterres and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a closed door Informal Climate Leaders Roundtable on Climate Action with a small and representative group of heads of state and government.
The roundtable “will be a chance for national leaders to demonstrate solidarity and ambition to keep the world's 1.5C temperature goal within reach,” the UN had said.
Speaking to reporters here after the roundtable, Guterres said based on the present commitments of member states, the world is on a “catastrophic pathway” to 2.7-degrees of heating.
“Science tells us that anything above 1.5 degrees would be a disaster. To limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, we need a 45 per cent cut in emissions by 2030 so we can reach carbon neutrality by mid-century,” he said.
The UN chief said while developed countries need to take the lead in their Nationally Determined Contributions, it is also essential for several emerging economies to go the extra mile and effectively contribute to emissions reductions.
Guterres added that he believes there is still a long way to go in relation to the reduction of emissions. The G20 countries represent 80% of the emissions. He said it would make no sense if the developed countries that have already committed to net zero in 2015 say that they have done their job on climate action and now it is up to the developing countries, especially emerging economies, to do their bit.
Guterres added that it would also not make sense for emerging economies to say that the developed countries have polluted more in the past and greater responsibility to cut emissions falls on them.
“I mean these arguments are no longer valid. Everybody must do their job. Developed countries and emerging economies must be able to contribute - all of them - for the possibility of reaching net zero in 2050 and a very strong reduction of emissions in 2030. And we are not yet there.
“And I hope that the contacts that are being established by different countries, the US and China but also with India, with Europe and with different other key partners will allow for all these countries to understand that they need to do the maximum without waiting for what the others are doing,” he said.
China, the US, India, the EU and Russia are among the world's biggest carbon emitters.
Guterres said the bottom line is that “we need decisive action now around net zero commitments from all countries and the private sector".
Addressing the specific challenge of energy, the UN chief said governments must shift subsidies away from fossil fuels and progressively phase out coal use.
“If all planned coal power plants become operational, we will not only be clearly above 1.5 degrees – we will be well above 2 degrees. The Paris targets would go up in smoke,” he said.
While a 45 per cent cut in emissions is required by 2030 to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, Guterres lamented that commitments by countries to date imply an increase of 16 per cent in greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 compared to 2010 levels.
“This means that unless we collectively change course, there is a high risk of failure of COP26,” he said. The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference scheduled to be held in Glasgow later this year.
Guterres said he asked leaders to do what is needed to make sure COP26 is a success and that it marks a turning point.
Ahead of COP26, the international community needs to deliver on three fronts, he said, adding, “First, keeping the 1.5-degree goal within reach. Second, delivering on the promised $100 billion dollars a year for climate action in developing countries. Third,scaling up funding for adaptation to at least 50 per cent of total public climate finance.”