‘The climate emergency is a race we are losing, but it is a race we can win’

23 Sep 2019

UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Image: palinchak/Depositphotos

UN chief António Guterres said action must increase between three and five-fold to keep global temperatures from exceeding 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

The world is losing the race against the climate emergency, “but it is a race we can win”, UN secretary-general António Guterres has warned a summit on tackling the issue.

The UN estimates there needs to be between a three-fold and five-fold increase in efforts to cut greenhouse gases, to prevent global temperatures rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis.

The UN Climate Action Summit in New York aims to galvanise efforts by countries and businesses to close the gap between what is needed to curb global warming and current policies, which put the world on track to warm by more than 3 degrees Celsius.

Guterres, who convened the conference, said: “The best science, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, tells us that any temperature rise above 1.5 degrees Celsius will lead to major and irreversible damage to the ecosystems that support us.

“Science tells us that on our current path, we face at least 3 degrees of global heating by the end of the century.

“The climate emergency is a race we are losing, but it is a race we can win.”

Listening to the science

As leaders gather for the summit, which comes in the wake of protests led by schoolchildren that saw millions of people take to the streets around the world calling for action, countries and businesses are bringing forward announcements on what steps they will take.

These include an alliance of some of the world’s largest pension funds and investors, responsible for directing more than $2.3trn, who have committed to making their investment portfolios carbon neutral by 2050.

Inger Andersen, executive director of the UN Environment Programme, said: “There are no shortcuts to decisive climate action. We need to take a long-term view.

“I applaud the leadership of the investors in this alliance. Their commitment sends a strong signal that financial markets and investors are listening to science, and moving us to a path of resilience and sustainability.”

Discussion points

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will address the United Nations summit today (23 September), communicating to delegates that Ireland plans to ring-fence all new revenues from carbon tax starting next year in an effort to tackle the climate emergency.

Money taken in from the new initiatives will fund transformations in food production systems, electricity, buildings and transport across the country, and the revenues will also be used to develop protection for those most at risk with higher fuel and energy costs, and for those that will need to enter new jobs.

More than 60 world leaders are set to speak, with heads of nations such as Finland and Germany promising to ban coal within a decade.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson is announcing that scientists will be able to use up to £1bn of the aid budget for inventing new technology to tackle the climate crisis in developing countries, alongside funding to protect wildlife.

Environmental groups and agencies said the measures were not sufficient to tackle the planetary emergency and should not be at the expense of helping people out of poverty – and called for moves to shift away from fossil fuels.

– PA Media

UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Image: palinchak/Depositphotos