Life support

UN chief told COP26 that global warming goal is on “support for life”

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 F) is “alive” as UN climate talks enter in their last days, but added that “until the last moment, hope should be nurtured.”

In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, Guterres said negotiations due to end on Friday in Glasgow, Scotland, will “very likely” not deliver the carbon reduction pledges he said are necessary to prevent the planet to warm beyond 1.5-degree threshold.

So far, talks have failed to achieve any of the three priorities announced by the UN for the annual conference, called COP26. One is to reduce CL00 carbon emissions,
by about half by 2030 to meet the target Guterres alluded to.

Read: UN draft climate pact calls for phasing out of coal, subsidies as oil escapes direct mention

The other two lead rich countries to fulfill their 12-year pledge to provide $ 100 billion a year in financial climate aid poor nations and ensure that half of that goes to help developing countries adapt to the worst effects of climate change.

Read: China says it will target methane and coal as delegate Xie and US Kerry pledge to increase climate cooperation

Guterres said the Glasgow talks “come at a crucial time” and must accomplish more than strike a weak deal that participating countries are willing to support.

“The worst thing would be to come to an agreement at all costs on a minimum common denominator that does not respond to the enormous challenges we face,” said Guterres.

This is because the overarching goal of limiting warming since pre-industrial times to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 F) by the turn of the century “is still within reach, but under life support.” , Guterres said. The world has already warmed by 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit), leaving well less than a degree before the threshold is reached.

With 36 hours to go before negotiations are scheduled to close, Guterres said if negotiators can’t meet ambitious carbon reduction targets – “and most likely it won’t” – then national leaders will have to propose. new commitments next year. and in 2023 at high-level meetings.

He said it was “very important” for countries to update their targets and send key leaders to climate talks every year at this point. However, Guterres declined to say when he thinks the 1.5-degree target should be scrapped.

“When you’re on the brink, it’s not important to discuss what will be your fourth or fifth step,” Guterres said. “What’s important to discuss is what will be your first step. Because if your first step is not the right one, you will not be able to search for a second or third.

Guterres said he agreed with young climate activists – who have demonstrated in large numbers outside of climate talks, and sometimes inside – who have called on the UN to label the warming high-level climate “climate emergency” and address it as such.

“To me, it is clear that this is a climate emergency,” Guterres said. “I have called on all Member States to declare this, and I will ensure that we mobilize the entire United Nations system on the basis of the concept of climate emergency.

As terrible and tragic as the COVID-19 pandemic is, it is possible that climate change is more of an emergency, Guterres said.

“The pandemic is reversible. We have the tools and the instruments to stop it, ”he said. “Climate change is a global threat to the planet and to humanity. And at the moment, we don’t yet have all the tools and instruments we need to defeat it. “

And a lot of it comes down to the money.

The lack of movement on financial aid to the poorest countries troubles Guterres. He said if he was the leader of a small, vulnerable island or another country in danger, he would be upset by what is not happening in Glasgow.

“When I see trillions spent by the developed world and at the same time the suffering, the impacts of climate change more than in the global north, hurricanes, droughts which undermine the development of my country and the well-being of my citizens, ”said Guterres, putting himself in the shoes of an island leader. “I mean, it would be impossible in this situation not to feel tremendous frustration if developed countries do not match a number of basic commitments” on financial aid.

And this rich-poor divide continued to emerge on Thursday.

Opposing the “narrative” of trying to limit warming to 1.5 ° C put forward by rich countries, a group of developing countries said rich countries were trying to shift the burden of tackling climate change on the poorest countries.

The talks are now at the point where two avenues were possible: one which was good for people and the planet, and the other which led to “carbon colonialism”, Bolivia’s chief negotiator said, Diego Pacheco Balanz. “We must fight the developed countries against carbon colonialism. “

Balanz was speaking on behalf of the developing country negotiating bloc that includes countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia – with China and India among the latter.

Guterres greeted Wednesday evening an agreement between the United States and China to cut emissions this decade as one reason he still hopes for some semblance of success in Glasgow. He said China, indicating that it will seek to reduce its emissions before 2030, represented a key change in the outlook for the major emitter.

“I think it will be very important that this deal paves the way for other deals,” Guterres said in a 25-minute interview with AP.

The UN chief said he hopes two thorny issues that have defied resolution for six years can be solved in Glasgow: creating viable markets for trading carbon credits and transparency that shows that the actions promised to reduce pollution are real.

New draft documents on regulating international cooperation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including the section on carbon markets, were published overnight, as were new proposals containing various options for evaluate and monitor financial assistance to developing countries.

The chairman of this year’s UN climate meeting called on negotiators from nearly 200 countries to embark on ‘another shift of gears’ as they attempt to reach agreement on outstanding issues one day before the end of the talks.

UK official Alok Sharma said on Thursday that the drafts released overnight on a number of critical topics “represent an important step towards a comprehensive, ambitious and balanced package of results, which I hope the parties will adopt by consensus at the same time. end of tomorrow “.

Sharma said there was “no illusion” that the proposed texts would fully satisfy all countries at this stage, but thanked the negotiators for the “spirit of cooperation and civility” they have shown so far. here.

“We’re not there yet,” he said, adding that he aimed to get a new draft comprehensive decision released early Friday.

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