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‘Absolutely crucial’ for big emitters to commit to carbon neutrality in 2050: UN chief

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United Nations: UN chief Antonio Guterres has asserted that it is “absolutely crucial” for countries like the US, China and India to commit to carbon neutrality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, cautioning that climate action efforts will be insufficient without measures by the world’s big emitters.

The Secretary-General emphasised that there was “no time to delay” if the world had to slow the trend of the devastating impacts of climate change, and limit the temperate rise to 1.5 degree-Celsius.

“It’s important to notice that we have already 120 countries that have accepted carbon neutrality in 2050 and are establishing the plans to implement it. And that represents 25 per cent of the emissions. So, the big question: are the big emitters? and the big emitters are the United States, China, the European Union, Japan, Russia, India,” Guterres said during a press conference on Wednesday.

“Without the big emitters, all the efforts that are made will not be enough,” he said.

Guterres said he was very actively engaged, both with the governments and the civil societies, to convince all the big emitters “that it is absolutely crucial for them to commit to carbon neutrality in 2050 and to commit to a reduction of the emissions up to 2030 of 45 per cent”.

The UN chief said it was important to note that there has been a very important movement in the private sector as well as by civil society towards climate action and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“So, all these reasons make me believe that the pressure of the governments of big emitters will sooner or later produce results and that it will be possible to have a global commitment and the nationally determined contributions change that will be presented up to the COP26 in Glasgow are the real opportunity to do so. I still hope that the global emitters will also commit to carbon neutrality in 2050,” he said.

China is the world’s biggest carbon emitter followed by the US, India and the EU.

Despite the US being among the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter, President Donald Trump withdrew the country from the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

The landmark agreement aimed at strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius, above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Guterres has consistently stressed on the need to “reduce emissions 45 per cent by 2030 from 2010 levels, achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 and stabilise global temperature rise at 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century,” emphasising that the Paris Agreement must be used as “our multilateral path forward”.

“Whether we are tackling a pandemic or the climate crisis, it is clear that we need science, solidarity and decisive solutions. We have a choice: business as usual, leading to further calamity; or we can use the recovery from COVID-19 to provide a real opportunity to put the world on a sustainable path,” he said.

The Secretary-General outlined six climate-related actions to shape the recovery from COVD-19 to ensure a sustainable future for coming generations.

The six actions include: delivering new jobs and businesses through a clean, green transition; making public bailouts contingent upon green jobs and sustainable growth; shifting away from grey and towards green economy, making societies and people more resilient.

Channelling public fund investments into sustainable sectors and projects that help the environment and the climate; factoring in climate risks and opportunities into the financial system as well as in public policymaking and infrastructure; and lastly – working together as an international community.

A major new UN report titled ‘United in Science 2020’ released on Wednesday said concentrations of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere are at record levels, and emissions that saw a temporary decline due to the pandemic are heading towards pre-COVID-19 levels, while global temperatures continue to hit new highs.

The report highlights the increasing and irreversible impacts of climate change on glaciers, oceans, nature, economies and its cost on people across the globe; manifest more and more often through disasters such as record heatwaves, wildfires, droughts and floods.

“As we work to tackle both the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis, I urge leaders to heed the facts in this report, unite behind the science and take urgent climate action,” Guterres said, urging governments to prepare new and ambitious national climate plans, the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), in advance of COP26.

“That is how we will build a safer, more sustainable future,” he said.

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