World

It’s time to make peace with nature, UN chief urges

December 02, 2020

NEW YORK — The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, has described the fight against the climate crisis as the top priority for the 21st Century, in a passionate, uncompromising speech delivered on Wednesday at Columbia University in New York.

The landmark address marks the beginning of a month of UN-led climate action, which includes the release of major reports on the global climate and fossil fuel production, culminating in a climate summit on Dec.12, the fifth anniversary of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

Guterres began with a litany of the many ways in which nature is reacting, with “growing force and fury”, to humanity’s mishandling of the environment, which has seen a collapse in biodiversity, spreading deserts, and oceans reaching record temperatures.

The link between COVID-19 and man-made climate change was also made plain by the UN chief, who noted that the continued encroachment of people and livestock into animal habitats, risks exposing us to more deadly diseases.

And, whilst the economic slowdown resulting from the pandemic has temporarily slowed emissions of harmful greenhouse gases, levels of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane are still rising, with the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere at a record high. Despite this worrying trend, fossil fuel production — responsible for a significant proportion of greenhouse gases — is predicted to continue on an upward path.

The appropriate global response, said the Secretary-General, is a transformation of the world economy, flicking the “green switch” and building a sustainable system driven by renewable energy, green jobs, and a resilient future.

One way to achieve this vision is by achieving net-zero emissions (read our feature story on net zero for a full explanation, and why it is so important). There are encouraging signs on this front, with several developed countries, including the UK, Japan, and China, committing to the goal over the next few decades.

Guterres called on all countries, cities, and businesses to target 2050 as the date by which they achieve carbon neutrality — to at least halt national increases in emissions — and for all individuals to do their part.

With the cost of renewable energy continuing to fall, this transition makes economic sense and will lead to a net creation of 18 million jobs over the next 10 years. Nevertheless, the UN chief pointed out, the G20, the world’s largest economies, are planning to spend 50 percent more on sectors linked to fossil fuel production and consumption, than on low-carbon energy.

For years, many climate experts and activists have called for the cost of carbon-based pollution to be factored into the price of fossil fuels, a step that Guterres said would provide certainty and confidence for the private and financial sectors.

Companies, he declared, need to adjust their business models, ensuring that finance is directed to the green economy, and pension funds, which manage some $32 trillion in assets, need to step and invest in carbon-free portfolios.

The COVID-19 pandemic put paid to many plans, including the UN’s ambitious plan to make 2020 the “super year” for buttressing the natural world. That ambition has now been shifted to 2021, and will involve a number of major climate-related international commitments.

These include the development of a plan to halt the biodiversity crisis; an Oceans Conference to protect marine environments; a global sustainable transport conference; and the first Food Systems Summit, aimed at transforming global food production and consumption.

Mr. Guterres ended his speech on a note of hope, amid the prospect of a new, more sustainable world in which mindsets are shifting, to take into account the importance of reducing each individual’s carbon footprint.

Far from looking to return to “normal,” a world of inequality, injustice and “heedless dominion over the Earth,” the next step, said the Secretary-General, should be towards a safer, more sustainable and equitable path, and for mankind to rethink our relationship with the natural world — and with each other.


December 02, 2020
30 views
HIGHLIGHTS
World
53 minutes ago

Migrants in Bosnia grappling with freezing temperatures in makeshift shelters

World
hour ago

AASTS discusses cooperation with the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment

World
hour ago

Xposure brings world’s best visual storytelling to Sharjah