US, EU, India among 'big emitters', must lead way on climate action: UN

UN Secretary General António Guterres

The European Union, the US, China, India, Japan and Russia are the world's "big emitters" who must respect and meet their commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, the UN chief has said, underlining that their failure to do so will undermine global climate action efforts.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, however, noted that awareness of the risks is growing and in "some good news", announcements of climate action by governments and the private sector are gathering steam.

"Well, I would say that probably we'll have to consider most of the countries in the world. We have witnessed in 2019 an increase of emissions everywhere or almost everywhere," he told reporters here on Tuesday.

"We have...witnessed that many countries did not respect the commitments made in relation to...the conference in Paris...the central question now, after the decision that was taken by 70 countries, that they would respect the objective of carbon neutrality is to make sure that carbon neutrality in 2050 is accepted, namely, by the big emitters," Guterres said.

He was responding to a question on which countries and governments are responsible for the failure to improve the climate change situation.

When asked to name the big emitters, Guterres said, "Who are the big emitters? Let's be clear. I mean, the big emitters are well known...the European Union that has affirmed its commitment to it, the United States, China, India, Japan...Russia. These are the most important ones."

He said it is "absolutely vital" that these countries respect and assume, "until we get to Glasgow, the commitment to be carbon neutral in 2050" because "it is the way to guarantee" to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius at the end of the century.

Guterres was referring to the 2020 UN Climate Change Conference, known as the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 26) to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) that will take place in Britain's Glasgow city in November.

He said the G20 countries represent 80 per cent of the emissions, and "if it is extremely important that small countries have a very determined mitigation strategy, we absolutely need the big emitters to correspond, because if the big emitters do not correspond, our efforts will be completely undermined".

In his remarks before taking questions from reporters, Guterres continued his push for climate action, as rising ocean temperatures and subsequent ice melt are worsening the crisis.

With carbon dioxide concentrations set to reach new highs, he called on "the big emitters" to lead the way forward in adaptation, mitigation and financing.

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 Paris Climate Agreement.

The move drew condemnation, criticism and concern from the world, which arrived at 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.

India is leading from the front in the fight against climate change.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while addressing world leaders at the UN Climate Summit in September last year, had given a clarion call for a "global people's movement" to bring about a behavioural change to deal with climate change while making a pledge to more than double India's non-fossil fuel target to 450 gigawatts.

During an interaction with Guterres last month, India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin highlighted the discrepancy between climate ambition and climate finance, saying while climate ambition needs to be high, climate financing needs to be at par as well.

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

The UN chief, while addressing reporters about his priorities for 2020, said, "We need a price on carbon, and an end to subsidies for fossil fuels. We are still seeing too many plans for coal plants the addiction to coal remains dangerously strong.



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