UN chief urges nations to curb pollution to keep Paris Agreement realistic

The Chicago skyline as seen from the North Avenue Beach at Lake Michigan, as the polar vortex has descended on much of the central and eastern United States. Photo: Reuters

The world is getting hotter and more dangerous faster than previously thought, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said here at the COP 25 climate conference on Wednesday, urging the countries that carbon pollution must stop rising in 2020 to keep the Paris Agreement goals within realistic reach.

The Paris agreement was adopted by 195 parties at the UN climate conference "COP 21" held in the French capital in 2015 with an aim to reduce the hazardous greenhouse gas emissions.

Nineteen members of the G20, except the US, have voiced their commitment to the full implementation of the deal.

The world is getting hotter and more dangerous faster than we ever thought possible. Irreversible tipping points are within sight and hurtling towards us, he said while addressing a high-level meeting at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP25 in the Spanish capital.

It is a testament to the urgency of the job before us all. The scientific evidence presented in recent weeks has only heightened this urgency, he said.

On December 2, Guterres opened the COP 25 climate summit here, warning that the governments risked sleepwalking "past a point of no return" if they remained idle.

The annual negotiations to bolster the 2015 Paris Agreement to curb global warming began in the backdrop of unusually severe climate related disasters this year, from fires in the Arctic, Amazon and Australia to intense tropical hurricanes.

In his latest address, Guterres urged the countries that carbon pollution must stop rising in 2020 and start falling to keep the Paris Agreement goals within realistic reach.

We are a very long way behind, but there is still reason to believe we can win this race, he said.

However, he noted that the world has the force of science, new models of cooperation, and a rising tide of momentum for change.

Crucially, we have a global framework in the Paris Agreement to get the job done. We now need to put it fully to work, he said.

He also emphasised that the countries must honour the pledges made in Paris in 2015 to scale up their national climate pledges every five years, starting in 2020.

Noting that the next 12 months will be crucial for climate action, he said that in 2020, the world must deliver what the scientific community has defined as a must, else it will pay an unbearable price.

That means embarking on the path to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030 and to achieve net zero CO2 emissions by 2050, the UN chief said.

He noted that this is what the UN expects from the review of national commitments under the Paris Agreement at COP26 next year in Glasgow, UK.

And I hope as many countries as possible will step up this year at COP25, he said.

Guterres also said that lifting ambition over the next 12 months has been the touchstone of this year's COP.

And it was a centrepiece of the Climate Action Summit I convened in September, he said.

Noting that the world is still a long way from its objective of becoming carbon neutral by 2050, he hoped that we can limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

We need more ambition, more solidarity and more urgency, he added.

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