Faster, bolder action key to reaching net-zero emissions: UN Secretary-General to COP26

New York: The 26th Session of the Conference of Parties (COP26) was held in New York on 6 March, where UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addressed the member states at the conference, calling for faster and bolder measures to achieve net-zero emissions.

Commencing with a note of thanks to the United Kingdom and Alok Sharma, COP26 President-designate and Secretary of State for business, energy, and industrial strategy, to the United Nations, he emphasized the need to limit global heating to 1.5 degree Celsius and achieve a 45% reduction in emissions. He stated that the work must begin to be demonstrated by this year in order to achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century.

“We are in an unfolding climate emergency,” Guterres said. He called for the private sector and civil society to work in tandem with the youth, whom he commended for spearheading the climate change movement.

Breaking down the purpose of COP26 into four priorities, he said that the first would be to show that countries are working to implement the Paris Agreement with continued progress. He mentioned that the world would be on its way to reaching more than 3 degrees C of heating if existing plans of countries were to stay in place. “The newly revised nationally determined contributions must set clear targets for 2025 or 2030 that will help us stick to the 1.5 degrees C limit,” the UN Secretary-General stated.

The second priority, Guterres said, would be to establish all nations adopting strategies to reach net-zero emission by 2050. Mentioning the fact that only 70 nations have committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, he was optimistic about the fact that it was a good start, although it represents less than a quarter of global emissions.

The third priority would be a robust package of programmes, projects, and initiatives that will help communities and nations adapt to climate disruption and build resilience against the impacts to come. He commended  the United Kingdom for taking the lead with Egypt last year at the Climate Action Summit regarding this issue.

The fourth priority would be financial – that the developed countries must deliver on the commitment they took to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020 with both public and private investments.

“We need to push for transformation in the way the financial sector works, as a lever for more ambitious national Government engagement and commitments,” he said, emphasizing the need to increase investments in renewables and green technologies and to demonstrate the fact that efforts have been paying off. Commenting on this further, he said, “We need to see major steps to end the vast and wasteful subsidies for fossil fuels, which actually increased last year.  And we need to put a price on carbon and see a commitment to end the construction of new coal power plants.”

Secretary-General Guterres said that, ultimately, the COP26 needs to demonstrate that the world is moving in the right direction. He counted on the United Kingdom and Italy, on the COP26 presidency, on Member States, and on the full constellation of partners, including cities, the private sector, finance institutions, the philanthropic community, and civil society to commit to meaningful climate action.

Concluding by stating that the countries need to demonstrate that international cooperation is the only way to deliver meaningful results, he offered full support of the UN to the United Kingdom Presidency and Italy for the purpose of fulfilling the required goals.


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