UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres arrives for the family photo at the G20 Osaka Summit in Osaka on June 28, 2019. The UN chief has made a passionate appeal to act on climate change "before time runs out". (LUDOVIC MARIN / POOL / AFP)
UNITED NATIONS – Leaders of the United Nations, who either attended the 14th Group of 20 (G20) summit in Osaka of Japan or stayed at the UN headquarters in New York, seized the opportunity when leaders of major world economies got together, trying hard to bring their attention to climate change.
The annual G20 summit of leaders from the largest and fastest-growing economies, which concluded Saturday, was held against the backdrop of what the UN chief described as "a moment of high political tension."
"We have global warming," Antonio Guterres said directly to reporters before addressing the summit, spotlighting the urgency of addressing climate change as a main priority.
I very much count on the determination of both China and France, both with the Paris Agreement, both with climate action and with multilateralism, to allow for our capacity to overcome the present difficulties.
Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General
Painting a picture of "heat waves in Europe, drought in Africa, storms happening also in Africa and the Caribbean" and a "multiplication" of more intense, more frequent natural disasters "with worsening humanitarian consequences," the secretary-general repeated his passionate refrain – "climate change is running faster than what we are."
"All the analyses that can be made show the situation, in practical terms, is worse than what we could have forecast, and the political will has been failing," he said, calling it "a paradox that needs to be addressed."
Avowing his belief in climate science, Guterres cited the landmark Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report of last October, which spells out that by the end of the 21st century, temperatures must not exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
This necessitates the world reaching carbon neutrality by 2050, which requires more ambition by governments and others.
Guterres spoke about the UN's September Climate Action Summit in New York where he will appeal to world leaders for a stronger commitment for climate action, including by "putting a price on carbon, ending subsidies to fossil fuels, (and) not accepting the idea that we still have an acceleration of the construction of coal power plants," all of which are "absolutely essential to rescuing the planet."
The UN chief highlighted that G20 nations represent 80 percent of climate change emissions and appealed for a stronger commitment to international financial and economic cooperation.
While having a meeting Saturday with the foreign ministers of China and France, on the margins of the G20 summit, Guterres said that the world needs to create conditions for "harmony between humankind and nature."
"We need to rescue the planet," he noted.
Guterres expressed his gratitude to both countries not only for their "climate action" but for their multilateral approach to climate change, which he said was "absolutely essential" to the success of the 2018 UN climate conference (COP24) in Katowice, Poland, last December.
However, the secretary-general noted that the recently concluded UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Bonn was not a success, saying that the realities on the ground today are "even more difficult" because of "political failing in some areas of the world."
"We need a boost in political will," asserted the UN chief. "I very much count on the determination of both China and France, both with the Paris Agreement, both with climate action and with multilateralism, to allow for our capacity to overcome the present difficulties."
Back home at the UN headquarters in New York, UN General Assembly (UNGA) President Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces said Thursday that her message to the leaders attending the G20 summit was that "we have run out of time" on climate change.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference, the UNGA president said that "we have run out of time. We are in a climate emergency, and the cost of inaction is too high."
"We don't have options. We need to take seriously transitions to carbon neutral economies," she noted.
The UNGA president commended the European Union (EU) for its collective effort to combat climate change, noting that most of the EU member states have committed to meeting their target of carbon neutrality by 2050.
"The cost of inaction is going to be unquantifiable because it is not only material loss, it is human lives and macro-economic losses," said Espinosa.
The UNGA president urged the international community to heed the damages caused by the impacts of climate change, droughts and floods, and the destruction of infrastructure, "if people do care about money and prosperity."
Referring to the much expected 2019 Climate Action Summit, which is scheduled to be held at the UN headquarters in New York on Sept 21-23, Espinosa said that the summit is a testament to the capacity of the multilateral system.
To boost ambition and accelerate actions to implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, Guterres will host the 2019 Climate Action Summit in September to meet the climate challenge. The summit will showcase a leap in collective national political ambition, and it will demonstrate massive movements in the real economy in support of the agenda.
Espinosa told reporters quoting Guterres that "we do not expect our leaders to come up with speeches, but with plans and with concrete commitments."
HONG KONG NEWS