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UN chief complains that ‘far from enough’ being done on climate

Published: (Updated: ) in European News by .

National leaders boosted their climate promises during a virtual summit.

In this coronavirus-plagued year’s only big climate bash, more than 70 world leaders took part in Saturday’s U.N.-led virtual summit aimed at squeezing them for bigger climate pledges.

Leaders from China to Argentina, Canada, the U.K. and the EU all touted new emissions promises — meant to speed up the effort to combat climate change on the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement.

Steps taken over the last five years haven’t been nearly enough, complained U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres.

“Five years after Paris, we are still not going in the right direction … the commitments made in Paris were far from enough to get there and even those commitments are not being met. Carbon dioxide levels are at record highs,” he said, urging governments to use pandemic recovery programs to correct course and for countries to declare climate emergencies.

Thanks to the pandemic, the summit — co-hosted by the U.K., France, Italy and Chile — was actually more than 100 short video clips from politicians, corporations and campaigners.

Most of the attention was fixed on Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who in September surprised the world with a plan to slash carbon pollution from the world’s highest emitter to net zero before 2060. There was hope that he’d flesh out the declaration with more specifics.

In his video message, Xi pledged to cut carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 65 percent from 2005, boost the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy use by 25 percent, increase the country’s forest stock from 2005 levels, and increase the total capacity of solar and wind to over 1.2 billion kilowatts. Climate campaigners hoped he’d pledge to peak emissions by 2025 — which he didn’t do.

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“Xi’s statement is substantive — if not from an emission point of view, at least [from a] geopolitical [one],” said Li Shuo, senior adviser to Greenpeace East Asia, calling the announcement “an incremental step forward. It is still not what’s needed by science, but towards the right direction.”

But Li also pointed out China’s continuing construction of coal-fired power plants and increasing emissions from steel and cement industries. “The country is falling back to its old addiction to fossil energy and infrastructure investment,” he said.

A parade of pledges

The world’s second-largest polluter, the United States, wasn’t at the meeting, which is no surprise as President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement. However, his imminent successor Joe Biden was there in spirit.

“Five years ago today, the world gathered to adopt the Paris Agreement on climate change. And in 39 days, the United States is going to rejoin it. We’re going to rally the world to push our progress further and faster and tackle the climate crisis head-on,” Biden tweeted.

The EU, which emits about a tenth of the world’s greenhouse gases, showed up with its hard-fought pledge to slash its emissions by 55 percent by 2030.

It was also a chance for the U.K. to shine, touting its post-Brexit example of climate leadership by promising to raise the country’s 2030 emissions cut to 68 percent and pursue a green industrial strategy that would make the country “the Saudi Arabia of wind,” as Prime Minister Boris Johnson said. Campaigners cheered his announcement to end foreign fossil fuel financing.

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Johnson added his own carefully studied artlessness in describing his country’s climate effort: “We’re doing this not because we are hairshirt-wearing, tree-hugging, mungbean-munching eco freaks, although I’ve got nothing against any of those categories, and mungbeans are probably delicious.”

Some action came from the G20 nations — the grouping of the world’s 20 largest economies that includes giants like China and the U.S., but also substantial polluters like Canada, Argentina and India.

Argentina announced net zero emission goals by 2050. India touted its renewable achievements without committing to higher emission cuts in the coming years. Canada promised to raise its 2030 emissions target and to boost carbon prices — the most substantial commitment the country has ever made — but one that climate campaigner Alex Scott with the environmental think tank E3G said wasn’t “super ambitious.” Japan and South Korea promised improved climate commitments next year, aside from reiterating their earlier 2050 net zero pledges.

Pakistan, which is not a G20 member but is a major coal user, will stop coal power plants and boost the share of clean energy to 60 percent by 2030, Prime Minister Imran Khan said.

Russia, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Australia were missing from the party — which was only open to countries making substantial new climate pledges.

Finance was the gaping hole in the summit: 2020 was meant to be the year that rich countries hit their $100 billion a year climate finance pledge. Not only will they miss that, but the summit barely heard any new funding commitments; in one of the rare offerings, Italy pledged €30 million for the U.N. adaptation fund.

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“It’s striking how many countries are still missing when the urgency of addressing climate breakdown has never been clearer.  COVID-19 may have occupied the headlines but 2020 has seen floods, hurricanes and droughts continue apace throughout the world,” said Mohamed Adow, director of Power Shift Africa, a think tank.

Source: POLITICO https://www.politico.eu/article/un-chief-complains-that-far-from-enough-being-done-on-climate/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication

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