'Point of no return' on climate change
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said 1 December 2019 that the world's efforts to stop climate change have been "utterly inadequate" so far and there is a danger global warming could pass the "point of no return." Speaking before the start on 2 December 2019 of a two-week international climate conference (COP25) in Madrid, the UN chief said the impact of rising temperatures — including more extreme weather — is already being felt around the world, with dramatic consequences for humans and other species. He noted that the world has the scientific knowledge and the technical means to limit global warming, but "what is lacking is political will."
- Delegates from almost 200 countries will try to put the finishing touches on the rules governing the 2015 Paris climate accord at the December 2-13 meeting, including how to create functioning international emissions trading systems and compensate poor countries for losses they suffer from rising sea levels and other consequences of climate change.
- Guterres cited mounting scientific evidence for the impact that man-made emissions of greenhouse gases are already having on the planet, including record temperatures and melting polar ice.
- But he insisted that his message was "one of hopes, not of despair. Our war against nature must stop and we know that that is possible."
- Countries agreed in Paris four years ago to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), ideally 1.5C (2.7F) by the end of the century, compared with pre-industrial times.
- Already, average temperatures have increased by about 1C, leaving little room for the more ambitious target to be met.
- Guterres said growing demands from citizens, particularly young people, have shown there is widespread desire for climate action.
- Political will to put a price on carbon. Political will to stop subsidies on fossil fuels. Political will to stop building coal power plants from 2020 onwards. Political will to shift taxation from income to carbon. Taxing pollution instead of people.
- Guterres noted that some 70 countries — many of them among the most vulnerable to climate change — have pledged to stop emitting more greenhouse gases by 2050.
- The UN chief said he hoped the meeting in Madrid would see governments make more ambitious pledges ahead of a deadline to do so next year.
- Guterres also announced that outgoing Bank of England governor Mark Carney will become his new special envoy on "climate action and climate finance" from next year.
- The signatories to the 1992 UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) meet to discuss and decide on steps that countries need to take to fight climate change.
- This will be the 25th edition of the meeting, hence COP25.
- It is the same meeting that, at COP3, delivered the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the first international agreement to fight climate change.
- The Kyoto Protocol was later deemed to be inadequate, and after several years of negotiations, COP21 in 2015 delivered the Paris Agreement.
- In subsequent years, countries have been trying to finalise the rules and procedures that will govern the implementation of the Paris Agreement.
- One of the most important tasks at the upcoming COP is to complete the negotiations over the rulebook.