UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday expressed concern that the world is not well on track to meet several important goals in the fight against climate change.
“Based on the current commitments of member states, the world is on a destructive path of 2.7-degree [Celsius] of heating, instead of 1.5 we all agreed there should be a limit. “Science tells us that anything above 1.5 degrees will be a disaster.”
To reach 1.5 degrees, the United Nations says rich countries need to step in with $100 billion a year between now and 2025.
Greenhouse gas emissions also need to be cut by about half by 2030 so that nations can reach carbon neutrality by the 2050 goal. This includes the difficult task of getting countries to phase out their use of polluting coal plants.
“Where I believe there is still a long way to go in regards to emissions reductions,” Guterres said.
About 80% of emissions come from G-20 countries.
In November, nations will meet in Glasgow, Scotland, for a major climate conference to review progress on commitments since the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
On Monday, Guterres co-hosted a small meeting of major countries with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for one of the last gatherings before the summit. Both Guterres and Johnson have warned that the review conference, known as COP26, cannot fail and requires ambitious commitments.
“I think Glasgow – COP26 – is a turning point for the world,” Johnson told reporters. “This is a moment when we have to grow up and take on our responsibilities.”
The United Nations says half of the $100 billion annually in public climate funding needs to go to adaptation efforts in developing countries.
Guterres expressed concern that progress on this is not enough. However, he pointed to some movement on Monday, including new commitments from Sweden and Denmark.
“I believe it can get 50% traction, but we’re still not there,” he said.
“It is the developing world that bears the brunt of devastating climate change in the form of hurricanes and fires and floods, and is facing real long-term economic damage,” Johnson said. “And yet, it is the developed world that has put carbon into the atmosphere over more than 200 years that is causing this acceleration of climate change. And so it’s really up to us to help them.”
Climate action activists say it is not spending the money that is blocking accelerated progress.
“The pandemic has shown that countries can rapidly raise trillions of dollars to respond to an emergency – it is clearly a question of political will,” said Nafkote Dabi, global climate policy lead at Oxfam International. “Let’s be clear, we are in a climate emergency. It is wreaking havoc around the world and requires the same decisiveness and urgency.”