climate change

On the eve of COP25, Antonio Guterres sent out an urgent warning


Antonio Guterres at the COP25 opening ceremony. Photo credit: United Nations.

By Anders Lorenzen

As delegates were arriving for COP25, the annual UN climate summit, the UN head Antonio Guterres yet again warned about the cost of inaction and that we are not doing nearly enough to prevent climate catastrophe.

The UN Secretary-General warned governments that they risk sleepwalking past a point of no return. He strongly urged governments to choose hope over surrender.

During Monday’s opening session last week (2nd December), Guterres told delegates: “Do we really want to be remembered as the generation that buried its head in the sand, that fiddled while the planet burned? One is the path of surrender, where we have sleepwalked past the point of no return. The other option is the path of hope. A path of resolve, of sustainable solutions”.

Spain, which offered to host the summit at the eleventh hour after Chile pulled out due to unrest in the country, drew on similar narratives. Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, urged delegates to take ambitious action to preserve the “fragile balance” of life on Earth.

The Paris Agreement was agreed upon at COP21 in Paris in 2015. This was before there were such things as Donald Trump and Brexit to consider. The Paris Agreement faces a moment of truth next year when governments are due to unveil more ambitious proposals to cut the production of planet-warming gases to stop the climate careering past dangerous tipping points. 

Under existing pledges, the world is on course for the kind of temperature rises exceeding the universally agreed 2 degrees C target.  These rises could threaten the stability of industrial societies, and lay waste to swathes of the developing world in the second half of the century, scientists say.

So far 2019 has not been short of headline-grabbing depressing climate stories. We are fast approaching irreversible tipping points, with ice melting in the Arctic, with fires in the Amazon and Australia, with intense tropical hurricanes, and with flooding in many places on the European continent. Out-of-season heatwaves were also just some of the events the world population had to deal with in 2019.  But such events may also have caused increased ambitions as the increased awareness among the public and politicians has resulted in some governments passing ambitious climate laws.

The US and Trump will again this year be in focus. The world’s second-highest CO2 emitter has officially started the process to pull out of the Paris Agreement which will take effect one year after the US election next year. So it could still be reversed were the Democrats to win.

The Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi is also in Madrid. She was keen to demonstrate that Congress were keen on climate action and said: “by coming here we want to say to everyone we are still in, the United States is still in,” Pelosi said.

And Pedro Sanchez also had an indirect message to Trump and the US: “There is no wall high enough to protect any country from this challenge, however powerful they are,” he said.

In Madrid, delegates aim to tackle an important outstanding issue from the Paris accord: rules on carbon trading that are seen as vital to kick-starting faster action to reduce emissions

The summit is also seen as a broader test of international commitment to the kind of major changes in energy, transport and industry that scientists say are needed to wean the world off fossil fuels fast enough to avoid catastrophe.

COP25 is scheduled to conclude on Friday (13th December).


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