UN accuses countries of falling short in climate change fight

A United Nations climate change report has found that global efforts to reduce CO2 emissions “fall far short of what is required” and that nations must “step up” to fulfil promises made under the Paris agreement. It criticised countries for their emission reduction plans — known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) — and urged them to make “more ambitious” commitments. Following a legally binding international treaty on climate change signed in Paris in 2015, almost 200 countries set a goal of limiting global temperature rise by 2°C (or ideally 1.5°C) by the end of the century. The Initial NDC Synthesis Report assessed how close 75 of those countries, representing approximately 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions, were to meeting those targets.

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United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres remarked that the “red alert” report’s findings reveal governments’ positions are nowhere near the level of ambition needed to limit climate change as per the Paris agreement. To reduce the rise in global temperature by 1.5°C, CO2 emissions need to decline by about 45% from the 2010 level by 2030. Yet under the targets submitted by countries to this report, combined emissions would fall by just 0.5% of the 2010 level by the same date. New COP26 president Alok Sharma called today’s report “an urgent call to action” and warned that the “window for action to safeguard our planet is closing fast”.

Highlights and images of main proceedings for 23 November 2020
Alok Sharma, COP 26 President since 8 January 2021

The UN has called for all countries to submit new and improved NDCs ahead of a second report, due to be released prior to COP26. The climate conference in Glasgow has been rescheduled to November 2021. Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of UN climate change, said that while some countries had made huge steps to combat global warming in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, environmental strategies could not be put on hold. “If this task was urgent before, it’s crucial now,” she said.

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Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Earlier this month, scientists urged UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to bring forward his government’s net zero emissions target from 2050 to 2030.

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