NEW DELHI — U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres on Friday urged the Group of 20 top economic powers, which are responsible for more than 80% of the emissions that cause global warming, to use their weekend summit to send a strong message on climate change.
Guterres said all licensing or funding for new fossil fuel projects should be stopped and that the G20 must keep the “1.5-degree goal alive,” referring to the 2015 Paris climate agreement that set 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) as a global guardrail in atmospheric warming, with countries pledging to try to prevent that much long-term warming if possible.
Earlier this year, the U.N. weather agency had said that there’s a two-out-of-three chance that the world will temporarily hit a key warming limit within the next five years.
July 2023 was Earth’s hottest month on record by a wide margin.
Climate ministers of the G20 nations ended their last meeting for the year in July without resolving major disagreements on climate policies.
“The climate crisis is worsening dramatically — but the collective response is lacking in ambition, credibility, and urgency,” Guterres said at a news conference at the U.N. office in New Delhi.
India’s priorities for the G20 summit include efforts to develop alternative fuels like hydrogen, resource efficiency and reforming development banks like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to help make funds more accessible for lower- and middle-income countries as they seek solutions to combat climate change.
Guterres called on big emitters to make additional efforts to cut emissions and rich countries to meet the climate finance commitments made already.
“If we are indeed one global family,” the U.N. chief said, referring to India’s theme for the meetings, ”we today resemble a rather dysfunctional one.”
As leaders gathered for the weekend summit, Russia’s war on Ukraine threatened to dominate the talks, with its effect on food and energy security along with other global implications.
Guterres said with the problems facing the world, now was the time for countries to work together, saying “we have no time to lose.”
“Divisions are growing, tensions are flaring up, and trust is eroding — which together raise the specter of fragmentation, and ultimately, confrontation,” he said.
“This fracturing would be deeply concerning in the best of times, but in our times, it spells catastrophe.”
On Friday, the United Nations also released a technical report that assesses where various countries stand in their efforts to reduce carbon emissions.
The report said that global emissions aren’t in line with climate goals and that “there is a rapidly narrowing window to raise ambition and implement existing commitments in order to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels.”
Guterres asked nations that are part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to aim to reach net zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2040 and for emerging economies to reach the same goal by 2050.
Energy analysts say its crucial that G20 leaders act on the U.N. chief’s suggestions.
“Phasing fossil fuels out is going to be a crucial, messy, and unavoidable fight. But it’s one that leaders need to have. And have it now,” said Madhura Joshi, energy analyst at the climate think tank E3G.
Joshi who has been closely following the climate policy discussions at the G20 gatherings added, “In the midst of raging climate impacts, the world needs G20 leaders to move beyond their differences and agree to an ambitious and equitable agenda of action this decade.”
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