6 December, 2021

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The Glasgow Climate Test

By António Guterres

The climate crisis is a code red for humanity.

World leaders will soon be put to the test at the UN Climate Conference — known as COP26 — in Glasgow.

António Guterres

Their actions — or inactions — will show their seriousness about addressing this planetary emergency.

The warning signs are hard to miss: temperatures everywhere are reaching new highs; biodiversity is reaching new lows; oceans are warming, acidifying and choking with plastic waste. Increasing temperatures will make vast stretches of our planet dead zones for humanity by century’s end.

And the respected medical journal The Lancet just described climate change as the “defining narrative of human health” in the years to come — a crisis defined by widespread hunger, respiratory illness, deadly disasters and infectious disease outbreaks that could be even worse than COVID-19.

Despite these alarm bells ringing at fever pitch, we see new evidence in the latest UN reports that governments’ actions so far simply do not add up to what is so desperately needed.

Recent new announcements for climate action are welcome and critical — but even so, our world is on track for calamitous global temperature rises well above 2 degrees Celsius.

This is a far cry from the 1.5 degree Celsius target to which the world agreed under the Paris Agreement – a target that science tells us is the only sustainable pathway for our world.

This target is entirely achievable.

If we can reduce global emissions by 45 per cent compared to 2010 levels this decade.

If we can achieve global net-zero by 2050.

And if world leaders arrive in Glasgow with bold, ambitious and verifiable 2030 targets, and new, concrete policies to reverse this disaster.

G20 leaders — in particular — need to deliver.

The time has passed for diplomatic niceties.

If governments — especially G20 governments — do not stand up and lead this effort, we are headed for terrible human suffering.

But all countries need to realize that the old, carbon-burning model of development is a death sentence for their economies and our planet.

We need decarbonization now, across every sector in every country. We need to shift subsidies from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and tax pollution, not people. We need to put a price on carbon, and channel that back towards resilient infrastructures and jobs.

And we need to phase-out coal — by 2030 in OECD countries and 2040 in all others. Increasing numbers of governments have pledged to stop financing coal — and private finance needs to do the same, urgently.

People rightly expect their governments to lead. But we all have a responsibility to safeguard our collective future.

Businesses need to reduce their climate impact, and fully and credibly align their operations and financial flows to a net-zero future. No more excuses; no more greenwashing.

Investors — public and private alike — must do the same. They should join front runners like the net-zero asset owners alliance, and the UN’s own pension fund, which met its 2021 carbon reduction investment objectives ahead of time and above its target, with a 32 per cent reduction this year.

Individuals in every society need to make better, more responsible choices in what they eat, how they travel, and what they buy.

And young people — and climate activists — need to keep doing what they’re doing: demanding action from their leaders and keeping them accountable.

Throughout, we need global solidarity to help all countries make this shift. Developing countries are grappling with debt and liquidity crises. They need support.

Public and multilateral development banks must significantly increase their climate portfolios and intensify their efforts to help countries transition to net-zero, resilient economies. The developed world must urgently meet its commitment of at least $100 billion in annual climate finance for developing countries.

Donors and multilateral development banks to allocate at least half their climate finance towards adaptation and resilience.

The United Nations was founded 76 years ago to build consensus for action against the greatest threats facing humanity. But rarely have we faced a crisis like this one – a truly existential crisis that — if not addressed — threatens not only us, but future generations.

There is one path forward. A 1.5 degree future is the only viable future for humanity.

Leaders must get on with the job in Glasgow, before it’s too late.

*António Guterres is Secretary-General of the United Nations

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Latest comments

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    Secretary General has to be frank with G-20. Small countries may be at high rate on waste line. But developed countries are many times high on the amount of waste. They can use mass transport, electric vehicles, consumption cut down, so on. These are not easy in the poor nation. Taking the poor nation along with them on the right nature conservation path is a developed nation share too. The UN has to set up reasonable consumption patterns for geographical areas. For example, southern countries use less heating energy, but higher for Northern countries. Towns are less on transport energy per person, but higher limits for rural areas. Farming industry should use more Sun and Wind energy. This is not a ration or law, but a recommendation to share the responsibility.

    Lankawe paved a path through Singarajah forest because China forced it. Lankawe created big damage to the landscape by failed Uma Oya diversion, not because Lankaweyans needed that, but China needed that. Russia forces small nations to switch over inferior fuel by refusing to supply natural gas. I know France was in negotiation with China on the final numbers to be achieved. China has to be open in its action. Last few years, China has been erupting with dust volcanoes in its towns.

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      Factual error, Mallai,
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      China was not involved in Uma Oya; it’s the Iranians who were involved. I’m in the affected area.
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      Likely nobody will see these comments – if the moderators pass it. Unlikely Guterres ever wrote it especially for Lanka. That’s all right, he’s doing his job.
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      As for Uma Oya, yes there was water at a high level. Turning it into electricity was something asking to be done since we humans feel that everything in Nature is for us to exploit. But the water should have been sent back to the Mahaweli system.
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      Instead, all this tunneling, and taking it towards Hambantota. Since we’re critical of the Rajapaksas, let’s blame it on them.
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      Objective truth??? – No idea!

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    Guterres is the major human voice from God that can get the action going. Temples, churches, and mosques to make it the daily mantra of their prayers. Ten decades of the Rosary to be said daily. All these to gain spiritual motivation and insight on how to go about saving the earth from climate-change disaster. Major reason for climate change is Northern countries heating up during the winter. Not sure of transforming concentrated sunlight into energy ….too much concentrate sunlight transforming to energy especially heat, can’t be a good thing. CO2 to be pumped back deep into the earth and absorbed by material to take the place of coal and oil&gas that released CO2 into the atmosphere in the first place. In the meantime, old-fashioned Rajapaksas are building race-tracks, highways, port cities, large-scale polluting infrastructure, and all the while cutting down ancient forests and destroying natural farm heritage of Motherlanders. Once the climate model comes into force, zero money will be made from outdate Lankan infrastructure. But UN must pay countries such as ours to keep our farms and forests, and stop the infrastructure build-up. I tell you what…….instead of the crypto deal, why not have Motherland be the first for Carbon dumping deep into the earth and deep ocean? Dump Carbon into Port City ground.

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    Dear Dr António Guterres,
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    Remember also how we’ve been contributing to global warming by forcing cremation on Muslims who died of COVID.
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    Not to speak of bombings and arson by both sides during our civil war.
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    I know that many countries cause headaches, but we Lankans seem to do these things for no discernible reasons.

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