Climate Action Now on Pollution – Planet Earth is Broken

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres declares that we must take climate action now at his address at Columbia University on the “The State of the Planet” on the 2nd December 2020.

CLIMATE ACTION – “Every individual must also do their part — as consumers, as producers, as investors. Technology is on our side. Sound economic analysis is our ally. More than half the coal plants operating today cost more to run than building new renewables from scratch. The coal business is going up in smoke. The International Labour Organization estimates that, despite inevitable job losses, the clean energy transition will result in the creation of 18 million jobs by 2030.

But a just transition is absolutely critical. We must recognize the human costs of the energy shift. Social protection, temporary basic income, re-skilling and up-skilling can support workers and ease the changes caused by decarbonization.”

State of the Planet title - climate action now

Every individual must also do their part — as consumers, as producers, as investors.

LACK OF INDUSTRY & POLITICAL WILL TO ACT – “Renewable energy is now the first choice not just for the environment, but for the economy. But there are worrying signs. Some countries have used the crisis to roll back environmental protections. Others are expanding natural resource exploitation and retreating from climate ambition. The G20 members, in their rescue packages, are now spending 50 per cent more on sectors linked to fossil fuel production and consumption, than on low-carbon energy. And beyond announcements, all must pass a credibility test. Let me take one example, the example of shipping. If the shipping sector was a country, it would be the world’s sixth biggest greenhouse gas emitter.

At last year’s Climate Action Summit, we launched the Getting to Zero Shipping Coalition to push for zero emissions deep sea vessels by 2030. Yet current policies are not in line with those pledges. We need to see enforceable regulatory and fiscal steps so that the shipping industry can deliver its commitments. Otherwise, the net zero ship will have sailed. Exactly the same applies to aviation.”

REVIVE 2015 PARIS AGREEMENT – “The Paris signatories are obligated to submit their revised and enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions with their 2030 emissions cut targets. Ten days from now, along with France and the United Kingdom, I am convening a Climate Ambition Summit to mark the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement. Less than a year from now, we will meet in Glasgow for COP26. These moments are opportunities we cannot miss for nations to detail how they will build forward and build better, acknowledging the common but differentiated responsibilities in the light of national circumstances – as said in the Paris Agreement – but with the common goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.”

Image of pollution from cargo vessel - climate action now

If the shipping sector was a country, it would be the world’s sixth biggest greenhouse gas emitter.

FINANCE – “Second, let me now turn to key question of finance. The commitments to net zero emissions are sending a clear signal to investors, markets and finance ministers. But we need to go further. We need all governments to translate these pledges into policies, plans and targets with specific timelines. This will provide certainty and confidence for businesses and the financial sector to invest for net zero. It is time:

  • To put a price on carbon;
  • To phase out fossil fuel finance and end fossil fuel subsidies;
  • To stop building new coal power plants — and halt coal power financing domestically and overseas;
  • To shift the tax burden from income to carbon, and from taxpayers to polluters;
  • To integrate the goal of carbon neutrality into all economic and fiscal policies and decisions.

And to make climate-related financial risk disclosures mandatory. Funding should flow to the green economy, resilience, adaptation and just transition programmes. We need to align all public and private financial flows behind the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. Multilateral, regional and national development institutions, and private banks, must all commit to align their lending to the global net zero objective. I call on all asset owners and managers to decarbonize their portfolios and to join key initiatives and partnerships launched by the United Nations, including the Global Investors for Sustainable Development Alliance and the Net-Zero Asset Owners Alliance today with $5.1 trillion dollars of assets.

Companies need to adjust their business models – and investors need to demand information from companies on the resilience of those models. The world’s pension funds manage $32 trillion dollars in assets, putting them in a unique position to move the needle, must move the needle and lead the way. I appeal to developed countries to fulfil their long-standing promise to provide $100 billion dollars annually to support developing countries in reaching our shared climate goals. We are not there yet.”

US banks world's biggest funders of dirty fossil fuels - climate action now

Phase out fossil fuel finance and end fossil fuel subsidies.

EQUITY – “This is a matter of equity, fairness, solidarity and enlightened self-interest. And I ask all countries to reach a compromise on Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, as they prepare for COP26, to get us the clear, fair and environmentally sound rules carbon markets need to fully function. I welcome the work of the task force launched in September, with members representing 20 sectors and 6 continents, to develop a blueprint for large-scale private carbon offset markets.”

ADAPTATION TO SURVIVE THE COMING DISASTERS – “Third, we need a breakthrough on adaptation and resilience. We are in a race against time to adapt to a rapidly changing climate. Adaptation must not be the forgotten component of climate action. Until now, adaptation represents only 20 per cent of climate finance, reaching $30 billion on average in 2017 and 2018. This hinders our essential work for disaster risk reduction. It also isn’t smart.

The Global Commission on Adaptation found that every $1 invested in adaptation could yield almost $4 in benefits.
We have both a moral imperative and a clear economic case for supporting developing countries to adapt and build resilience to current and future climate impacts. Before COP 26, all donors and the Multilateral and National Development Banks should commit to increase the share of adaptation and resilience finance to at least 50 per cent of their climate finance support.

Early warning systems, climate-resilient infrastructure, improved dry land agriculture, mangrove protection and other steps can give the world a double dividend: avoiding future losses and generating economic gains and other benefits. We need to move to large-scale, preventive and systematic adaptation support. This is especially urgent for small island developing states, which face an existential threat. The race to resilience is as important as the race to net zero.”

Image of pollution from aircraft taking off - climate action now

Aviation pollution needs to be included in a country’s emission target

NATURE – “But we must remember: there can be no separating climate action from the larger planetary picture. Everything is interlinked – the global commons and global well-being. That means we must act more broadly, more holistically, across many fronts, to secure the health of our planet on which all life depends.

Nature feeds us, clothes us, quenches our thirst, generates our oxygen, shapes our culture and our faiths and forges our very identity.”

Source: Secretary-General’s Antonio Guterres address at Columbia University: “The State of the Planet” on the 02 December 2020

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