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UN’s Guterres: Broad climate ‘movement’ has begun, but there’s a long way to go

In his op-ed, published by a consortium of more than 170 news outlets under the banner Covering Climate Now, which has an audience of hundreds of millions, he recalled that “on the eve of the September UN Climate Action Summit, young women and men around the world mobilized by the millions and told global leaders: ‘You are failing us.’” 

“They are right,” he lamented.  

“The science is undeniable” Mr. Guterres continued, and while some come to understand the climate crisis through data, those suffering its effects “can simply look out the window.”  

Last week, as world leaders convened for the start of the 74th Session of the UN General Assembly, talks kicked off with the first-ever summit devoted to Climate Action, for which Mr. Guterres urged delegates to come with concrete plans for achieving carbon neutrality and slashing emissions, rather than “beautiful speeches”. 

Meanwhile, millions of the world’s youth mobilized in protest of government inaction, for the largest climate demonstration in history.  

September’s Climate Action Summit aimed to “serve as a springboard” to fast-track Member States “to crucial 2020 deadlines established by the Paris Agreement”, the Secretary-General explained.  

“And many leaders – from many countries and sectors – stepped up”, he added, noting that more than 70 countries committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, while 100 cities, including several of the world’s largest, pledged to do the same.  

The UN chief’s challenge for States to act, was fruitful; an additional 70 countries announced intentions to boost national plans; Small Island Developing States promised to move to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030; countries across the globe vowed to plant more than 11 billion trees; and some of the world’s richest pledged to invest in carbon-neutral portfolios. Mr. Guterres stressed that “these steps are important – but they are not sufficient.”  

He said he will continue to encourage more action for climate solutions now that the Summit has concluded. Radical change will not happen overnight, he writes, and to “avoid the climate cliff”, we must gain momentum in responding to science-cutting emissions by 45 per cent by the year 2020, and live in a carbon-neutral world, come 2050.  

A follow up UN Climate conference in Santiago, Chile, set for early December, will be an opportunity to hold the private sector and local authorities’ accountable for commitments made at the General Assembly, Mr. Guterres said.  

At the current rate of global heating, we face an increase of “at least 3 degrees Celsius” in global temperature by the end of the century. “I will not be there, but my granddaughters will”, he said. “I refuse to be an accomplice in the destruction of their one and only home.”  

“We have a long way to go.” he cautioned. “But the movement has begun.” 

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