UN chief says global warming target on “life support”

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GLASGOW, Scotland – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Thursday that a key focus of temperature in climate talks is “life support,” but he still hopes world governments step up their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. .

However, the UN chief would not say at what point he thinks that target should be dropped.

“When you’re on the edge of the abyss,” it’s not important to think too far into the future, he said. “What’s important to discuss is what your first step will be. Because if your first step is wrong, you won’t have the chance to … take a second or a third ».

So far, the talks have not come close to achieving any of the three priorities announced by the United Nations for the annual conference, called COP26. One is to cut carbon emissions by about half by 2030 to achieve the goal Guterres alluded to.

The other two are convincing rich countries to deliver on their 12-year pledge to provide $ 100 billion annually in climate financial aid to poor nations and ensure that half of that amount goes to help them adapt to the worst effects of the climate change.

Guterres said the Glasgow talks “are at a pivotal time” and must achieve more than securing a weak deal that the participating nations agree to uphold.

“The worst thing would be to reach an agreement at all costs with a lowest common denominator that does not respond to the enormous challenges we face,” said Guterres.

This is because the overall goal of limiting warming from pre-industrial times to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 F) by the end of the century “is still attainable, but in conditions of survival,” Guterres said. The world has already warmed by 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit).

Less than 36 hours before the scheduled closure of the negotiations, Guterres said that if negotiators fail to meet ambitious carbon reduction targets – “and most likely will not” – national leaders should find new commitments next year and in the future. 2023 during high-level meetings.

Guterres later told climate negotiators that “promises ring in vain when the fossil fuel industry still receives trillions in subsidies … or when countries are still building coal-fired power plants.”

In a separate interview last Thursday, former Irish President Mary Robinson accused Saudi Arabia and Russia of trying to cut or water down the language in a draft agreement that would require a phase-out of coal and an end to subsidies. to fossil fuels.

He also criticized British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the host of the climate talks, for not taking them seriously enough, not being in “crisis mode” and staying – unlike his French counterpart in 2015.

Guterres said he agreed with young climate activists – who have been a daily presence protesting in large numbers outside the climate talks, and sometimes inside – that they have asked the United Nations to define the global warming a high-level “climate emergency”.

“It’s clear to me, it’s a climate emergency,” Guterres said.

As dire and tragic as the COVID-19 pandemic is, there is a way that climate change is more than an emergency, Guterres said.

“The pandemic is reversible. We have the tools and the tools to stop it, “he said.” Climate change is a global threat to the planet and to humanity. And for the moment we still don’t have all the tools and tools we need to defeat it. “

And a lot of that comes down to the money.

The lack of movement on financial aid to poorer countries worries Guterres, who later told negotiators that the gap was a “glaring injustice.” He said if he were the leader of a small vulnerable island or another endangered country he would be angry about what is not happening in Glasgow.

Peter Liese, a senior member of the European Parliament, said Thursday that he and other lawmakers will push for the $ 100 billion to be delivered “definitely next year”.

And that divide between rich and poor kept popping up on Thursday.

The talks are now at the point where two avenues were possible: one that was good for people and the planet, and the other that led to “carbon colonialism,” said Bolivian chief negotiator Diego Pacheco Balanz. “We must fight the developed countries against carbon colonialism”.

Balanz spoke on behalf of the negotiating bloc of developing countries which includes countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia, including China and India.

Guterres praised a Wednesday night deal between the US and China to cut emissions this decade as why he still hopes for a semblance of success in Glasgow.

“This deal paves the way for other deals,” Guterres said in a 25-minute interview with AP.

The UN chief said he hopes two thorny problems that have challenged the resolution for six years can be resolved in Glasgow: the creation of viable markets for carbon credit trading and transparency demonstrating that the actions promised to reduce pollution are real.

New draft documents on regulating international cooperation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including the section on carbon markets, were released overnight, as well as new proposals containing various options for assessing and monitoring financial aid for countries in way of development.

The chairman of this year’s UN climate meeting called on negotiators from nearly 200 countries to engage in “another change of gear” as they try to reach an agreement on outstanding issues a day before the talks end.

British official Alok Sharma said he “had no illusions” that the texts under consideration would completely satisfy all countries at this stage, adding “we are not there yet”.

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Associated Press writer Aniruddha Ghosal contributed from Glasgow.

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Follow AP’s climate coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/climate

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Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter at @borenbears and Frank Jordans at @wirereporter

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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