Antonio Guterres
Antonio Guterres

All countries should commit to zero carbon emissions by 2050 if the world is to avoid a disastrous temperature rise of 2.4 degrees Celsius by the end of this century, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Thursday.

In his keynote speech at a high-level climate gathering in Petersberg, Germany – six months before world leaders convene in Glasgow, Scotland, for the COP26 (the 26th United Nations Conference of Parties on Climate Change) Climate Summit – the UN chief also offered a message of hope, insisting that it is still possible to avert the worst impacts of emissions-fueled environmental shocks.

“I see encouraging signs from some major economies,” he said, referring to countries that represent 73 percent of emissions having committed to net zero emissions by mid-century.

All countries – especially in the G20 – need to close the mitigation gap further by COP26, he insisted, highlighting the threat already faced by developing countries, where “people are dying, farms are failing (and) millions face displacement.”

“The bottom line is that, by 2030, we must cut global emissions by 45 percent compared to 2010 levels to get to net zero emissions by 2050. That is how we will keep the hope of 1.5 degrees alive,” he said.

The world’s top priority should be to dispense with polluting coal-fired power stations altogether and replace them with renewable energy, the top UN official noted.

“I reiterate my call to donors and multilateral development banks to ensure that at least 50 percent of climate finance is for adaption and resilience,” Guterres said, noting that “adaptation finance” to developing countries represents only 21 percent of climate finance today.

The Petersberg Climate Dialogue is an annual event that has been convened by Germany since 2010. It brings together ministers from over 30 countries, top executives, civil society and subnational leaders in preparation for the annual climate COP, which will be held in Glasgow from Nov. 1 to 12.

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