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Friday, Dec 13, 2019

We’ve sleepwalked beyond the point of no return: UN chief on climate change

India, which is highlighting sustainable living at its COP25 pavillion, will emphasise that developed countries take lead in undertaking ambitious actions and fulfil their climate finance commitments.

india Updated: Dec 03, 2019 06:26 IST
Jayashree Nandi
Jayashree Nandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The chair of the two-week COP25 climate summit attended by nearly 200 countries warned at its opening that those refusing to adjust to the planet's rising temperatures
The chair of the two-week COP25 climate summit attended by nearly 200 countries warned at its opening that those refusing to adjust to the planet's rising temperatures "will be on the wrong side of history." In this Aug. 23, 2019 file photo, the carcass of a cow lies partially embedded in the dried up lake bed of the Aculeo Lagoon, in Paine, Chile.(AP)
         

The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25) opened in Madrid on Monday with the largest scientific community on climate science warning that the planet’s ability to adapt to and cope with how it is being treated is fraying and that the impact of the climate crisis is far more significant than previously estimated.

UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s chair, Hoesung Lee emphasised the moral obligation of major polluters to deliver on the 2015 Paris Agreement goals.

“Our three special reports on warming of 1.5°C, climate change and land, and the ocean and cryosphere in a changing climate (published earlier this year) indicated that the impacts of current warming are much more severe than previously understood: e.g. accelerating sea level rise and ocean warming, some key ecosystems becoming much more vulnerable, and increasing risks of reaching limits to adaptation,” Lee said in his opening remarks.

Immediate reductions would generate opportunities for investment in innovation and technologies for higher productivity in energy and resource use, he said while underlining that failure to achieve immediate emission reductions would mean “stranded assets, the legacy of ’business as usual’ investment.”

Guterres warned that the failure to draft rules on Article 6 — this allows for a legal framework to allow use of market based climate change mitigation mechanism — at COP25 will “risk fragmenting carbon markets”.

“Article 6 [of the Paris agreement] was the outstanding issue not resolved at Katowice and to put a price on carbon is vital.”

“By the end of the coming decade we will be on one of two paths, one of which is sleepwalking past the point of no return,” Guterres said in his opening address. “The last five years have been the hottest ever recorded... Ice caps are melting. In Greenland alone, 179 billion tonnes of ice melted in July. Permafrost in the Arctic is thawing 70 years ahead of projections. Antarctica is melting three times as fast as a decade ago.

Ocean levels are rising quicker than expected, putting some of our biggest and most economically important cities at risk. More than two-thirds of the world’s megacities are located by the sea,” he added.

Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi who attended the opening, said the US will be a part of the Paris Agreement and the movement to bring down global carbon emissions, although by itself, her comment means nothing.

“We’re here to say to all of you, on behalf of the House of Representatives and the Congress of the United States, we’re still in it, we’re still in it… This is a mission, this is a passion and this is a scientifically based approach,” she said. Pelosi was leading a delegation of 14 other congressional Democrats and spoke at a forum of leaders of vulnerable nations which included Bangladesh PM, Sheikh Hasina and Costa Rica president Carlos Alvarado Quesada. Her comments come even as the US house Congressional committee has started reviewing an impeachment investigation against President Donald Trump. Trump announced in 2017 that US would withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

“Today, most heads of states, from Argentina to Bangladesh, and the European Union to Honduras spoke about the impact the ecosystem and the social system is facing, and the importance of moving together and faster to fight the climate crisis. About 25 prime ministers and presidents present also spoke of their commitments to long term strategies — meaning turning carbon neutral by 2050 — yet it remains clear that political will is wanting” said Aarti Khosla, director of Delhi-based Climate Trends, a climate communications organisation.

India, which is highlighting sustainable living at its COP25 pavillion, will emphasise that developed countries take lead in undertaking ambitious actions and fulfil their climate finance commitments of mobilising $100 billion per annum by 2020 and progressively and scale up their financial support for future action through NDCs, a senior environment ministry official, who did not wish to be identified, said.