António Guterres on the climate crisis: “We are reaching a point of no return”

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WHealthy countries risk an “unforgivable lost opportunity” by not emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic with new green economies to tackle the climate crisis, the United Nations Secretary-General has warned.

Prior to meeting the leaders of the world’s major economic powers at the G7 summit in the UK, António Guterres expressed concern that the richest countries had injected billions of dollars more into fossil fuels than into clean energy since the pandemic, despite their promises of a green environment. recovery.

“I am more than disappointed, I am worried about the consequences,” Guterres told The Guardian at UN headquarters in New York, as part of a consortium of Covering Climate Now interviews alongside NBC News and El Pais . “We need to make sure to reverse trends, not maintain trends. It is now clear that we are coming to a point of no return.

“Spending these trillions of dollars and not taking this opportunity to reverse the trends and invest heavily in the green economy will be an unforgivable lost opportunity. “

A recent analysis showed that the G7 countries – the UK, US, Canada, Italy, France, Germany and Japan – have committed $ 189 billion to support oil, coal and gas, as well as providing financial lifelines for the aviation and automotive sectors, since the coronavirus outbreak. This is more than $ 40 billion more than what has been spent on renewable energy.

Several leaders, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have stressed the need for the climate crisis to be at the heart of the Covid recovery, with various cities around the world bringing cyclists and pedestrians in streets previously dominated by cars.

But while the G7 countries have agreed to halt international financing of coal, the world’s richest nations are pouring billions of dollars into developing gas, another fossil fuel, in the south of the planet at a rate four times higher than that of financing supporting wind or solar projects. As economies begin to reopen, global heating emissions are expected to increase by the second largest annual increase in history in 2021, according to the International Energy Agency.

Guterres said he welcomed the G7’s commitment because “many countries are still addicted to coal” but there is still a long way to go in what he called a “watershed year” which will be complemented by crucial UN climate talks in Scotland. in November.

“We must abolish fossil fuel subsidies, this is a central issue,” he said. “We need to look at the real costs that exist in the economy, which means a price on carbon. If we do these things, a lot of the investments made in fossil fuels in the recovery phase will obviously not pay off. They will be stranded assets with no future. “

A key priority for the UN Secretary General at the G7 summit will be to lobby leaders on the controversial issue of climate finance. As part of the historic Paris climate agreement in 2015, rich countries agreed to provide $ 100 billion a year to developing countries to help them adapt to floods, droughts, heat waves and more. impacts of the climate crisis.

However, this money was never fully disbursed and Guterres said it would be “impossible” to effectively tackle the climate crisis without help to the poorest countries. He said the G7 will have to provide the money to “rebuild trust” with developing countries.

“The $ 100 billion is essential,” said the secretary general. “Climate action has so far been focused on mitigation, on reducing emissions. But developing countries have enormous problems adapting to the existing impacts of climate change.

Guterres has said he hopes Joe Biden will be able to mobilize other countries to meet their climate aid commitments as the United States continues its reintegration into international climate diplomacy after Donald Trump’s presidency.

But the United States has “a lot of catching up to do,” said Saleemul Huq, director of the International Center for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh. “Biden is not getting a free pass because the United States caused the damage. If you fail to deliver to the rest of the world, that will be our problem and it will come back to bite you.

Scientists recently warned that the world could exceed, albeit temporarily, the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 ° C average temperature increase limit over the next five years. Guterres said, however, that it was “not only possible, but necessary” to strive to avoid global warming above this threshold, beyond which disastrous climate impacts are expected.

“We still have time, but we are on point,” he said. “When you’re on the brink, you have to make sure your next step is in the right direction. “

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