by Glen Besa
Issued yesterday in the midst of Putin’s devastating war on Ukraine, the UN Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change’s latest report might be easily overlooked. That would be tragic given that Putin’s war is financed with oil and gas export revenues that are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions driving the climate emergency.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres took time out in the middle of deliberations on the war on Ukraine to deliver a sobering message on climate. That message reminds us that as easily as it is for us to be distracted by the daily news whether it is about rising gas prices at the pump or Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the climate emergency is gaining momentum and consequences will be more widespread and far graver that the atrocities we are witnessing in Ukraine. This is particularly relevant for Virginians who just elected a Republican Governor and Republican House of Delegates dedicated to undermining state efforts to rein in our own contributions to climate change. That is not to let some Virginia Democrats off the hook who continue to foster reliance on natural gas.
Here are UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres remarks with emphasis added by me, but the entire speech deserves our close attention:
I have seen many scientific reports in my time, but nothing like this.
Today’s IPCC report is an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership.
With fact upon fact, this report reveals how people and the planet are getting clobbered by climate change.
Nearly half of humanity is living in the danger zone – now.
Many ecosystems are at the point of no return – now.
Unchecked carbon pollution is forcing the world’s most vulnerable on a frog march to destruction – now.
The facts are undeniable.
This abdication of leadership is criminal.
The world’s biggest polluters are guilty of arson of our only home.
It is essential to meet the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.
Science tells us that will require the world to cut emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
But according to current commitments, global emissions are set to increase almost 14 per cent over the current decade.
That spells catastrophe.
It will destroy any chance of keeping 1.5 alive.
Today’s report underscores two core truths.
First, coal and other fossil fuels are choking humanity.
All G20 governments have agreed to stop funding coal abroad. They must now urgently do the same at home and dismantle their coal fleets.
Those in the private sector still financing coal must be held to account.
Oil and gas giants – and their underwriters – are also on notice.
You cannot claim to be green while your plans and projects undermine the 2050 net-zero target and ignore the major emissions cuts that must occur this decade.
People see through this smokescreen.
OECD countries must phase out coal by 2030, and all others by 2040.
The present global energy mix is broken.
As current events make all too clear, our continued reliance on fossil fuels makes the global economy and energy security vulnerable to geopolitical shocks and crises.
Instead of slowing down the decarbonization of the global economy, now is the time to accelerate the energy transition to a renewable energy future.
Fossil fuels are a dead end – for our planet, for humanity, and yes, for economies.
A prompt, well-managed transition to renewables is the only pathway to energy security, universal access and the green jobs our world needs.
I am calling for developed countries, Multilateral Development Banks, private financiers and others to form coalitions to help major emerging economies end the use of coal.
These targeted mechanisms of support would be over and above existing sustainable development needs.
The second core finding from this report is slightly better news: investments in adaptation work.
Adaptation saves lives.
As climate impacts worsen – and they will – scaling up investments will be essential for survival.
Adaptation and mitigation must be pursued with equal force and urgency.
That’s why I have been pushing to get to 50% of all climate finance for adaptation.
The Glasgow commitment on adaptation funding is clearly not enough to meet the challenges faced by nations on the frontlines of the climate crisis.
I’m also pressing to remove the obstacles that prevent small island states and least developed countries from getting the finance they desperately need to save lives and livelihoods.
We need new eligibility systems to deal with this new reality.
Delay means death.
I take inspiration from all those on the frontlines of the climate battle fighting back with solutions.
All development banks – multilateral, regional, national – know what needs to be done: work with governments to design pipelines of bankable adaptation projects and help them find the funding, public and private.
And every country must honour the Glasgow pledge to strengthen national climate plans every year until they are aligned with 1.5C.
The G20 must lead the way, or humanity will pay an even more tragic price.
I know people everywhere are anxious and angry.
I am, too.
Now is the time to turn rage into action.
Every fraction of a degree matters.
Every voice can make a difference.
And every second counts.