Guterres said the goal of the Paris climate accord was “life support” because countries aren’t doing enough to cut emissions.
Countries trying to replace Russia’s oil, gas and coal supplies with an available alternative could fuel the “mutually assured destruction” of the world from climate change, the United Nations head warned Monday.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the all-of-the-above strategy now being pursued by major economies to end imports of fossil fuels from Russia because of the invasion of Ukraine would give hopes. destroy to keep global warming below dangerous levels.
“Countries could be so consumed by the immediate gap in fossil fuel supply that they neglect or ignore policies to reduce fossil fuel use,” he said via video at an event hosted weekly by The Economist.
“This is madness. Addiction to fossil fuels is mutually assured destruction.” Germany, one of Russia’s largest energy customers, wants to increase its oil supply from the Gulf and accelerate the construction of terminals to receive liquefied natural gas.
In the United States, White House spokesman Jen Psaki said earlier this month that the war in Ukraine was a reason for US oil and gas producers to “bring more supply out of the ground in our own country”. Guterres said that “instead of slowing down the decarbonization of the global economy, now is the time to step up to a renewable energy future.” His comments came as scientists from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change began a two-week meeting to finalize their latest report on the world’s efforts to curb emissions of greenhouse gases that warm the planet.
A separate report, released last month, found that half of humanity is already at serious risk from climate change and this will increase with every tenth degree of warming.
Guterres said the Paris climate accord’s goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) was “on life support” because countries aren’t doing enough to cut emissions.
With temperatures already about 1.2 °C higher than before industrialization, keeping the Paris target alive will require a 45% reduction in global emissions by 2030, he said.
But after a pandemic-related dip in 2020, emissions rose again sharply last year.
“If we continue with more of the same, we can kiss 1.5 goodbye,” he said. “Even 2 degrees might be out of reach. And that would be a disaster.” Guterres urged the world’s largest developed and emerging economies to make meaningful emissions reductions, including by quickly ending their dependence on coal – the most polluting fossil fuel – and holding private companies to account that continue to support its use.
Hundreds of scientists in Britain and the United States published an open letter Monday calling on academic institutions to stop accepting funding from fossil fuel companies for climate change research.
Speaking at the opening of the IPCC meeting Monday, the head of the UN’s climate agency urged governments to take immediate action so that the 2030 targets – such as the European Union’s target to reduce emissions by 55% from from 1990 levels – can be achieved.
“Long-term plans are important and necessary,” says Patricia Espinosa.
“But if world leaders, public and private, don’t make progress and make clear plans for climate action over the next two years, then plans for 2050 may be irrelevant.” The IPCC report, due to be published on April 4, is not expected to contain direct references to the fallout from the war in Ukraine, said Jim Skea, who co-chairs the panel of experts that wrote it.
“Our strength lies in building up scientific information incrementally over a period of time and getting it by both governments and scientists,” he said.
“And you can’t do that at the same time as a sixpence to address current affairs.” However, it will outline how different energy policies will affect emissions trends in the future. These include plans to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere again.
“That’s a much bigger emphasis from earlier,” Skea said.
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