UN chief fires ‘bad news’ starter pistol on climate talks

World needs to do seven times more than the current commitments to keep temperature rise in check, Antonio Guterres says

Days before key climate talks in Scotland, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said that global efforts to cut emissions of planet-heating gases and other steps are still not enough to avert “climate catastrophe”.

Speaking in New York on Tuesday, the secretary general said the climate pledges made before the Cop26 meeting in Glasgow would still result in 2.7°C of global warming — more than the planet can handle safely.

He spoke at the release of the UN’s 2021 Emissions Gap Report, which tracks the climate commitments made by governments and assesses whether they are enough to keep global warming in check.

“Today I have bad news,” Mr Guterres told reporters. “Less than one week before Cop26 in Glasgow, we are still on track for climate catastrophe.”

The global climate summit, hosted by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, kicks off in Glasgow on October 31. Britain has cast the summit as the last big chance for countries to commit to slowing rising temperatures.

This week’s UN report tracks progress towards a 2015 deal in Paris to cut pollution and limit global warming to 1.5°C over pre-industrial times this century and lower the risk of fires, droughts, floods and other weather disasters.

The UN says that the latest round of climate pledges that are being unveiled before the Glasgow meeting — the so-called Nationally Determined Contributions — still fall badly short of what is needed.

“The new plans will reduce predicted 2030 emissions by just 7.5 per cent beyond what was already committed,” said Mr Guterres.

“As the report demonstrates — the world would need seven times more ambition to keep on the 1.5°C track.”

Under the Paris deal, governments are expected to phase out coal and other carbon-emitting dirty fossil fuels in favour of solar, wind and other cleaner energy sources and to clean up industry, transport, agriculture and other sectors.

Mr Guterres blamed a “leadership gap” and urged the politicians headed to Glasgow to raise their ambitions for tackling climate change, saying the “era of half measures and hollow promises must end”.

Updated: October 26th 2021, 2:46 PM