UN chief hails Caribbean leadership on climate action

FILE PHOTO: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during interview with Reuters at U.N. headquarters in New York
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres poses for a photograph during an interview with Reuters at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., Sept. 14, 2020.
REUTERS / Mike Segar, File

United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres on Wednesday commended the leadership of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on climate action, saying that he was counting on these nations to send a strong signal to the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) that it is possible to achieve a resilient net zero future.

Guterres was speaking at the High-Level Dialogue on Climate Action in the Americas, hosted by the government of Argentina.

The one-day virtual event brought together countries in the Americas, including the Caribbean, to discuss their shared commitment to enhancing climate ambition.

“We need to act together to overcome the current impasse,” said Guterres, adding that countries in the region were already showing their ambition in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climatic change, even as they grapple with the social and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He also pledged “the full support of the United Nations system to address the triple threat of COVID-19, climate change and debt.”

Guterres highlighted three essential areas that need immediate action. First, keep the 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels target within reach. According to him, at present, the world is “a long way from achieving it”.

He shared some examples of how that can be accomplished, such as achieving net zero emissions by 2050 and phasing out the use of coal no later than 2030 for Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, and by 2040 for all others.

The UN chief also said that “a just transition means ensuring that workers in high-carbon and fossil fuel-related sectors have decent alternative options, are supported for retraining, and have social safety nets.”

Second, Guterres asked for a breakthrough on adaptation and resilience, calling on donors and multilateral development banks to allocate at least 50 per cent of their climate finance to this end. Currently, only 21 per cent is devoted to it.

The UN said developing countries, including those in the Caribbean, already need around US$70 billion dollars a year to adapt to these changes. That figure could more than quadruple by the end of this decade, the UN said.

Additionally, the Secretary-General said developed nations must deliver on the solidarity agenda.

“That means support to developing countries on vaccines, debt and liquidity, as well as climate finance,” he said.

To achieve that goal, Guterres argued the world needs “a credible plan” for delivering on the US$100 billion commitment made over a decade ago, adding that multilateral development banks have to align their portfolios with the 1.5 degrees goal.

The opening of the high-level event also featured remarks from US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, along with Latin American and Caribbean heads of state, the UN said.

It said the event included interventions from governments, the private and financial sectors, development banks, academia and civil society organizations.

The UN said panel discussions were held on topics such as enhancing climate ambition on the road to Glasgow, accelerating climate action through regional cooperation, and strengthening adaptation and resilience to the impacts of climate change.

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