1.5°C Climate Goal Is ‘On Life Support’ At COP26, Says United Nations Secretary-General

GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) — United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7°F) is “on life support” as U.N. climate talks enter their final days, but he added that “until the last moment, hope should be maintained.”

In an exclusive interview Thursday with The Associated Press, Guterres said the negotiations in Glasgow, Scotland, set to end Friday, will “very probably” not yield the carbon-cutting pledges he has said are needed to keep the planet from warming beyond the 1.5-degree threshold.

So far, the talks have not come close to achieving any of the U.N.’s three announced priorities for the annual conference, called COP26. The goal Guterres referred to is to cut carbon emissions in half by 2030.
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Other two include getting wealthy countries to honor a 12-year-old promise of $100 billion per year in financial climate assistance to poor nations, and making sure that half that money goes towards helping developing countries adapt to the worst impacts of climate change.

Guterres said the Glasgow talks “are in a crucial moment” and need to accomplish more than securing a weak deal that participating nations agree to support.

“The worst thing would be to reach an agreement at all costs by a minimum common denominator that would not respond to the huge challenges we face,” Guterres said.

That’s because the overarching goal of limiting warming since pre-industrial times to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7°F) by the end of the century “is still on reach but on life support,” Guterres said. The world has already warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius (2°F), leaving far less than a degree before the threshold is hit.

Less than 36 hours from the scheduled close of the negotiations, Guterres said that if negotiators can’t reach ambitious carbon-cutting goals – “and very probably it will not happen” – then national leaders would need to come up with new pledges next year and in 2023 during high-level meetings.

He said it is “very important” that nations update their goals and send top leaders to the climate talks every year, at this point. Guterres wouldn’t say when he believes the 1.5-degree target should be dropped.

“When you are on the verge of the abyss, it’s not important to discuss what will be your fourth or fifth step,” Guterres said. “What’s important to discuss is what will be your first step. Because if your first step is the wrong step, you will not have the chance to do a search to make a second or third one.”

Continue reading: Here Are the Goals of the COP26 Climate Change Meetings—and Where the World Stands in Accomplishing Them

Guterres spoke highly of the Wednesday night agreement between China and America to reduce their emissions in this decade. He said that it was a reason why some success is still possible for Glasgow. He said China promising that its carbon emissions would peak by 2030 represented a key change in the top emitter’s outlook.

According to the U.N. Chief, he hopes that Glasgow can solve two issues that have remained unresolved for six years: creating markets that allow for carbon credits trading and transparent evidence that pollution-reduction promises are being kept.

“It is the moment to reach agreement by increasing ambition in all areas: mitigation, adaptation and finance in a balanced way,” Guterres said in the 25-minute AP interview.

Overnight, new drafts of documents on international cooperation in reducing greenhouse gas emissions were published, along with the section about carbon markets. Also, there were proposals that included various options to assess and track financial aid to developing countries.

Poor countries insist they will not support any deal which does not address their urgent need for money to cut carbon emissions and adjust to the effects of global warming. It is an issue they are least responsible.

“We’re still at the stage of options,” a European negotiator told The Associated Press on Thursday. “But it’s moving forward. We still need that push though.”

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to be quoted.

Boris Johnson, British Prime Minster, appealed to fellow leaders of the world on Wednesday to summon their teams at Glasgow to give them political backing in securing an ambitious deal.

Officials and observers have said the bar for success must be a strong affirmation of the goal set in Paris in 2015 of keeping global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6°F) — ideally no more than 1.5°C (2.7°F) – backed by credible policies from all nations to get there. Scientists have not yet found a way to stop the world from warming.

Continue reading: COP26 Won’t Keep the World to 1.5°C. Are the talks failing?

The chair of this year’s U.N. climate meeting called on negotiators from almost 200 countries to engage in “another gear shift” as they try to reach agreement on outstanding issues a day before the talks are scheduled to end.

British official Alok Sharma said Thursday that the drafts released overnight on a number of crunch topics “represent a significant step further toward the comprehensive, ambitious and balanced set of outcomes, which I hope parties will adopt by consensus at the end of tomorrow.”

Sharma said he was “under no illusion” that the texts being considered would wholly satisfy all countries at this stage but thanked negotiators for the “spirit of cooperation and civility” they had shown so far.

“We are not there yet,” he said, adding that he aimed to get a fresh draft of the overarching decision released early Friday.


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