2021-03 05
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Virtual Roundtables Kick Off 2021 Regional Climate Weeks



Credit: Urban landscape, Tokyo / Adobe Stock UN Climate Change News, 5 March 2021 – The 2021 editions of the Regional Climate Weeks kicked off this week with virtual regional roundtables designed to set the scene for regional climate action in the run-up to the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 in November. The roundtables for Africa, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean on 3. and 4. March helped identify priorities and opportunities for the three regions, crucial for the full implementation of the Paris Agreement. Speaking to participants at the opening of the roundtables, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa stressed that COP26 in Glasgow – the most important COP since the Paris Agreement was adopted - is only eight months away. She called for urgent action to build on the recent commitments made by countries, businesses, cities and societies to embark on the transformations required to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. “This year is crucial. We need your support like never before. This first regional climate week event can support you in setting the pace that will result in a successful COP26 in November,” the UN’s top climate official said. A stark reminder of the importance of the Regional Climate Weeks in stepping up climate ambition came last week with the publication by UN Climate Change of the Initial NDC synthesis report showing nations must submit stronger, more ambitious national climate action plans in 2021 if they are to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. In their remarks at the high-level opening of the event, COP25 President Carolina Schmidt and incoming COP26 President Alok Sharma acknowledged that governments alone cannot tackle the climate crisis and underlined the importance of a collective effort that includes cities, businesses, financial institutions and civil society. Mr. Sharma said: “We’re backing these regional climate weeks to the hilt,” citing enhancing collaboration internationally and across society as a central theme of the UK’s COP26 Presidency. He called the Regional Climate Weeks “a unique opportunity to come together and drive practical action in every region and sector to help implement the Paris Agreement, to build partnerships and share solutions between governments and across society.” Ms. Schmidt said that the series of regional meetings represent “a unique platform for multiple actors throughout society to share the experience and vision necessary to construct robust climate plans while also ensuring an inclusive and resilient recovery from COVID-19.” For governments to successfully deliver on their commitments under the Paris Agreement, she added, their efforts must be tailored to regional and local realities that communities face. The roundtables were organized by UN Climate Change, in collaboration with the Regional Climate Week’s core partners UNDP, UNEP and the World Bank, as well as with regional partners and the respective regional host governments (the Dominican Republic, Japan and Uganda). High-level representatives from governments, along with UN system representatives from the UN regional economic commissions, UNDP and UN Environment expressed their views at the meeting, along with representatives from regional and international financial institutions, local governments, civil society organizations and representatives of indigenous groups. Some key conclusions ahead of official summary report Regional stakeholders framed their discussions on how to recover better from the COVID-19 pandemic and how to scale up and speed up climate action capitalizing on the efforts already ongoing in the regions. Common calls made in all the regions related to: The importance of efficiently engaging all actors in climate action, particularly youth and women; The imperative of citizen- and community-led efforts to change behaviours, which is essential for more sustainable production and consumption patterns; The importance of nature-based solutions and of “bringing Earth back into the equation.” The role of governments in providing clear direction and targets for climate action was also a common message in all the roundtables, with many stakeholders calling for a clear price on carbon and recognition of the value of nature and the costs of its destruction.  Participants agreed that climate finance is still a key factor in all regions to implement climate plans and policies. Whilst substantial financial resources are available, they must be channeled to build carbon neutral and resilient societies, especially in developing countries. There was also a shared understanding that financial tools such as green bonds increasingly need to be used to finance future infrastructure. A report with specific key takeaways and conclusions of the virtual roundtables will be published next week. High-Level Champions underline importance of non-Party climate action At the wrap-up session of the roundtables, the COP26 High-Level Champion Nigel Topping of the United Kingdom and COP25 Champion Gonzalo Muñoz of Chile spoke of the crucial importance of non-Party action. Mr. Topping said: “What we have seen this week is exactly what we need: state and non-state actors, young people and entrepreneurs coming together to advance action on tackling the climate challenge we are facing. We cannot have any region or community left out of this work.” Mr.  Muñoz said the discussions showed that investing in climate resilience is not just the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do. “By understanding what the impact of extreme weather events will be, what disruption they will cause to different sectors and the different levels of governance involved, we can get to work forming the partnerships and collaborations needed to make sure we more than just withstand climate shocks,” he said. The Climate Champions stressed the importance of the UN’s Race to Zero campaign, with the goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and the Race to Resilience campaign, designed to build the resilience of 4 billion people to climate change by 2030. Source:UN Author:UN Date:March 5, 2021

2021-02 26
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“Climate Commitments Not On Track to Meet Paris Agreement Goals” as NDC Synthesis Report is Published



Credit: Alain Duchateau / Unsplash UN Climate Change News, 26 February  – UN Climate Change today published a synthesis of climate action ambition as contained in countries’ new or updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), indicating that nations must redouble their climate efforts if they are to reach the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global temperature rise by 2C—ideally 1.5C—by the end of the century.    The NDC Synthesis Report covers submissions up to 31 December 2020 and includes new or updated NDCs by 75 Parties, which represent approximately 30 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The majority of these countries increased their levels of ambition to reduce emissions. Nevertheless, the level of ambition communicated through these NDCs indicates that changes in these countries’ total emissions would be small, less than -1%, in 2030 compared to 2010. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), by contrast, has indicated that emission reduction ranges to meet the 1.5°C temperature goal should be around -45% in 2030 compared to 2010. The need to increase ambition is thus high and urgent, as the report demonstrates – despite the fact that the report currently covers less than half of all Parties to the Paris Agreement. Climate science has made it clear that a deep transformation is needed to achieve the climate goals, and that such transformation must start early and result in deep emission reductions even before 2030.    “We are encouraged by the recent political shift in momentum towards stronger climate action throughout the world, with many countries, including some major emitters, setting net-zero emissions goals by mid-century and global corporations committing to stronger climate action,” said Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change, “but this report shows that current levels of climate ambition are not on track to meet our Paris Agreement goals.” The NDCs are increasingly linked with the longer-term goals or aspirations for achieving carbon neutrality around mid-century. This is encouraging as NDCs can chart a clear course towards countries’ net-zero targets. However, there remains a significant gap between longer-term carbon neutrality and the commitments undertaken in the NDCs, which needs to be addressed.  “It is vitally important that we get more clarity on how countries are planning to fulfil those longer-term commitments”, Ms. Espinosa said. “If we want to stand any chance of reducing emissions by 45% by 2030 and embark on the road towards carbon neutrality around mid-century, transformative decisions need to be taken now”, she underlined.  While the report clarifies the pressing need to raise ambition, it also contains some encouraging findings. The new or updated NDCs submitted in 2020 show that governments take the NDCs and, more broadly, the Paris Agreement seriously, with commitment and responsibility: The quality of NDCs, including data on mitigation targets, has clearly increased Implementation is addressed much more comprehensively, including linkages to relevant national planning, regulatory and legislative processes as well as to Sustainable Development Goals Further, a significant number of countries included adaptation in their NDCs and provided information on their climate vulnerabilities and measures to address these. Here too, the quality of the information provided has increased significantly. Approaches for addressing vulnerabilities are becoming more comprehensive, rather than piecemeal. The synthesis also found that more countries reported on mitigation co-benefits of adaptation action and economic diversification plans. Adaptation actions and economic diversification plans with mitigation co-benefits include climate-smart agriculture, reducing food waste, vertical farming, adapting coastal ecosystems, increasing the share of renewable sources in energy generation, improving energy efficiency, carbon dioxide capture and storage, fuel switch and fuel price reforms in the transport sector, and moving to circular economy for better waste management. Yet many developing countries remain in urgent need of support to implement climate action. This was also reflected in many of the NDCs, which provided quantitative estimates of financial support needs for NDC implementation. Climate action must be enabled and facilitated through the provision of adequate support where needed. This is critical and must be addressed also with high propriety and urgency – without adequate resources and access to greener technologies the deep transformation we need will not happen.  Espinosa clarified that this Synthesis Report is a “snapshot, not a full picture” of the NDCs as COVID-19 posed significant challenges for many nations with respect to completing their submissions in 2020. She indicated a second report will be released prior to COP26 in 2021 with the expectation many more nations, specifically major emitters, will be included. “COP26 is a credibility test for our fight against the climate emergency. By submitting strong NDCs before COP26, countries can raise their ambition and translate their 2050 targets into milestones on the way and turn far-away targets into immediate action”, Ms. Espinosa said. “COP26 also provides an opportunity for developed nations to deliver their pledge to jointly mobilize $100 billion annually to developing nations. That commitment has not yet been met, resulting in a significant lack of trust amongst Parties. Developing countries need the support for their climate actions that they have been promised”, Espinosa urged. Additionally, at COP26, countries need to wrap up outstanding negotiation items, including modalities such as the use of markets, raise ambition on adaptation and finance, and bring State and non-State voices together to continue building climate ambition. Source:UN Author:UN Date:February 26, 2021

2021-02 18
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New UNEP Synthesis Provides Blueprint to Urgently Solve Planetary Emergencies and Secure Humanity’s Future



Credit: Lake and Mountain Under White Sky / Pexels Meeting ramped-up climate and biodiversity targets, cutting deadly pollution and achieving SDGs needs an all-society push for sustainability Shifting world views and putting nature at the heart of decision-making is key to achieving transformative change COVID-19 recovery plans are an unmissable opportunity to invest in nature and reach net zero emissions by 2050 Nairobi, 18 February 2021 – The world can transform its relationship with nature and tackle the climate, biodiversity and pollution crises together to secure a sustainable future and prevent future pandemics, according to a new report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) that offers a comprehensive blueprint for addressing our triple planetary emergency. The report, Making Peace with Nature, lays out the gravity of these three environmental crises by drawing on global assessments, including those from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), as well as UNEP’s Global Environment Outlook report, the UNEP International Resource Panel, and new findings on the emergence of zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19. The authors assess the links between multiple environmental and development challenges, and explain how advances in science and bold policymaking can open a pathway towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and a carbon neutral world by 2050 while bending the curve on biodiversity loss and curbing pollution and waste. Taking that path means innovation and investment only in activities that protect both people and nature. Success will include restored ecosystems and healthier lives as well as a stable climate. “By bringing together the latest scientific evidence showing the impacts and threats of the climate emergency, the biodiversity crisis and the pollution that kills millions of people every year, this report makes clear that our war on nature has left the planet broken,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in the report’s Foreword. “But it also guides us to a safer place by providing a peace plan and a post-war rebuilding programme. “By transforming how we view nature, we can recognize its true value. By reflecting this value in policies, plans and economic systems, we can channel investments into activities that restore nature and are rewarded for it,” he added. “By recognizing nature as an indispensable ally, we can unleash human ingenuity in the service of sustainability and secure our own health and well-being alongside that of the planet.” Amid a wave of investment to re-energize economies hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, the blueprint communicates the opportunity and urgency for ambitious and immediate action. It also lays out the roles that everyone – from governments and businesses to communities and individuals – can and must play. 2021 is especially crucial, with upcoming climate and biodiversity convention meetings - UNFCCC COP 26 and CBD COP 15 – where governments must come up with synergistic and ambitious targets to safeguard the planet by almost halving greenhouse gas emissions in this decade, and by conserving and restoring biodiversity. Tackling three planetary threats together Economic growth has brought uneven gains in prosperity to a fast-growing global population, leaving 1.3 billion people poor, while tripling the extraction of natural resources to damaging levels and creating a planetary emergency. Despite a temporary decline in emissions due to the pandemic, Earth is heading for at least 3°C of global warming this century; more than 1 million of the estimated 8 million plant and animal species are at substantially increased risk of extinction; and diseases caused by pollution are currently killing some 9 million people prematurely every year. Environmental degradation is impeding progress towards ending poverty and hunger, reducing inequalities and promoting sustainable economic growth, work for all and peaceful and inclusive societies. The report shows how this trio of environmental emergencies interact and have common causes, and thus can only be effectively addressed together. Subsidies on fossil fuels, for instance, and prices that leave out environmental costs, are driving the wasteful production and consumption of energy and natural resources that are behind all three problems. Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP, said the report highlighted the importance of changing mindsets and values, and finding political and technical solutions that measure up to the Earth’s environmental crises. “In showing how the health of people and nature are intertwined, the COVID-19 crisis has underlined the need for a step-change in how we view and value nature. By reflecting that value in decision-making – whether we are talking about economic policy or personal choices – we can bring about a rapid and lasting shift toward sustainability for both people and the environment,” she said. “‘Green recovery’ plans for pandemic-hit economies are an unmissable opportunity to accelerate the transformation.” Released ahead of the fifth UN Environment Assembly, the report presents a strong case for why and how urgent action should be taken to protect and restore the planet and its climate in a holistic way. It presents examples of what transformative change can look like, and how it can create prosperity, employment and greater equality. Far-reaching change involves recasting how we value and invest in nature, integrating that value into policies and decisions at all levels, overhauling subsidies and other elements of economic and financial systems, and fostering innovation in sustainable technologies and business models. Massive private investment in electric mobility and alternative fuels show how whole industries recognize the potential gains from shifting quickly. The authors point out that ending environmental decline in all its forms is essential to advancing many of the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular poverty alleviation, food and water security and good health for all. An example is how intensifying agriculture and fishing in sustainable ways, allied with changes in diets and lower food waste, can help end global hunger and poverty and improve nutrition and health while sparing more land and ocean for nature. Reinforcing the call for action, the report stresses the need for stakeholders at all levels of society to be involved in decision-making, and identifies dozens of key actions that governments, businesses, communities and individuals can and should undertake in order to bring about a sustainable world. For instance: Governments can include natural capital in measures of economic performance, put a price on carbon and shift trillions of dollars in subsidies from fossil fuels, non-sustainable agriculture and transportation towards low-carbon and nature-friendly solutions International organizations can promote One Health approaches and ambitious international targets for biodiversity, such as expanded and improved protected area networks Financial organizations can stop lending for fossil fuels and develop innovative finance for biodiversity conservation and sustainable agriculture Businesses can adopt the principles of the circular economy to minimize resource use and waste and commit to maintaining transparent and deforestation-free supply chains Non-government organizations can build networks of stakeholders to ensure their full participation in decisions about sustainable use of land and marine resources Scientific organizations can pioneer technologies and policies to reduce carbon emissions, increase resource efficiency and lift the resilience of cities, industries, communities and ecosystems Individuals can reconsider their relationship with nature, learn about sustainability and change their habits to reduce their use of resources, cut waste of food, water and energy, and adopt healthier diets A sustainable future also means learning from the COVID-19 crisis to reduce the threat of pandemic diseases. The report underlines how ecosystem degradation heightens the risk of pathogens making the jump from animals to humans, and the importance of a ‘One Health’ approach that considers human, animal and planetary health together. Source:UN Author:UN Date:February 18, 2021

2021-02 08
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UN Secretary-General Calls for Exponential Growth in Global Coalition to Achieve Net-Zero Emissions



UN Climate Change News, 8 February 2021 – UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, today called on all governments to come forward with significantly more ambitious nationally determined contributions by the UN Climate Change Conference, COP26, at the latest, with 2030 targets consistent with a net zero pathway. During a briefing to Member States, Mr. Guterres cited an exponential growth of the global coalition for net zero emissions as a ‘central objective for the United Nations this year.’ Despite the current ‘meaningful momentum’ in tackling the climate crisis - which includes countries representing current 70% of the world economy and 65%of global carbon dioxide emissions having now committed to net zero – the UN Chief said this was not enough, with the world still way off target in keeping the global temperature rise to within the 1.5-degree limit of the Paris Agreement. The drive for net zero emissions, he said, must become ‘the new normal for everyone, everywhere – every country, company, city and financial institution, as well as key sectors such as aviation, shipping, industry and agriculture,’ adding that all commitments to net zero must be underpinned by clear and credible plans to achieve them, with major economies and members of the G20 leading the way. In this regard, he cited the phasing out of coal by 2030 in OECD countries, and by 2040 in all other countries, as crucial to achieving net zero emissions. He also stressed the need for developing countries, particularly the Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries, to receive the necessary support to enhance their climate ambition. Building resilience to the impacts of climate change Highlighting the worsening climate impacts around the world, including the two devastating cyclones that have struck Fiji and other Pacific islands in the space of a few weeks, Mr. Guterres also called for a breakthrough on adapting and building resilience to the effects of climate change, which is a further priority for the United Nations this year.  Welcoming the commitment by the Netherlands at the recent Climate Adaptation Summit as well as the steps taken by the African Development Bank and the World Bank, he called on all donors and the Multilateral Development Banks to increase the share of adaptation and resilience finance to at least 50% of their climate finance support. Increasing climate support for the most vulnerable With climate finance flowing to LDCs and SIDS currently standing at 14% and 2% respectively, Mr. Guterres spoke of a a ‘moral obligation to do much better’ in supporting the most vulnerable countries in taking climate action. He urged developed countries – particularly G7 countries - to meet their commitment made over ten years ago to mobilize $100 billion per year in climate finance in developing countries, adding that this must be fully delivered in the run-up to COP26. Looking ahead to COP26, Mr. Guterres said: ‘I cannot overestimate the importance of the negotiations in the months ahead of Glasgow,’ and that the clear message to governments must be: ‘It is time to wrap up negotiations and move towards its full implementation,’ adding that ‘For everyone to win, everyone must be ready to make compromises.’ ************************ See the full remarks: Dear Colleagues,   We are nine months away from COP26, a critical milestone in our efforts to avert climate catastrophe.   I am pleased that the incoming COP President is here to discuss with you the road to Glasgow.   The past year has seen welcome progress.    I thank those who showed leadership by announcing bold new commitments at the Climate Ambition Summit I convened with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the President of France in December.   Countries representing 70 per cent of the world economy and 65 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions have now committed to net zero.   Two weeks ago, I met with Chief Executive Officers of the Net Zero Asset Owners Alliance, a coalition representing over $5 trillion.  They have committed to double the size of this group by COP 26.   This is meaningful momentum.   But it is not enough.  The world remains way off target in staying within the 1.5-degree limit of the Paris Agreement.   This is why we need much more ambition on mitigation, ambition on adaptation and ambition on finance.   The global coalition for net zero emissions needs to grow exponentially. This is a central objective for the United Nations this year.   The drive for net zero emissions must become the new normal for everyone, everywhere – every country, company, city and financial institution, as well as key sectors such as aviation, shipping, industry and agriculture.   At the same time, all commitments to net zero must be underpinned by clear and credible plans to achieve them.   Words are not enough. By COP26 at the latest, all countries need to come forward with significantly more ambitious nationally determined contributions, with 2030 targets consistent with a net zero pathway.    The major economies and members of the G20 must lead the way.   Developing countries, particularly the Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries, must be given the support they need to enhance their climate ambition.   The science and the economics are clear.   Coal must be phased out by 2030 in OECD countries, and by 2040 in all other countries, in conjunction with a just transition.   Investments in coal are a losing proposition.   Financing for coal and other fossil fuels abroad must stop and be redirected towards the clean energy transition.   Climate impacts in every region and on every continent are worsening.   In the space of a few weeks, Fiji and other Pacific islands have been struck by two devastating cyclones.   We need a breakthrough on adaptation and resilience -- and this is also a priority for the United Nations this year.   All donors and the Multilateral Development Banks must increase the share of adaptation and resilience finance to at least 50 per cent of their climate finance support.   I welcome the commitment by the Netherlands at the recent Climate Adaptation Summit as well as the steps taken by the African Development Bank and the World Bank. But we need much more.   We must also ensure simplified and expedited climate support for the most vulnerable.   Climate finance flowing to LDCs and SIDS stands at 14 per cent and 2 per cent respectively. We have a moral obligation to do much better, with new and scaled up finance initiatives and instruments.   Developed countries must meet their commitment made over ten years ago to mobilize $100 billion per year in climate finance in developing countries.  This must be fully delivered in the run-up to COP26.   The report I issued last December contained a number of recommendations on how to get there.     I count in particular on G7 countries to deliver.   The Green Climate Fund must be fully capitalized.   We need all Multilateral and National Development Banks to commit to full Paris alignment by 2024 at the latest.   And we need to effectively address debt relief efforts to provide liquidity to countries most vulnerable to climate change.   Excellencies,   I cannot overestimate the importance of the negotiations in the months ahead of Glasgow.   Because of COVID-19, it is unlikely that the usual schedule of meetings will happen in-person.   Preparatory negotiations for COP26 will need to take place virtually.   But with your flexibility and with the creative guidance of the COP President and Ms. Espinosa, our Executive Secretary, we can conduct our business in an inclusive and transparent manner.   We simply cannot allow the pandemic to keep us from working together on the crucial pathway to Glasgow.   Although there will be challenges, we must adapt.   The stakes are too high to do otherwise.   I have directed UN officials around the world to make offices and venues available to allow for all countries to participate in virtual negotiations.   We will support this process in every way possible to ensure its success.   We must send a clear message to the Parties: it is time to wrap up negotiations and move towards its full implementation. This means bridging the current political divide over outstanding issues related to finance, capacity building, technology transfer, transparency and especially Article Six.   For everyone to win, everyone must be ready to make compromises. Global markets have long demanded clarity from governments on establishing a policy foundation for an emissions trading system that maintains environmental integrity and puts a global price on carbon.  This issue cannot continue to be deferred, COP after COP after COP. We need a political decision.   Finally, a successful COP26 means positive engagement of observers and other non-Party stakeholders, including key NGO constituencies, including youth, women and indigenous peoples.   We need every voice at the table. As we collectively address our climate emergency, no voice, and no solution, should be left behind. 2021 is a crucial year in the fight against climate change.   I look to all Member States to work together to build on the momentum that has been generated, and to fully support the COP26 Presidency on the road to Glasgow.   Thank you. Source:UN Author:UN Date:February 8, 2021

2021-02 03
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Patricia Espinosa Outlines the Four Keys to Success at COP26



Credit: UN Climate Change UN Climate Change News, 3 February 2021 – In an online lecture organized by the London School of Economics, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa today set out the four keys to success at the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow in November from the perspective of the UN. In her lecture, she took stock of the continuing climate emergency five years on from the Paris Climate Change Agreement with some sobering facts. 2020 was among the hottest three years on record and ocean heat is at record levels, all the result of continuously rising concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Given the rapidly narrowing window of opportunity to prevent the worst impacts of climate change, 2021 is, according to Patricia Espinosa, the most important year for climate change since the adoption of the Paris Agreement: “This is the year we can get it right…the year that we achieve a pivotal, transformational change in global climate policy and action”. The four elements that will constitute a successful outcome of the UN Climate Conference COP26 are that: Promises made to developing countries are kept, especially the pledge by developed nations to mobilize $100 billion in climate finance annually by 2020. Governments wrap up outstanding items and negotiations to fully implement the Paris Agreement. Countries lower emissions and raise climate ambition, not only with regard to emission reductions, but also increasing ambition in adapting and building resilience to the impacts of climate change. No voice or solution is left behind, through re-engaging with observers and Non-Party Stakeholders in a unity of purpose. Ms. Espinosa said she is encouraged by the growing momentum for climate action among both governments and non-State actors. The private sector is giving cause for optimism through crucial initiatives such as the “Race-to-Zero” campaign, which mobilizes governments, businesses and civil society to achieve carbon neutrality as quickly as possible, as well as the unstoppable growth of renewable energy around the world. Signals of greater ambition on the part of governments include recent announcements by Korea, Japan, China and the United Kingdom on their long-term climate strategies, the European Union’s Green Deal and the decision by the United States to rejoin the Paris Agreement. Reiterating the importance of the year ahead, the Ms. Espinosa said that despite being faced with the twin crises of COVID-19 and climate change, humanity “has never before had the power to consciously and collectively determine its future trajectory and ultimate destiny,” and urged the global community to “seize this moment and build a resilient, sustainable and prosperous future for all.” ***************************** Read the full lecture here: Good afternoon. I feel privileged to be able to participate in this series of public lectures at the London School of Economics. I thank Lord Stern, for chairing this meeting—and for his longstanding and tireless efforts to address climate change… I also thank the Geography and Environment Department for hosting the meeting, and to all of you for attending and allowing me to share my personal outlook on the issue of climate change at this complex but crucial time. Today, we will examine the roots of the Paris Agreement, our present situation in this difficult year, why COP26 in November is vital with respect to global efforts to address climate change, and how all of this relates to you. The Paris Agreement Five years ago, nations of the world adopted the Paris Agreement, a covenant of hope with the people of the world. It was a remarkable achievement, a milestone for multilateralism—a declaration that humanity could and would stand united and address the most significant threat to its collective future. The excitement was palpable. After all, history shows that the world succeeds when the world works together. It’s how nations—working together—cured polio, eradicated smallpox, began to repair the ozone layer and much, much more. But history never travels a straight line. And much has changed in the five years since the Paris Agreement was adopted. Multilateralism—the collective approach to solving global problems—has been under attack when we need it most. A global pandemic has dramatically changed the way we live and work. And, in five years, the climate emergency has worsened as well. Our climate emergency Global warming continues unabated, threatening lives and livelihoods around the world. The evidence keeps mounting. 2020 was among the hottest three years on record. The past decade was the hottest in human history. Ocean heat is at record levels. This year in the Arctic, temperatures were more than 3°C above average—and over 5°C higher in northern Siberia. Randomly spin a globe and put your finger down and the chances are good that your finger landed somewhere that is, or will be, dealing with a weather emergency—an emergency accompanied by a loss of life, property and hope. If you put your finger down in a vulnerable or undeveloped region, those chances are likely tripled. Based on the best available science—and we are the UN body responsible for dealing with the best climate science available—there’s no reason to believe that this will suddenly reverse itself independently. That’s not how science—or reality—works. Instead, evidence shows that, without effective climate action, these extreme weather incidents will grow in frequency and devastating power—and devastating costs—in the coming years. Geographical isolation, or isolationism as a national policy, is not a solution. COVID-19 showed just how much respect the virus had for our national borders. Climate change respects them even less. Consequently, climate change may impact some nations directly, but all nations will feel its reverberations. They may come via the global economy, international trade or the development of more viruses and diseases due to the deep ties climate change has with nature and land—we simply don’t know. One thing is clear: no longer can we be as islands onto ourselves. Nobody understands this more than people who actually live on islands! Small island states, some of the most vulnerable places to live in the world due to rising sea levels, are some of our most ambitious advocates of stronger climate action. Some people will argue that perhaps we shouldn’t worry so much. After all, emissions are down due to the pandemic. Without transformative change, however, those numbers will certainly be temporary. Let us not forget that climate change results from the cumulative build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over time, not emissions in any particular year. Think of it like a nation’s finances. A balanced budget in one fiscal year doesn’t erase the overall debt acquired over time. The principal remains, interest continues to grow, and financial flexibility is restricted as more and more funds go to servicing the debt and avoiding default. Right now, we’re defaulting on our climate change budget. If we don’t reduce emissions now and over the long term, while also working to build resilience to climate impacts already with us, the consequences will likely be profound, widespread and devastating. Ladies and gentlemen, That’s what’s happened in five years since the Paris Agreement was adopted. But let us be clear: adoption is not implementation. Adoption is intent, implementation is action. That’s why the adoption of the Paris Agreement, to borrow and paraphrase a famous line: was not the end. It was not even the beginning of the end. It was only the end of the beginning. While we have seen signs of momentum, nations simply haven’t done enough to fulfil its potential. Nor have they sufficiently raised climate ambition under it. Never was this clearer than as we came out of COP25 in Madrid in 2019. While Member States achieved some progress, they left much work on the table.  Then COVID-19 hit, setting everything back, magnifying why it’s so important to make progress when you can. Moving Forward That’s where things currently stand. But how do we move forward from here? Currently, the twin crises of COVID-19 and climate change seem like immovable mountains; challenges almost impossible to overcome. I will return to the broader theme of beating impossible odds in just a few moments. But on a practical and political level, one of the lessons arising from 2020 is that the only way forward is to build on the point of convergence that we know exists between COVID-19 and climate change. While there are no “upsides” or “silver linings” in devastation, that point of convergence opens a slim window of global opportunity to build a better future. Namely, recovery from COVID-19 offers nations a chance to reorient policies and plans that will help build resilience, as well as building cities and communities that are clean, green, healthy and sustainable. Some call it “building back better” — and I understand why. But I prefer to call it building forward—building forward in ways that are greener, cleaner and healthier for all people. I’m talking about building forward towards a future that protects the planet, respects the land, recognizes the importance of biodiversity and our intricate relationship with it. I’m talking about positive transformation at a global scale—a great human project. Never has a generation had the opportunity to change so much in so little time. But it will require an incredible amount of work to accomplish. We must move quickly, and we must get it right. This is the year we can get it right…the year that we achieve a pivotal, transformational change in global climate policy and action. And that’s why 2021 is the most important year for climate change since the adoption of the Paris Agreement. It’s time for nations to walk their talk. It’s time for societies stand by their decisions. It’s time for intentions to turn into actions. The forthcoming climate negotiations in Glasgow, by the end of the year, will be the greatest test yet for the Paris Agreement. And there is only one admissible outcome: COP26 must be a success. A success for the planet, for those who share it, for those who inherit it. What will count as success? Success means four things. First, it means promises made must be promises kept. That means pledges Parties made before 2020 — here I’m talking about the Cancun Pledges that outlined broad climate action by 2020 — must be honoured and completed. This is especially true of the pledge by developed nations to mobilize $100 billion annually to developing nations by 2020. The obligation to support the efforts of developing countries cannot and will not be ignored. Second, it’s time to wrap it up and implement. It’s time to wrap up outstanding items and negotiations and implement the Paris Agreement. We’ve been five years negotiating. The clock has run out. Unleashing its full potential will not only address climate change but help the world build forward from COVID-19. Yes, for those more familiar with the subject, I’m talking about getting an agreement on Article 6, the one about emissions markets and other cooperative approaches Implementation must be cross cutting. Gone are the days of climate change being solely in the purview of the environment ministry or perhaps natural resources. Just as climate change knows no jurisdictions with respect to its impacts, efforts to address it must permeate all government departments and inform all policy-making at all levels. And we need implementation at all levels: international, domestic and local. Third, it’s time to lower emissions and raise ambitions. The best time to raise climate ambition was yesterday. The next best time is today. Never has global expectation and political commitment been so far apart. It’s time to close that gap. And when we’re talking about raising ambition, we’re not just talking about mitigation, but also increasing ambition in adaptation and resilience. Fourth, we must leave no voice or solution behind. We must re-engage with observers and Non-Party Stakeholders in a unity of purpose. Our brand of inclusive multilateralism is the only way forward. In fact, it is our creed. Everyone has a role to play and everyone must be involved. That’s one of the reasons I’m here today. Academia—you—are crucial to these solutions as well. This list does not mean other issues are not important or that they will not get attention this year. It simply means we must be clear about what we must achieve and how to get there.  To the Parties I say this: it’s time to negotiate like you never have before. Billions of eyes look to you. Momentum The good news is that momentum is in our favour. We are encouraged by recent announcements by Korea, Japan and China with regard to their long terms plans. China’s President, Xi Jinping, announced that China aims to have CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060. Prime Minister Suga of Japan has committed to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 President Moon announced South Korea will commit to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. In the Philippines, the Energy Secretary announced that the country will declare a moratorium on new greenfield coal-fired power plants. The EU launched its Green Deal two months ago. Following that, through what are called Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs, the EU pledged a 55 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared with 1990 levels. It also committed to carbon neutrality by 2050. The United Kingdom, which holds the COP Presidency, also recently announced a new emissions target setting the UK on the path to net zero by 2050. And the United States has also formally announced it will re-join the Paris Agreement and we look forward to seeing ambitious targets in its NDC to accelerate climate action. These are only a few examples. We continue to encourage all nations to get on board, publicly announce their intentions, and commit to the transformation we must achieve. We saw such commitments at December’s Climate Ambition Summit 2020 where countries set out new and ambitious commitments under the three pillars of the Paris Agreement: mitigation, adaptation and finance. This impressive event set the stage for COP26, engaging the business and investor sector. Speaking of the private sector, we also see signs for optimism and transformation there, perhaps best reflected in our Race to Zero campaign, which mobilizes governments, businesses and civil society to achieve carbon neutrality as quickly as possible. It's a coalition of more than 450 cities, 20 regions, close to 1,400 businesses, and over 570 universities who have joined 120 countries in the largest-ever alliance committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the latest. Collectively these actors now cover nearly 25 per cent of global CO2 emissions and more than 50 per cent of global Gross Domestic Product. Renewable energy continues to grow throughout the world. The International Energy Agency recently released a report showing that despite the pandemic, renewable markets, especially electricity-generating technologies, are proving resilient. Green energy is here to stay. Electric cars, likewise, are on the rise—most of the biggest auto companies have bet their future on it—and there is no reason to doubt that this change too is here to stay. Conclusion Ladies and gentlemen, Today, I’ve discussed where we’ve been, where we are, where we’re going, and why we have momentum on our side. But I want to end with something a bit more personal. There is no doubt we are all in a tough spot right now. Things are very, very difficult on many fronts. Sometimes we wake up and our challenges seem insurmountable. If you look at these things all at once, they do look impossible to overcome. I think of all the losses people have suffered this year and how they can possibly look at that in one big picture. You don’t just snap your fingers and you come out of it. You do what you can and get through the day. You get through the week. You get through the year. You do a little bit every day and you eventually find the other side. You have to seize the smallest slivers of light, of positivity when you can, and grasp for everything you can to pull yourself forward.  This isn’t feel-good optimism—it’s not a motivational slogan—it’s practical advice that has always worked. It worked for me. I know something about beating impossible odds as I suffered stage-three breast cancer recently, in 2019. You look at something like cancer head on and it’s the immovable mountain. But by making incremental progress each day, I continue to get through it. So many people around the world have gone through something similar. And yes, I recognize that we are the lucky ones. Not all are so fortunate. But for those who have been through similar challenges, impossible is simply not a word that resonates with them—or me either. We must have this same attitude in these difficult times, or when we look at these so-called “impossible odds.” Faced with the twin crisis of COVID-19 and climate change, two of the biggest challenges humanity has ever faced, impossible is not the answer the world wants right now. What they want is: “here’s how”. Ladies and gentlemen, Today, I’ve discussed some of the “how.” I look forward to you becoming part of that discussion. Again, academia has a key role. So do you in your personal lives. To that end, I invite you to reject the concept of impossible odds, of unbeatable challenges. Instead, I encourage you to consider that we are, despite all appearances, in an enviable position. Never before has humanity had the power to consciously and collectively determine its future trajectory and ultimate destiny. For millennia we were scatted groups fighting for short-term stakes in a geographically-disconnected world. That’s not who we are anymore. Today, we have the potential to combine our money, our technology, our skills, our knowledge, our enthusiasm, our ingenuity, and, yes, the feeling inside all of us that cherishes life on this planet, to create change at a global level. Our capacity for positive change is infinite. That’s who we are. It’s time we live up to our potential. I urge you—all of you—to seize this moment. I urge you to reach out, not just across borders, but across generations, cultures, political lines and jurisdictions, to do it. And I urge you to join this great human project, this great human moment of transformation, to build forward, to build a better future… …a green future, a clean future, and a future that is healthy, safe, resilient, sustainable and prosperous for all people. Thank you. Source:UN Author:UN Date:February 3, 2021