UN urges world to declare 'climate emergency' as UK hosts virtual summit

12 December 2020, 16:37

Antonio Guterres warned that the world was heading for a “catastrophic” 3C of warming.
Antonio Guterres warned that the world was heading for a “catastrophic” 3C of warming. Picture: PA

By Joe Cook

The United Nations secretary general has urged world leaders to declare a climate emergency in their countries at a virtual summit co-hosted by the UK.

Antonio Guterres warned that the world was heading for a “catastrophic” 3C of warming, as he called on countries to “stop the assault on our planet”.

Boris Johnson, who was co-hosting the UN Climate Ambition Summit, warned climate change was a “challenge far worse, far more destructive than coronavirus”.

However, striking a more upbeat tone, the Prime Minister also hailed a new era of “scientific optimism”.

"By the Promethean power of our invention we can begin to defend the Earth against the disaster of global warming and by that I mean that together we can reduce our emissions,” he said.

“We can radically cut our dependence on fossil fuels, we can change our agricultural practices and in short we can reverse the process by which for centuries humanity has been quilting our planet in a toxic tea cosy of greenhouse gasses."

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Mr Johnson reiterated his calls for the UK to become “the Saudi Arabia of the wind power generation”, putting the nations’ “foot to the accelerator in a carbon friendly way”.

He added: "Whatever the UK may be accused of lagging in we won't be lagging in lagging."

The PM’s speech came after the UK became the first country to commit to no longer subsidising overseas fossil fuel projects.

In a move welcomed by environmental campaigners, the government will end export finance, aid funding and trade promotion for new crude oil, natural gas or coal energy projects, with "very limited exceptions" for some gas-fired power plants and other schemes.

In the last four years 21 billion pounds has been spent on helping the extraction of oil and gas by UK firms.

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The UK also submitted its new national climate plan to the UN’s climate body, confirming its new pledge to cut emissions by at least 68% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.

Similarly, the EU has also announced an increase of ambition, with plans to reduce greenhouse gases by at least 55% on 1990 levels across its 27 member states.

Mr Guterres welcomed moves by the UK and EU to increase their ambition in reducing climate pollution, stating: "Climate action is the barometer of leadership in today's world."

Ahead of key UN Cop26 talks, due to be held in Glasgow next November, he said: "I urge everyone to show ambition, stop the assault on our planet - and do what we need to guarantee the future of our children and grandchildren."

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Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for “multilateralism, unity and cooperation” as he set out in more detail how the world’s largest CO2 emitter will meet its target of net zero emissions by 2060.

"China will lower its carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by over 65% from the 2005 levels, increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 25%, increase the forest stock volume by six billion cubic metres from the 2005 level, and bring its total installed capacity of wind and solar power to over 1.2 billion kw,” he said.

"In meeting the climate challenge, no-one can be aloof, and unilateralism will get us nowhere. Only by upholding multilateralism, unity and cooperation can we deliver shared benefits and win-win results for all nations."

The Pope also spoke at the virtual event, committing the Holy See to net zero carbon emissions before 2050.

He added that the Holy See was also committed to promoting environmental education among the 70 million people who attend Catholic schools and universities around the world.