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Op-Ed: We Have To Act Today . . . Before The Planet Is In Real Trouble

By Inger Andersen

Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme

We are doing nowhere near enough to limit climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions are rising when they should be falling. Countries need to urgently increase action or we will face a future of rising seas, extreme weather events and increased human misery.

The UN’s annual Emissions Gap Report, released in Geneva today, tells us that even if all current unconditional Paris commitments were implemented, we would remain on course for a 3.2°C temperature rise. To get on track to limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5°C, we need to more than halve global emissions by 2030. Slicing this up evenly means emissions should fall 7.6 percent per year from 2020 to 2030. For the 2°C target, the figure is 2.7 percent each year.

Scientists, the UN and activists have been delivering variations of this message for more years than most of us care to remember, and their voices have only grown louder. Still, the world has not heeded their warnings. We have procrastinated, thinking we can catch up later. But now the hard deadline for serious action is upon us.

The size of these annual cuts is shocking. It is also unprecedented. The best annual emissions reduction any individual country has recorded is just over two percent per year – the UK, between 1990 and 2018. The task may seem impossible, particularly for 1.5°C. But we have to try, and we must start now. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned us that going beyond 1.5°C will increase the frequency and intensity of catastrophic climate events such as the heatwaves and storms witnessed across the globe in the last few years. Sea levels will be higher. Almost all coral reefs will die. The planet will be in serious trouble.

The Report’s findings are timely as they come ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference COP25 which takes place in Madrid, Spain, chaired by Chile, and where parties will review their climate action pledges.

Countries cannot wait until the end of 2020, when new climate commitments are due, to step up action. They – and every city, region, business and individual – need to act now. We need quick wins to reduce emissions as much as possible in 2020, then stronger national climate commitments and action to kick start the major transformations of economies and societies needed to catch up on the years in which we procrastinated.

It is still possible to reach the 1.5°C target, but we should not downplay the size of the task. To close the gap in action, nations have to raise the ambition of their pledges over fivefold when they revise them. They must then immediately follow up with policies, strategies and action to meet these commitments.

The global landscape has never been more conducive to taking the necessary action. There is an increased understanding of the multiple benefits of climate action – such as clean air, green jobs and a boost to many Sustainable Development Goals. There are many examples of ambitious efforts from national governments, cities, businesses and investors. Pressure is growing in the form of powerful protest movements. Climate change is becoming a bigger issue in the ballot box.

We either take advantage of this environment to deliver the radical transformations and climate-smart solutions we need now or face the consequences of a planet radically altered by climate change.

Editorial View - Page 4

Comments

joeblow 7 months, 2 weeks ago

If people were serious about doing something to affect 'climate change' they would simply stop purchasing goods made in China and plant more trees! Those two moves would be more beneficial to the environment than many other proposals made thus far.

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Porcupine 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Comments to Editorial View, Page 4

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ColumbusPillow 7 months, 2 weeks ago

More fear-mongering by unqualified individuals using unacceptable evidence. CO2 is plant food. It constitutes only 0,04% of the atmosphere and therefore cannot effect climate. By the way, sea level rise is less than 1mm/year.according to tide gauges.

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proudloudandfnm 7 months, 2 weeks ago

You do realize that 90% of the world's climatologists agree global climate change is real and significantly impacted by man made emissions? And that 100% of the folks that oppose the idea of global climate change are not in fact scientists? Just a little FYI for ya so you can avoid saying incredibly ignorant things like unqualified people using unacceptable evidence....

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Bobsyeruncle 7 months, 2 weeks ago

CO2 is NOT plant food, Plants need CO2, Sunlight and Water to produce glucose which is their food. The whole process of photosynthesis is very delicate, and is extremely important to our environment. Yes, plants, trees etc absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, which obviously reduces the total amount of greenhouse gases. However, the more humans there are on this planet, means more CO2 is being produced, which also means we need more plants and trees to maintain the equilibrium in the atmosphere. The last I checked the population was increasing and the amount of plants & trees was decreasing (de-forestation, expanding cities), so therefore the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing as the plants can't be forced to absorb anymore CO2.

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