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"We Have To Aim High In Glasgow": Guterres

NEW YORK NY, United States

The year 2020 will be pivotal for climate action if the world is to control ever worsening impacts and indicators of climate change before it is too late, according to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres as he launched a World Meteorolgical Organisation (WMO) Statement on the State of the Global Climate. “We have to aim high at the next climate conference (COP26) in Glasgow (Scotland) in November,” said Guterres.

Unprecedented Floods And Droughts; The Human Cost: Impacts Of Ocean Warming; 2015 Paris Agreement Targets Are Significantly Off-track

The 11 March Statement assesses the effect of climate change on all aspects of the environment as well as the health and well-being of the global population, containing data from the work of eight other UN agencies. It documents physical evidence of climate change (increasing ocean and land heat, accelerating melting ice and sea level rise and melting ice) and the consequent effects socio-economic development, human health, migration and displacement, food security, and land and marine ecosystems.

“We need all countries to demonstrate that we can achieve emissions reductions of 45 per cent from 2010 levels this decade, and that we will reach net-zero emissions by mid-century. We know this is the only way to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” he said.

“In Glasgow, success will depend on countries, the private sector and civil society demonstrating that they are taking significant steps to raise ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance,” he said.

“We count the cost in human lives and livelihoods as droughts, wildfires, floods and extreme storms take their deadly toll,” Guterres said at a joint press conference with WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas at UN headquarters in New York.

Statement highlights:

Unprecedented Floods And Droughts:

The report identifies the extreme weather events of 2019 across the globe. Greater than long-term average monsoons in India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar, led to flooding and the loss of some 2,200 lives in the region.

In the first half of the year parts of South America and Iran were hit by excessive rainfall. The US estimates that total economic losses from flooding at about $20 Billion USD.

Conversely, severe lack of rain affected Southern Africa, Central America, parts of South America and Australia.

Cyclone activity was above “normal”, with 72 in the northern hemisphere and 27 in the southern hemisphere. Cyclones Idai, Dorian, and Hagibis caused widespread destruction across the globe.

The Human Cost:

The UN Food Program contributed to the report’s findings: following years of steady decline, hunger is again on the rise, driven by a changing climate and extreme weather events. The countries in the Horn of Africa were particularly affected in 2019, where the population suffered from climate extremes, displacement, conflict and violence. The region suffered droughts, then unusually heavy rains towards the end of the year, which was a factor in the worst locust outbreak in the past 25 years.

Worldwide, some 6.7 million people were displaced from their homes due to natural hazards – in particular storms and floods, such as the many devastating cyclones, and flooding in Iran, the Philippines and Ethiopia. The report forecasts an internal displacement figure of around 22 million people throughout the whole of 2019, up from 17.2 million in 2018.

Impacts Of Ocean Warming:

Drawing on partner data, the report delivers information on the impact of greenhouse gas emissions. Rising emissions have led to increased ocean heat and have contributed to melting floating ice shelves and rising sea levels. Oceans are increasingly being acidified and deoxygenated with direct negative impact on marine life and ocean ecosystems.

Ocean currents have been altered and marine ecosystems are changing.

2015 Paris Agreement Targets Are Significantly Off-track:

Government commitments made in 2015 to keep global average temperatures well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels are not on track as evidenced by heat records set in 2016 and again in 2019. The decade between 2010 and 2019 was the warmest on record. The evidence collected claims that since the 1980s, each successive decade has been warmer than any preceding decade since 1850.

“Given that greenhouse gas levels continue to increase, the warming will continue. A recent decadal forecast indicates that a new annual global temperature record is likely in the next five years. It is a matter of time”, warned WMO Secretary-General, Petteri Taalas, while observing that there is a growing understanding across society that climate change is the number one problem mankind is facing today.

“Last year emissions dropped in developed countries, despite the growing economy, so we have been to show that you can detach economic growth from emission growth. The bad news is that, in the rest of the world, emissions grew last year. So, if we want to solve this problem we have to have all the countries on board”.

Guterres called for more drastic emissions cuts by 2050 and outlined four priorities for COP26:

  • more ambitious national climate plans that will keep global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels;
  • strategies to reach net zero emissions by 2050;
  • a comprehensive programme of support for climate adaptation and resilience;
  • financing for a sustainable, green economy.
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