UN Secretary-General Guterres warns that the goal of keeping global warming to 1.5°C “is on life support”

“The 1.5 degree target is on life support. He is in intensive care. »

Guterres said the scientific implications of climate change are clear, and so are the calculations: to have a chance of avoiding the most devastating impacts of global warming, the world must cut greenhouse gas pollution by nearly half. greenhouse by 2030 and completely erase its carbon footprint by mid-2020. century.

But that aspiration remains far from reality, as global emissions rise and national climate commitments lack the ambition that scientists say is needed to abandon the age of fossil fuels as soon as possible.

“The problem is getting worse,” António Guterres said on Monday. “If we continue with the same, we can say goodbye to 1.5. Even 2 degrees may be out of reach.

In Glasgow, Scotland, in the fall, world leaders emerged from two weeks of high-profile talks with an agreement to strengthen short-term climate goals and accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels. They promised to reduce emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, and to stop deforestation. They pledged to phase out funding for coal-fired power plants and do more to help countries grappling with the deadly combination of climate change, rising debt and a deadly pandemic.

But four months after those promises were made in the international spotlight, what Gueterres called the “naive optimism” of that moment now seems distant.

The world remains on track to exceed its current climate targets. Developing countries rocked by inflation, massive debt and the ravages of covid-19 have little capacity and resources to adapt to growing climate impacts.

The fallout from Russia’s war in Ukraine risks upending global food and energy markets in ways that will have serious implications for climate change, António Guterres has warned. “As current events show all too clearly, our continued reliance on fossil fuels puts the global economy and energy security at the mercy of geopolitical shocks and crises.”

As Europe and its allies seek to reduce their dependence on Russian oil and gas, he said, they must continue to prioritize the transition to clean energy over locking in new fuels infrastructure. fossils for decades to come. “Short-term measures could create long-term dependence on fossil fuels,” said António Guterres.

In the United States, where President Biden has pledged to at least halve the country’s emissions by 2030, greenhouse gas emissions have risen in the past year. Democrats on Capitol Hill have so far failed to revive climate provisions of a roughly $2 trillion package that includes about $300 billion in tax credits for wind power producers, solar and nuclear and other incentives faced opposition from Senator Joe Manchin III (DW.Va.) and Congressional Republicans.

While Biden has taken many executive actions to try and nudge the nation toward a greener future, his ambitious climate goals and promises to send billions each year in climate finance to vulnerable nations are unlikely to succeed without the help from Congress. His program also faces a tough test in the Supreme Court, which is weighing a case that could restrict the power of federal regulators to change how the nation’s power sector generates electricity.

Other countries have not fared much better. Deforestation persists in Brazil, Indonesia and elsewhere. Major methane emitters, including Russia and China, have yet to sign on to a global pledge to rapidly reduce the amount of planet-warming gas released into the atmosphere.

The world has already warmed by more than 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since the late 1800s, with few signs of slowing down. Scientists have said warming could surpass the 1.5 degree mark in the early 2030s without transformational changes in the way humans work, eat, travel and power their homes.

In a detailed and alarming assessment last month of the growing impacts of climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said humanity has a “brief and rapidly closing window” to avoid a hotter, deadlier future.

Unchecked greenhouse gas emissions could swallow small island nations, raise sea levels by several feet, fuel more intense wildfires and hurricanes, and exacerbate droughts, heat waves, hunger and flooding. The in-depth analysis found that climate change is already causing “dangerous and widespread disruptions” in the natural world, as well as in billions of people on the planet.

But that report contained a message that Guterres echoed on Monday: that the world can still follow a less catastrophic path. That some climate impacts are unavoidable, but humans can still prevent many future disasters, because how much heat the Earth will eventually heat up depends on the choices we make now.

Changing the current trajectory will not happen easily or overnight.

To achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, Guterres said, public officials and business leaders must accelerate the phase-out of coal power and wholeheartedly embrace renewable energy. Governments must strengthen their national climate plans. The rich countries most responsible for climate change must deliver on their promises to help smaller, poorer nations adapt to its impacts and build more sustainable economies. And the world needs to understand that it needs to quickly decarbonize major sectors like shipping, steel, aviation and cement.

“That’s how we’ll move the 1.5 degree goal from the life support system to the recovery room,” he said.

Maxine Joselow contributed to this report.

Teresa H. Sadler