UN General Assembly debate underscores need to deliver on climate actions

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The UN General Assembly on Tuesday underscored the need for Member States to deliver on climate actions, bridging the financial gap and addressing the technical gaps that would limit global warming.

The UN Correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the General Assembly, focused on climate debate at a high-level meeting in New York, whose outcomes are to be conveyed ahead of COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow.

The day-long meeting comes just ahead of the COP26 climate change conference for countries to deliver on the promise of keeping global temperatures at 1.5 degrees Celsius, in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) summit will bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12 in Glasgow, Scotland.

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In his opening remarks, UN Assembly President Abdulla Shahid highlighted the realities of climate impacts such as rising sea levels, which are threatening island nations like his homeland, the Maldives.

However, as the architect of a “Presidency of Hope” Shahid stressed that countries could confront these challenges if they worked together.

“Today’s event will not solve climate change, only action will. Today’s event is about reminding people of what we are capable of if we act in concert, trust in science, and intelligently mobilise the many resources we have at our disposal”, Shahid said.

Scientists are unequivocal about the causes of the climate emergency. Human activities have warmed the atmosphere, oceans and land, driving ice melt and leading to unprecedented rapid changes, said Valérie Masson-Delmotte from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

“Human-caused climate change is already affecting every region on Earth in many ways, strengthening the frequency and intensity of extreme events, such as heatwaves, heavy precipitation events, droughts and fire,” she said, speaking via videolink.

“The changes we already experience will increase with further warming”, she warned.

The UN and its General Assembly, where all 193 Member States are represented, were created so that countries could unite to address common crises such as climate change, Secretary-General António Guterres told the meeting.

COP26 in Glasgow will be a moment of truth, he added, because despite the alarm bells, governments’ actions so far “simply do not add up to what is so desperately needed.”

The world currently remains on a track for global temperature rise of 2.7 degrees Celsius, far from the 1.5 degree goal, or what Guterres called “the only liveable future for humanity.”

He said the situation could only be reversed through reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent this decade, when compared to 2010 levels, and net-zero emissions by mid-century.  Leaders must also come to COP26 with bold targets and new concrete policies.

“The time has passed for diplomatic niceties,” the UN chief said.  “If governments – especially G20 governments – do not stand up and lead this effort, we are headed for terrible human suffering.”

And while people expect their governments to lead, Guterres stressed that everyone has a role in achieving a future where fossil fuels, which create greenhouse gases, are abandoned for cleaner energy sources.  This includes businesses, investors and average citizens.

“Individuals in every society need to make better, more responsible choices – in what they eat, how they travel, and what they purchase as consumers,”

“And young people – and climate activists – need to keep doing what they’re doing: demanding action from their leaders,” Guterres said.

The secretary-general also underlined the need for solidarity, urging richer countries to meet their commitment of at least $100 billion dollars in annual climate finance for developing nations.

He also called for donors and development banks to devote at least 50 per cent of their climate support towards adaptation and resilience in the developing world.

Climate action and sustainable development must go hand-in-hand, said the President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Collen Kelapile.  He underlined that everyone must be part of the net-zero future.

“The global transformation to address climate change must be just, inclusive, and equitable to ensure no one is left behind, especially women, children, youth, indigenous peoples and displaced populations,” he said.

Kelapile added that countries must also invest in reskilling affected workers, and in economic diversification of communities.  Like the secretary-general, he also called for greater support for developing countries as they pursue a greener path.

No fewer than 70 speakers are expected to participate in the debate. (NAN)

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