2023 is now almost certain to become Earth’s warmest on record after a hot July and August saw global temperatures breached the 1.5°C threshold for the first time, the Paris Agreement target for a safer limit for the world.
Data released in early September from Copernicus, a branch of the European Union Space Programme, showed August was 1.59C warmer than 1850-1900 levels, following a 1.6C increase in July. This is the first time the 1.5C threshold has been passed for more than one month, and only the second time it has ever been exceeded, behind February 2016.
The temporary breaching of the crucial 1.5C threshold, which scientists have warned could have dire consequences, represent a marked acceleration of human impacts on the global climate system, and sends the world into “uncharted territory”, the UN agency World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) warned.
At the G20 Meeting held in India on September 10, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres proposed the Climate Solidarity Pact through an Acceleration Agenda to expedite efforts to combat climate change. It involved leaders of developed countries to commit to reaching net zero as close as possible to 2040, and developing countries as close as possible to 2050 in a common effort to keep the goal of 1.5°C alive.
G20 countries emit 80% of global carbon emissions and includes Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union.
“I was quite disappointed by what the G20 concluded about climate, because the geopolitical divides are still not allowing for what must be a historic compromise between developed economies and emerging economies that are the biggest emitters,” stated the UN Chief as he looked back at the G20 Meeting.
On September 20th, he convened The Climate Ambition Summit at United Nations Headquarters in New York, aiming to accelerate action by governments, business, finance, local authorities and civil society, and hear from “first movers and doers.” It represented a critical political milestone for demonstrating that there is collective global will to accelerate the pace and scale of a just transition to a more equitable renewable-energy based, climate-resilient global economy.
The UN Chief’s opening remarks at the Climate Global Action warned of a dangerous and unstable world:
Our focus here is on climate solutions – and our task is urgent.
Humanity has opened the gates of hell.
Horrendous heat is having horrendous effects.
Distraught farmers watching crops carried away by floods;
Sweltering temperatures spawning disease;
And thousands fleeing in fear as historic fires rage.
Climate action is dwarfed by the scale of the challenge.
If nothing changes we are heading towards a 2.8 degree temperature rise – towards a dangerous and unstable world.
But the future is not fixed.
It is for leaders like you to write it.
We can still limit the rise in global temperature to 1.5 degrees. We can still build a world of clear air, green jobs, and affordable clean power for all.
The path forward is clear.
It has been forged by fighters and trailblazers – some of whom are with us today:
Activists refusing to be silenced;
Indigenous Peoples defending their lands from climate extremes;
Chief Executives transforming their business models and financiers funding a just transition;
Mayors moving towards to a zero-carbon future;
And governments working to stamp out fossil fuels and protect vulnerable communities.
But if we are to meet the 1.5 degree limit and protect ourselves from climate extremes, climate champions, particularly in the developing world, need solidarity;
They need support;
And they need global leaders to take action.
Action to reduce emissions.
The move from fossil fuels to renewables is happening – but we are decades behind.
We must make up time lost to foot-dragging, arm-twisting and the naked greed of entrenched interests raking in billions from fossil fuels.
The proposed Climate Solidarity Pact calls on major emitters – who have benefitted most from fossil fuels – to make extra efforts to cut emissions, and on wealthy countries to support emerging economies to do so.
And the Acceleration Agenda I proposed calls on governments to hit fast forward:
So that developed countries reach net zero as close as possible to 2040, and emerging economies as close as possible to 2050 according to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.
It also urges countries to implement a fair, equitable and just energy transition, while providing affordable electricity to all:
By ensuring credible plans to exit coal by 2030 for OECD countries and 2040 for the rest of the world;
By ending fossil fuel subsidies – which the IMF estimates reached an incredible US $7 trillion in 2022;
And by setting ambitious renewable energy goals in line with the 1.5 degree limit.
The Acceleration Agenda also calls for climate justice.
Many of the poorest nations have every right to be angry.
Angry that they are suffering most from a climate crisis they did nothing to create.
Angry that promised finance has not materialized.
And angry that their borrowing costs are sky-high.
We need a transformation to rebuild trust.