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Antonio Guterres to convene climate ambition summit in 2023; says 1.5-degree goal ‘gasping for breath’  

World still moving in the wrong direction on climate change, UN chief noted in his end-of-year address

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will be convening a climate ambition summit in September next year in what he termed as his ‘relentless fight’ against the existential threat of climate change that the world faces.

The summit will be convened alongside “a crucial gathering of world leaders to accelerate action at the mid-way point of the Sustainable Development Goals”.

“It will be a no-nonsense summit.  No exceptions.  No compromises. There will be no room for back-sliders, greenwashers, blame-shifters or repackaging of announcements of previous years,” Guterres said in his end-of-year press conference.

He called on “every leader to step up — from governments, business, cities and regions, civil society and finance”.

The secretary-general said the “invitation was open”. But there was a price of entry it was non-negotiable — credible, serious and new climate action and nature-based solutions that will move the needle forward and respond to the urgency of the climate crisis must be presented.

‘Wrong direction’

Guterres also noted that climate change was another area “where good news can be hard to find”.

“We are still moving in the wrong direction. The global emissions gap is growing. The 1.5-degree goal is gasping for breath. National climate plans are falling woefully short,” he said.


Read Down To Earth’s coverage of COP27


But, he added, the UN was not retreating. Instead, it was fighting back. “We are fighting back to help emerging economies shift away from coal and accelerate the renewable energy revolution,” Guterres said.

This year, major multi-billion dollar Just Energy Transition Partnerships were launched with Indonesia, South Africa and just last week, Vietnam. 

Similarly, efforts were on to restore trust between the Global North and South. For instance, the 27th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held in Sharm El-Sheikh had “delivered a ground-breaking pathway on the long-stalled issue of loss and damage,” Guterres said. 

The UN chief also said his organisation was “fighting back to cut through the fog of greenwashing”. The UN High-Level Expert Group launched a “how-to” guide on the credible implementation of net-zero pledges for businesses, investors, cities and regions in 2022.

He also pointed to how the UN was fighting back to ensure protection plans for humanity in the face of worsening climate disasters and natural ecosystems.

“This year, we launched an action plan to cover every person in the world with early warning systems within five years,” Guterres said.

The head of the UN said he will push for a Climate Solidarity Pact, in which all big emitters make an extra effort to reduce emissions this decade in line with the 1.5-degree goal and ensure support for those who need it.     

“There is no doubt that without it, the 1.5-degree goal will soon disappear,” said Guterres.

“The Climate Ambition Summit will be an opportunity for world leaders to announce updated climate targets. Previously, the Summit has precipitated new nationally determined contributions (NDC) as well as net zero plans,” Avantika Goswami, programme manager, climate change, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi, told Down To Earth.

The UNFCCC’s NDC Synthesis Report showed that only 24 countries submitted updated NDCs between COP26 and COP27, she noted.

“COP27 reinforced the urgency of raising ambition to meet the 1.5C target — and the 2023 Summit could be a good platform for countries to announced enhanced efforts ahead of COP28,” Goswami added.

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