UN chief: Polluters must join 'net zero' club for climate

Polluters must step up their commitments to cutting greenhouse gas emissions ahead of a crucial climate summit in November, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday.

Guterres said the global body's “central objective'' this year is to get countries and companies responsible for 90 per cent of the world's man-made emissions to set credible deadlines by when they will stop adding further planet-heating gases to the atmosphere.

Several countries including the United States, China and members of the European Union have already announced plans to achieve “net zero” emissions, meaning they will only release as much carbon dioxide and other gases as can be absorbed by natural or technological means.

But scientists say some of the targets are too far off and aren't backed by clear plans that would ensure that the Paris climate accord's goal of capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) can be achieved.

“The drive to net zero must become the new normal for everyone, everywhere, for every country, every company, city, financial institution, as well as the key sectors such as aviation, shipping, industry and agriculture,'' Guterres told diplomats during a virtual gathering. “At the same time, all commitments to net zero must be underpinned by clear and credible plans to achieve them. Words are not enough.''

He again urged major industrialized countries to phase out their use of coal – a big source of carbon emissions –by 2030, and to ensure that poor countries get the $100 billion in funding they need each year to respond to climate change.

Guterres said the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow this fall, delayed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, also needs to finalize rules for international carbon markets that economists say would give companies greater incentives to cut emissions.

The U.N. chief said the global body will make offices and venues around the world available to governments so officials can take part in virtual meetings ahead of the November summit, since the usual flurry of preparatory events likely won't happen in-person because of COVID.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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