2021 must be the year of action for protecting people against the “disastrous” effects of climate change, the United Nations insisted on Monday, ahead of a crucial US-convened summit.
Time is fast running out to tackle the climate crisis, the UN warned, with the Covid-19 pandemic having failed to put the brakes on “relentless” climate change. The call comes alongside a major report ahead of US President Joe Biden’s climate summit on Thursday and Friday.
Forty world leaders have been invited to attend Biden’s virtual talks aimed at galvanising efforts by the major economies to tackle the climate crisis. The State of the Global Climate 2020 report by the UN’s World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), released Monday, said last year was one of the hottest on record, while greenhouse gas concentrations increased despite the pandemic-related economic slowdown.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the report showed 2020 was a year of “extreme weather and climate disruption, fuelled by anthropogenic climate change, affecting lives, destroying livelihoods and forcing many millions from their homes”.
Guterres said current climate ambition levels were way short of what was needed. “This is the year for action. Countries need to commit to net zero emissions by 2050,” the UN chief said.
“And they need to act now to protect people against the disastrous effects of climate change.” He added: “Time is fast running out to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. We need to do more, and faster, now.”
The 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change calls for capping global warming at well below two degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level, while countries will pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 C.