U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern Monday that the world is not on track to meet several urgent targets in the fight against climate change.
“Based on the present commitments of member states, the world is on a catastrophic pathway to 2.7-degrees [Celsius] of heating, instead of 1.5 we all agreed should be the limit,” Guterres told reporters. “Science tells us that anything above 1.5 degrees would be a disaster.”
To get to 1.5 degrees, the U.N. says wealthier nations need to step up with $100 billion a year between now and 2025.
Greenhouse gas emissions also need to be cut by nearly half by 2030 to enable nations to reach carbon neutrality by the 2050 target. This includes the difficult job of getting countries to phase out the use of polluting coal plants.
“Where I believe there is still a long way to go is in relation to the reduction of emissions,” Guterres said.
Nearly 80% of emissions are from G-20 countries.
In November, nations will meet in Glasgow, Scotland, for a key climate conference to review progress on commitments since the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
On Monday, Guterres co-hosted with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson a small meeting of key countries for one of the final gatherings ahead of the conference. Guterres and Johnson have both raised alarms that the review conference, known as COP26, cannot fail and that ambitious commitments are needed.
“I think that Glasgow — COP26 — is a turning point for the world,” Johnson told reporters. “It is a moment when we have to grow up and take our responsibilities.”
The U.N. says half of the annual $100 billion in public climate financing needs to go to adaptation efforts in developing countries.
Guterres expressed concern that progress on this has not been sufficient. Although he did point to some movement, including new commitments from Sweden and Denmark on Monday.
“I believe that this 50% might gain traction, but we are still not yet there,” he said.
“It is the developing world that is bearing the brunt of catastrophic climate change in the form of hurricanes and fires and floods, and the real long-term economic damage that they face,” Johnson said. “And yet, it is the developed world that over 200 years has put the carbon in the atmosphere that is causing this acceleration of climate change. And so it really is up to us to help them.”
Climate action activists say it is not spending the money that is holding back accelerated progress.
“The pandemic has shown that countries can swiftly mobilize trillions of dollars to respond to an emergency — it is clearly a question of political will,” said Nafkote Dabi, Oxfam International’s Global Climate Policy lead. “Let’s be clear, we are in a climate emergency. It is wreaking havoc across the globe and requires the same decisiveness and urgency.”