The UN chief on Wednesday unveiled a five-point plan to start mass use of renewable energy, in hopes of reviving global attention to climate change, the UN meteorological agency reported. .
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said: “We must end the pollution of fossil fuels and accelerate the transformation of renewable energy before we burn down our only home.” “Time is running out.”
His latest stern warning about possible environmental disasters comes after the World Meteorological Organization released its State of the Climate report for 2021, which says the last seven years have been the hottest on record. The effects of extreme weather have led to deaths and illnesses, migration, and hundreds of billions of dollars in economic losses – and the fallout continues this year, the WMO said.
“Today’s State of the Climate report is a disappointing case of humanity’s failure to deal with climate change,” Guterres said. “The global energy system has collapsed and is bringing us closer to climate disaster.”
In his plan, which is heading towards the next UN climate conference in Egypt in November, Guterres called for encouraging technology transfers and lifting intellectual property protections in renewable technologies such as battery storage.
Such ambitions – such as his call for technology transfer to combat COVID-19 – may shock innovators and their financial backers: they want to reap the benefits of their knowledge, investment and discovery – not just leave them alone.
Second, Guterres wants to expand the supply chain and access to raw materials that go to renewable technology, which is now concentrated in a few powerful countries.
The UN chief also wants governments to reform in ways that could promote renewable energy, such as through fast-tracking solar and wind projects.
Fourth, he called for the removal of government subsidies for fossil fuels, which are now half a trillion dollars a year. This is not an easy task: this type of subsidy can reduce the tweak in the pockets of many consumers – but in the end, it also helps to inject cash into the corporate treasury.
“While people suffer from high prices at the pump, the oil and gas industry is making billions from a distorted market,” Guterres said. “This scandal needs to be stopped.”
Finally, Guterres says private and public investment in renewable energy should triple to at least $ 4 trillion a year. He noted that government subsidies for fossil fuels are three times higher than those for renewable energy today.
These UN initiatives are built on a central concept: the emission of man-made greenhouse gases in the industrial age traps excess heat in the atmosphere, on the surface of the earth and in the oceans and seas. Knock-on effects have contributed to frequent and severe natural disasters such as droughts, hurricanes, floods and forest fires.
Stripe, a non-profit technology firm focused on environmental information science, and Berkeley Earth climate scientist JK Hausfader say a good way to move toward net-zero emissions is to “make clean energy cheaper.”
“While rich countries may spend extra on clean energy, poor and middle-income countries may be less willing to accept tradeoffs in reducing emissions and lifting millions out of extreme poverty,” he said. “If clean energy sources are cheaper than fossil fuels, they will prevail and be adopted more quickly.”
The WMO report breaks down slightly new ground in terms of data, but compiles previous studies into a broader picture of the global climate.
Its secretary-general, Petrie Talas, pointed to a declining blip in emissions in 2020 when the coronavirus epidemic wiped out human activity. But he says that doesn’t change the “big picture” because carbon dioxide – a leading greenhouse gas – has a long lifespan and is stable, and emissions have been steadily rising ever since.
“We have seen this steady increase in carbon dioxide concentration, which is related to the fact that we are still using more and more fossil fuels,” Talas said in an interview. “Deforestation continues in areas such as the Amazon, Africa and South Asia.”
Last year’s UN climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, failed to collect carbon-cutting commitments from the “BRICS” countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – threatening a key goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global warming. 1.5 degrees Celsius, he said.
“We’re moving from 2.5- to 3-degree warming instead of 1.5,” Talas said.
Climate experts have praised the UN’s ambitions and lamented the outcome of the WMO, saying some countries were going astray.
“If climate change dies by a thousand drops, in 2021 we will have our thousandth,” said Rob Jackson, a professor of Earth Systems Science at Stanford University, who also chairs the Global Carbon Project, which tracks carbon emissions.
“The use of dirty coal has roared through economic stimulus incentives for COVID in China and India. We have built more new coal plants worldwide than we can take offline,” he added. “How is that possible in 2021?”
Jonathan Overpeck, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Michigan, noted the role of fossil fuels in the Russian government’s war in Ukraine. Russia is a major global producer of oil and gas, including through a pipeline that transits Ukraine to Europe for home and business supplies.
“The Secretary-General is right to blame fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are creating a growing climate crisis and that’s what comes with it,” Overpack said. “The solution to climate change, deadly air pollution and true national security is to put fossil fuels in favor of clean renewable energy.”
“It’s scary,” he added. “The climate crisis and the European war are calls for action, and to rid the planet of fossil fuels as soon as possible.”