‘Slowdown caused by Covid not putting brake on climate change’

The Covid-19-related economic slowdown failed to put a brake on climate change drivers and accelerating impacts, said a UN report.

The year 2020 was one of the three warmest years on record, with the global average temperature being about 1.2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level, said the report on the State of the Global Climate 2020, compiled by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and an extensive network of partners, Xinhua reported.

Concentrations of the major greenhouse gases continued to increase in 2019 and 2020, the report, released on Monday, noted.

The economic slowdown, as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, temporarily depressed new greenhouse gas emissions, but had no discernible impact on atmospheric concentrations, the report quoted UN Environment Program as saying.

Meanwhile, the global mean sea level continued to increase in 2020 and at a higher rate recently, partly due to the increased melting of the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. Ocean acidification and deoxygenation have continued, impacting ecosystems, marine life and fisheries.

The increasing climate-related disasters, such as floods, droughts and storms, combined with the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 in a double hit to more than 50 million people, the report said, quoting data from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Driven by conflict and economic slowdown as well as climate variability and extreme weather events, food insecurity, after decades of decline, is now increasing.

According to UN Food and Agriculture Organization and UN World Food Program, the number of people classified under crisis, emergency and famine conditions had increased to almost 135 million people across 55 countries in 2019.

“This report shows that we have no time to waste. The climate is changing, and the impacts are already too costly for people and the planet,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the launch of the report.

“This is the year for action. Countries need to commit to net zero emissions by 2050… And they need to act now to protect people against the disastrous effects of climate change,” he added.