UN chief calls for great leap towards carbon neutrality

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday called on countries to make a great leap towards carbon neutrality.

“2021 must be the year of a great leap towards carbon neutrality,” the UN chief told the third annual Bloomberg New Economy Forum, described as “a global town hall” that brings together government, business, technology and academia. “Every country, city, financial institution and company should adopt plans for transitioning to net zero emissions by 2050.”

The Secretary-General reported that recently, the European Union, Japan, the Republic of Korea, along with more than 110 other countries, announced their pledges for achieving the carbon neutrality goal, which China also plans to reach before 2060, the Xinhua news agency reported.

“By early 2021, countries representing more than 65 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions and more than 70 per cent of the world economy are very likely to have made ambitious commitments to carbon neutrality,” he said.

“The signal this sends to markets, institutional investors and decision-makers is clear. Carbon should be given a price. The time of fossil fuel subsidies is over. We must phase out coal. We must shift the tax burden from income to carbon, from taxpayers to polluters.”

The UN chief added that financial reporting on exposure to climate risks should be made mandatory, while authorities must integrate the carbon neutrality goal into economic and fiscal policies in order to truly transform industry, agriculture, transportation and the energy sector.

The secretary-general highlighted the value of partnership between the United Nations and the business and private sector, including through initiatives such as the Global Investors for Sustainable Development Alliance and the Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance.

However, he stressed that such coalitions “cannot be global without developing countries, which will need significant support.”

Guterres also acknowledged that the shift to carbon neutrality will not be easy.

“We need a just transition, with training and assistance for those who will lose jobs or be affected in other ways,” he said.

Furthermore, even as countries work to mitigate emissions in the future, they must address current impacts, he said.

The UN chief cited a recent report which revealed that only one-fifth of climate finance goes to adaptation. Furthermore, only 14 per cent of recent financing went to the world’s least developed countries, and only 2 per cent to small island developing states.

“This is not only insufficient; it is dangerous. Adaptation should not be the forgotten component of climate action,” he stated.

“And finally let’s be smart: this will require financing, private and public – but these are investments in a safer, more prosperous and sustainable future.”

As the Covid-19 pandemic deepens, the secretary-general also touched on the United Nations’ ongoing efforts to save lives, control virus spread and ease the fallout.

Additionally, the United Nations is advocating what he calls “a massive rescue package” for the most vulnerable people and countries, in addition to pressing for a global ceasefire, among other actions.

“We are all rightly focused on responding to the pandemic. But as we strive to overcome one crisis, we have an opening to address another,” said Guterres.

“The pandemic has shown that we can think big and act big in the face of an emergency. We have crucial decisions to make in the weeks and months ahead. Let’s get it right.”

The New Economy Forum is an annual gathering of leaders in business, government, energy and trade to discuss some of the world’s most intractable challenges. The coronavirus pandemic and the impact it has wrought on the global economy is a centerpiece of those talks this year.

The four-day forum, which kicked off Monday, is organised by Bloomberg Media Group, a division of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.

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