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‘Alarm Bell’ Rings as UN Chief, UK PM Convene Leaders on Climate Change

‘Alarm Bell’ Rings as UN Chief, UK PM Convene Leaders on Climate Change

Monday, 20 September, 2021 - 16:45
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson greets UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres before a bilateral meeting, during G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, Britain, June 12, 2021. (Reuters)

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged leaders of the world’s major economies including the United States to deliver on their commitments toward a $100 billion per year climate fund with less than six weeks to go before a UN climate summit.


Johnson and UN Secretary-General António Guterres hosted a roundtable of world leaders on Monday to address major gaps on emissions targets and climate finance.


“Too many major economies - some represented here today, some absent - are lagging too far behind,” Johnson said. “I’ll stress that again - for this to be a success we need developed countries to find that $100 billion.”


The closed-door meeting during the annual high-level week of the UN General Assembly includes leaders and representatives from a few dozen countries representing industrialized nations, emerging economies and vulnerable developing countries, said Selwin Hart, assistant secretary-general and special adviser to Guterres on climate action.


Johnson told reporters that he is hopeful the United States can deliver on a promise to step up its share of money toward the $100 billion annual goal but “we’ve been here before” and “we’re not counting our chickens.”


US Climate Envoy John Kerry, who represented the United States at Monday’s meeting, said Washington would deliver more climate aid ahead of the Oct. 31-Nov. 12 COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland.


“The United States is crucially important,” Johnson said. “It will send a massively powerful signal to the world.”


“The alarm bell needs to be rung,” he told reporters last week. “Countries are not on target, really, to bridge these gaps in mitigation, finance and adaptation.”


The roundtable discussion aims to ensure a successful outcome at the UN climate conference even as recent reports show major economies being far off track on their emission reduction goals and climate finance commitments.


Countries involved in the roundtable included the United States, China, India, EU nations as well as Costa Rica, the Maldives and a mix of developing and middle-income countries and industrialized nations.


A UN analysis of country pledges under the Paris agreement on climate released on Friday showed global emissions would be 16% higher in 2030 than they were in 2010 - far off the 45% reduction by 2030 that scientists say is needed to stave off disastrous climate change.


Another report released on Friday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said that rich countries likely missed a goal to contribute $100 billion last year to helping developing nations deal with climate change after increasing funding by less than 2% in 2019.


The UN expects to hear updates from some of the major economies on how they will strengthen their emission reduction targets and clarity around how to hit the $100 billion goal.


Guterres will also press donor countries and multilateral development banks to show progress toward meeting his goal to increase the share of finance dedicated to helping countries adapt to climate change to 50% from the current level of 21%, said Hart.


Hart said that current finance dedicated to adaptation is around $16.7 billion a year, a fraction of the current estimated adaptation costs of around $70 billion a year.


Johnson, host of the COP26, said at a meeting of the major economies on Friday that the world’s richest countries “must get serious about filling the $100 billion pot that the developing world needs in order to do its bit.”


Guterres told Reuters last week that the climate summit is at risk of failure.


“I believe that we are at risk of not having a success in COP26,” Guterres told Reuters in an interview at UN headquarters in New York on Wednesday. “There is still a level of mistrust, between north and south, developed and developing countries, that needs to be overcome.”


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