The climate time bomb
Humanity is on thin ice – and that ice is melting fast.
As today’s report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) details, humans are responsible for virtually all global heating over the last 200 years.
The rate of temperature rise in the last half century is the highest in 2,000 years. Concentrations of carbon dioxide are at their highest in at least two million years.
The climate time bomb is ticking.
But today’s IPCC report is a how-to guide to defuse the climate time bomb.
It is a survival guide for humanity. As it shows, the 1.5°C limit is achievable. But it will take a quantum leap in climate action.
This report is a clarion call to massively fast-track climate efforts by every country and every sector and on every timeframe.
In short, our world needs climate action on all fronts — everything, everywhere, all at once.
I have proposed to the Group of 20 (G20) a Climate Solidarity Pact, in which all big emitters make extra efforts to cut emissions and wealthier countries mobilize financial and technical resources to support emerging economies in a common effort to keep the goal of 1.5°C alive.
Today, I am presenting a plan to super-charge efforts to achieve this Climate Solidarity Pact through an all-hands-on-deck Acceleration Agenda.
It starts with parties immediately hitting the fast-forward button on their net-zero deadlines to get to global net-zero by 2050, in line with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances.
Specifically, leaders of developed countries must commit to reaching net-zero as close as possible to 2040, the limit they should all aim to respect.
This can be done. Some have already set a target as early as 2035.
Leaders in emerging economies must commit to reaching net-zero as close as possible to 2050 — again, the limit they should all aim to respect. A number have already made the 2050 commitment.
This is the moment for all G20 members to come together in a joint effort, pooling their resources and scientific capacities as well as their proven and affordable technologies through the public and private sectors to make carbon neutrality a reality by 2050.
Every country must be part of the solution. Demanding others move first only ensures humanity comes last.
The Acceleration Agenda calls for a number of other actions.
Specifically: No new coal, the phasing out of coal by 2030 in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, and 2040 in all other countries.
Ending all international public and private funding of coal.
Ensuring net-zero electricity generation by 2035 for all developed countries and 2040 for the rest of the world.
Ceasing all licensing or funding of new oil and gas — consistent with the findings of the International Energy Agency.
Stopping any expansion of existing oil and gas reserves.
Shifting subsidies from fossil fuels to a just energy transition.
Establishing a global phase down of existing oil and gas production, compatible with the 2050 global net-zero target.
I urge all governments to prepare energy transition plans consistent with these actions and ready for investors.
I am also calling on CEOs of all oil and gas companies to be part of the solution. They should present credible, comprehensive and detailed transition plans in line with the recommendations of my High-Level Expert Group on net-zero pledges.
These plans must clearly detail actual emission cuts for 2025 and 2030, and efforts to change business models to phase out fossil fuels and scale up renewable energy.
This acceleration has already started in some sectors, but investors now need crystal clear signals.
And all governments need the assurance that business leaders will help them deliver on extra efforts — but governments must also create an enabling policy and regulatory environment.
Shipping, aviation, steel, cement, aluminium, agriculture — every sector must be aligned with net-zero by 2050, with clear plans including interim targets to get there.
At the same time, we need to seize the opportunity to invest in credible innovations that can contribute to reaching our global targets.
We must also speed up efforts to deliver climate justice to those on the frontlines of many crises — none of them they caused.
We can do this by: Safeguarding the most vulnerable communities and scaling up finance and capacities for adaptation and loss and damage.
Promoting reforms to ensure multilateral development banks provide more grants and concessional loans and fully mobilize private finance.
Delivering on the financial commitments made in Copenhagen, Paris and Glasgow.
Replenishing the Green Climate Fund this year and developing a road map to double adaptation finance before 2025.
Protecting everyone with early warning systems against natural disasters in four years.
Implementing the new loss and damage fund this year.
The longer we wait on any of these crucial issues, the harder it will become.
In less than nine months, leaders will gather at COP28 (the United Nations Climate Change Conference) for the first global stocktake of the Paris Agreement.
They will also launch the process to prepare the next cycle of national climate plans — or nationally determined contributions — due in 2025.
These new climate plans must reflect the acceleration we need now, over this decade and the next.
By the end of COP28, I count on all G20 leaders to have committed to ambitious new economy-wide nationally determined contributions encompassing all greenhouse gases and indicating their absolute emissions cuts targets for 2035 and 2040.
The transition must cover the entire economy. Partial pledges won’t cut it.
I look forward to welcoming “first movers” on the Acceleration Agenda at the Climate Ambition Summit in September in New York.
Once again, I thank the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for showing the fact-based, science-grounded way out of the climate mess.
We have never been better equipped to solve the climate challenge, but we must move into warp speed climate action now. We don’t have a moment to lose.
— Antonio Guterres
United Nations secretary general
• The UN secretary general’s statement was made at the launch of the Synthesis Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on Monday.