Climate Change

Disappointed by G20 conclusions, 2.8°C heating likely without climate action, Guterres says at UN summit

Calls for ending fossil fuel subsidies & operationalising Loss and Damage Fund

By Nandita Banerji
Published: Thursday 21 September 2023
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivering his opening remarks to the Climate Ambition Summit in New York on September 20, 2023. Photo: iStock__

Earth is on a path to heating by 2.8 degrees Celsius if no climate action is taken, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in his opening remarks to the Climate Ambition Summit, in New York on September 20, 2023. Major emitters like the United States, China, the United Kingdom, Japan and India were among those who skipped the summit.

The Secretary-General also said he was disappointed by G20 Summit 2023’s conclusions regarding climate. “Geopolitical divides are still not allowing for what must be an historic compromise between developed economies and emerging economies that are the biggest emitters,” he said in the closing remarks the same day.

Read more: Human-led climate impact rapidly cooling upper atmosphere even as lower atmosphere warms

Guterres urged countries to show up with commitments to stop oil and gas expansion and plan a phase-out of existing production in line with the 1.5°C limit as agreed upon in Paris in 2015. He also called for ending fossil fuel subsidies, which the International Monetary Fund estimates reached $7 trillion in 2022.

The Secretary-General also asked all parties to operationalise the Loss and Damage Fund at 28th Conference of Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which will be convened from November 30, 2023 to December 12, 2023 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

He called on developed countries to meet the $100 billion commitment, replenish the Green Climate Fund, and double adaptation funding. Other climate actions suggested by him included covering everyone by implementing the climate action plan launched by the UN in 2022.

Business and financial institutions need to embark on true Net Zero pathways, Guterres further said. “Shady pledges have betrayed the public trust. Shamefully, some companies have even tried to block the transition to net zero — using wealth and influence to delay, distract and deceive,” he said.

Read more: Missing green growth: 11 rich countries like Germany, UK will need 2 centuries to meet Paris goals

“Climate action is dwarfed by the scale of the challenge. If nothing changes we are heading towards a 2.8 degree temperature rise — towards a dangerous and unstable world,” the Secretary-General said, calling for focus  on climate solutions.

The world can still limit the rise in global temperature to 1.5 degrees, said Guterres. “We can still build a world of clear air, green jobs, and affordable clean power for all. The path forward is clear,” he said. However, to meet the 1.5°C limit and protect people from climate extremes, global leaders must take action to reduce emissions, he added.

Major emitters — who have benefitted most from fossil fuels — must make extra efforts to cut emissions and wealthier countries have to support emerging economies to do so, he said.

Many of the poorest nations have every right to be angry. Angry that they are suffering most from a climate crisis they did nothing to create. Angry that promised finance has not materialised. And angry that their borrowing costs are sky-high,” Guterres said, adding a transformation is needed to rebuild trust.

“The move from fossil fuels to renewables is happening – but we are decades behind,” he said. “We must make up time lost to foot-dragging, arm-twisting and the naked greed of entrenched interests raking in billions from fossil fuels…my acceleration agenda calls on governments to hit fast forward so that developed countries reach net zero as close as possible to 2040, and emerging economies as close as possible to 2050.”

Read more: Study warns of a billion human deaths if global warming reaches or exceeds 2°C

The world needs credible plans to exit coal by 2030 for Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries and 2040 for the rest of the world, he further said. Developed countries must reach net zero as close as possible to 2040 and emerging economies as close as possible to 2050.

Guterres also urged countries to implement a fair, equitable and just energy transition, while providing affordable electricity to all. 

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