Renewables ‘lifeline’ can lift world out of climate crisis: Guterres

Greenhouse gas concentrations, sea level rise, heat levels and ocean acidification all set new records in 2021, while some glaciers reached tipping point, according to latest flagship report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), published on Wednesday.

The State of the Climate 2021Opens in new window says extreme weather – the daily face of climate change – has taken a heavy toll on human lives, triggered shocks to food and water security, and resulted in hundreds of billions of dollars in economic losses last year.

The report, which describes even clearer signs that human activity is causing damage on a planetary scale – to our lands, our oceans and our atmosphere – also confirms that the past seven years have been the hottest on record. , with the global temperature in 2021 reaching about 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels.

“It’s only a matter of time before we see another hottest year on record. Our climate is changing before our eyes. Heat trapped by man-made greenhouse gases will warm the planet for decades. many generations to come,” warned WMOOpens in new window chief Petteri Taalas. “Sea level rise, heat and ocean acidification will continue for hundreds of years unless some means of to remove carbon from the atmosphere are invented”.

A plan for renewable energies

Calling the report “a lamentable litany of humanity’s failure to address climate change,” UN Secretary-General António GuterresOpens in new window said that while time is running out to prevent the worst impacts of the climate crisis, there is a ‘lifeline’ right in front of us.

“We need to end fossil fuel pollution and accelerate the transition to renewable energyOpens in new window before we burn down our only home… Transforming energy systems is a low hanging fruit,” he said. he pointed out in a video message.

Stressing that renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar are readily available and, in most cases, cheaper than coal and other fossil fuels, the UN chief offered five essential actionsOpens in new window to relaunch the energy transition, which he has projected for the 21st century”.

1. Treat renewable energy technologies as essential global public goods

This means removing barriers to knowledge sharing and technology transfer, including intellectual property constraints.

Guterres called for a new global coalition on battery storage led by governments and bringing together technology companies, manufacturers and financiers to accelerate innovation and deployment.

2. Secure, scale up and diversify supply components and raw materials for renewable energy technologies

Supply chains for renewable energy technologies and raw materials are concentrated in a handful of countries, and greater international coordination is needed to overcome this barrier.

3. Building Frameworks and Reforming Fossil Fuel Bureaucracies

UN chief calls on governments to speed up and streamline solar and wind project approvals, modernize grids and set ambitious renewable energy targets that provide certainty for investors, developers, consumers and producers .

4. Move subsidies away from fossil fuels

Every year, governments around the world pay around half a trillion dollars to artificially lower the price of fossil fuels, more than triple the subsidies given to renewable energy.

“While people are suffering from high prices at the pump, the oil and gas industry is raking in billions from a distorted market. This scandal must end,” stresses António Guterres.

5. Private and public investments in renewable energy must triple

UN chief calls for adjustment of risk frameworks and more flexibility to develop revolving finance.

“It is time to relaunch the transition to renewable energies before it is too late”, urged the Secretary-General.

Climate emergency

The UN chief’s plan is long overdue, at a time when extreme weather conditions have continued to impact the lives of millions of people in recent weeks, as seen with the emergency of the drought in the Horn of Africa, deadly floods in South Africa and extreme heat in India. and Pakistan.

the WMO World Climate Status The report complements the latest assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCCOopens in a new window) which only included data up to 2019, and it will be used as a negotiating document at the next Conference of United Nations Climate Change Conference in Egypt (COP 27) later this year.

Here are some of its key findings:

  • Greenhouse gas concentrations

Levels reached a new global high in 2020 and continued to rise in 2021, with carbon dioxide concentration reaching 413.2 parts per million worldwide, a 149% increase from pre-industrial levels.

Another record. The upper 2000m depth of ocean water continued to warm in 2021 and is expected to continue warming in the future – a change that is irreversible on time scales of centuries to millennia and affects deep marine ecosystems such as coral reefs.

Due to the excess carbon dioxide (CO2) that the ocean absorbs (about 23% of annual emissions), its waters are becoming increasingly acidic.

This has consequences for organisms and ecosystems, and also threatens human food security and tourism.

The drop in PH level also means that the ability of the ocean to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere also decreases.

Sea level has risen by a record 4.5 mm per year over the period 2013-2021, mainly due to the accelerated loss of ice mass from the ice sheets.

This has major implications for hundreds of millions of coastal dwellers and increases vulnerability to tropical cyclones.

The world’s glaciers that scientists use as a benchmark have thinned by 33.5 meters since 1950, 76% since 1980.

In 2021, glaciers in Canada and the northwestern United States experienced record ice mass loss due to heat waves and fires in June and July.

Greenland also experienced exceptional melting in mid-August and the first rainfall recorded at its peak.

Heat broke records in western North America and the Mediterranean in 2021. Death Valley, California reached 54.4°C on July 9, which equates to a similar value in 2020 as the highest recorded in the world since at least the 1930s, and Syracuse in Sicily reached 48.8°C.

A heat wave in British Columbia, Canada, has claimed more than 500 lives and fueled devastating wildfires.

The floods caused economic losses of 17.7 billion US dollars in the Chinese province of Henan, as well as 20 billion in Germany. It was also a factor leading to heavy loss of life.

Droughts have affected many parts of the world, including the Horn of Africa, South America, Canada, western United States, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey.

Drought in the Horn of Africa has intensified through 2022. East Africa faces the very real prospect that the rains will fail for a fourth consecutive season, placing Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia in a drought of the duration not seen in the past 40 years. .

The combined effects of conflict, extreme weather events and economic shocks, further exacerbated by the COVID-19Opens in new window pandemic, have undermined decades of progress towards improving food security around the world.

Worsening humanitarian crises in 2021 have also led to an increasing number of countries at risk of famine. Of the total number of undernourished people in 2020, more than half live in Asia (418 million) and a third in Africa (282 million).

Hazards related to water-related events continued to contribute to internal displacement. The countries with the highest number of displacements recorded in October 2021 were China (over 1.4 million), the Philippines (over 386,000) and Viet Nam (over 664,000).

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG).