Climate Ambition Summit to urge new commitments to limit global warming

Five years after the adoption of the Paris Agreement to limit the effects of global warming, the United Nations is urging countries to make significant new commitments to reduce emissions and take concrete steps to prevent further rises in temperature that threaten the planet.

The United Nations, United Kingdom and France are co-hosting the Climate Ambition Summit 2020 on December 12 in an effort to make new, concrete commitments with less than a year before COP26, which is due to take place in Glasgow in November 2021.

The Summit comes as the European Union, the United Kingdom and more than 100 countries have pledged to become carbon neutral by 2050. European leaders have endorsed a target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned in a speech Friday to the Nobel Peace Prize Forum that “without urgent action, we may be headed for a catastrophic 3- to 5-degree Celsius temperature rise this century”.

The Secretary-General has set building a global coalition for carbon neutrality as the central objective for 2021 and is encouraging the main carbon emitters to take decisive action now.

“Every country, city, financial institution and company should adopt plans for transitioning to net zero emissions by 2050” the Secretary-General said in his remarks to the Nobel Peace Prize Forum

The 2020 Emissions Gap Report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) issued this week, warned that although greenhouse gas emissions have dipped due to slack economic growth during the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is still “heading for a catastrophic temperature rise above 3 degrees Celsius this century.” Such a temperature rise would far exceed the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement which called for efforts to keep global warming under 2 degrees Celsius and preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Earlier this month, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported that 2020 is set to be one of the three warmest years on record and that 2011-2020 will be the warmest decade on record.

“It is now clear that we need to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050,” Assistant Secretary-General Selwin Hart, who leads the Secretary-General’s Climate Action Team, told a news conference at UN Headquarters this week.

At the online Climate Ambition Summit, which in addition to its co-hosts is being held in partnership with Chile and Italy, countries are expected to clearly outline their new commitments on mitigation, adaptation and finance in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

More than a quarter of the 77 Heads of State and Government confirmed to speak are from Europe.

Despite the gloomy climate outlook, Assistant Secretary-General Hart noted that “more and more countries are recognizing there is a need for urgent and ambitious action’’ and that the purpose of the Summit is “to create even greater momentum as we head into 2021.”

The explicit goal of the next UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), which was postponed this year due to COVID-19 and will be held in November 2021 in Glasgow, is to accelerate action to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.

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