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UN kicks off major climate change effort

AFP  |  United Nations 

UN Antonio calls it the defining issue of our time: climate change is moving to the center stage at the United Nations, three years after the agreement went into force.

A major UN push for progress on climate change kicks off next week when travels to and several Pacific islands, where rising sea levels are threatening the very existence of those small countries.

The stepped-up diplomacy will culminate with a climate action summit at the in September, an event billed as a last chance to prevent irreversible climate change.

"We are still losing the battle," told reporters last week. "Climate change is still running faster than we are, and if we don't reverse this trend, it will be a tragedy for the whole world."

In Fiji, and Vanuatu, Guterres will meet with families whose lives have been upended by cyclones, flooding and other extreme weather events.

countries face an especially dire risk from climate change because of sea level rise. In some cases, low-lying countries could disappear completely.

is working to build a coalition of more than 90 countries from the Caribbean, and facing climate crisis.

"We hope that the will draw far more inspiration from his first visit to go further, faster and deeper with the climate summit," Fiji's UN told AFP.

"We are very hopeful that the climate summit will mark a turning point."


The UN push on climate change is shaping up amid geopolitical shifts: the under Donald Trump has decided to pull out of the agreement to combat global warming, giving more space to assert its views.

"The Trump administration's disdain for climate diplomacy has left looking like the main guarantor of the agreement," said Richard Gowan, UN for the

"While is increasingly active across the UN, other states are suspicious of its stances on human rights and development. But it is the indispensable power in climate talks now."

Trump announced in 2017 that the would exit the Paris agreement, but under the terms of the deal the withdrawal will only become effective in 2020.

The is not taking part in summit preparations but has not said it will skip the event, according to UN officials.

may also be further complicated by Trump's nomination of Craft as UN

Craft, who is married to a major coal magnate, raised eyebrows for declaring that she believed "both sides" of climate science, indicating she may well be out of sync with the UN on the issue.

Guterres has told leaders to bring plans, not speeches, to the summit to be held in on September 23 during the annual gathering of world leaders at the

The summit is seen as critical because of US resistance to discuss climate change at other forums including the and G20, and again last week at a meeting of the

"What people are looking for is countries to commit to major ambition increases in 2025 and 2030 at the summit or in 2020," said Nick Mabey, of the E3G climate think tank.

This should include legally binding targets for countries to phase out coal, become climate neutral and invest in climate resilience, especially for the poorest countries, he added.

A string of apocalyptic reports on the state of the planet is bringing home the need for concrete steps.

One million species are on the brink of extinction. Carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise, pushing targets from the Paris accord further out of reach.

UN told AFP on Friday that he was optimistic about prospects for a breakthrough on climate, saying the dire predictions were having a galvanizing effect.

"The situation worldwide is quite different from what it was five to 10 years ago. Five to 10 years ago, countries were looking at their neighbors before acting," he said.

"Today, everybody has full conscience of the urgency to act, and they are not going to wait for their neighbors to act.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, May 12 2019. 11:45 IST
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