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Ministers chart path to net-zero emissions at Petersberg climate dialogue

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António Guterres

Environment ministers from around the world met virtually, last week, at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue to drive forward international action on climate change and build momentum ahead of the crucial United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26 in November, in Glasgow, Scotland.

They focused on political preparations for COP26, where a successful outcome will be crucial to put the world on a path to net-zero emissions and adapt to the worsening impacts of climate change and build climate resilience. The yearly Dialogue was hosted by Germany and co-chaired this year by the United Kingdom as Presidency of COP26.

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A starting point for the discussions was on the climate targets announced to date by many of the major economies. According to a new calculation by Climate Action Tracker presented last week, the sum of all the targets submitted so far would limit global warming to 2.4 degrees Celcius by the end of the century. This is far from the 1.5 degrees goal set out in the Paris Agreement.

In the discussions, it became clear that the individual policy steps towards complete greenhouse gas neutrality are becoming increasingly defined, especially in economically strong countries. Many of the participants agreed that the rhythm of the Paris Agreement, under which the international community revises and raises the ambition of its climate targets every five years, has proven effective.

To enable more ambitious climate targets in developing countries too, increased financial support from wealthier countries is required to enhance efforts the countries make themselves. Germany has pledged a fair contribution to this support.

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In his opening statement at the event, UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, urged the international community to show greater climate ambition: “We stand at the edge of the abyss. But if we work together, we can avert the worst impacts of climate disruption, and use the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic to steer us on a cleaner, greener path.”

The UN chief said he was encouraged that countries representing 61per cent of emissions have committed to net-zero emissions by 2050, but that the gap needed to close further by COP26: “The bottom line is that, by 2030, we must cut global emissions by 45per cent compared to 2010 levels to get to net-zero emissions by 2050,” he said, calling for a price on carbon and the phasing out of coal by 2040 across the globe.

With climate change threatening lives and livelihoods worldwide, Mr. Guterres stressed the importance of adapting to climate impacts, reiterating his call to donors and multilateral development banks to ensure that at least 50per cent of climate finance is for adaption and resilience: “The success of COP26 rests on achieving a breakthrough on adaptation and finance. This is a matter of urgency and trust. Developed countries must honour their long-standing promise to provide $100 billion dollars annually for climate action in developing countries.”

He called on the leaders of the G7 to take the lead, with other developed countries following, to make substantial climate finance pledges for the coming five years.

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