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UN, UK in ‘sprint to Glasgow’ for greater climate action


United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres. Photo: BROOKINGS

As govts, investors, others ramp up ambition
Amid worsening climate impacts around the world and strong public concern about the crisis, the United Nations Secretary-General and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom plan to co-host a “landmark global event,” the fifth anniversary of the 2015 Paris climate agreement on December 12.

The COVID-19 pandemic had disrupted plans to hold the annual international UN climate meeting – known as the Conference of Parties (COP) – this year. The UN is dubbing the forthcoming event “the sprint to Glasgow”.

Before the pandemic struck, the UK was slated to host this year’s COP in the Scottish City. The summit is now scheduled to take place a year later, in November 2021.

The December event will be held amid signs that the world is off-track to limit global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, and that a carbon-free economy is long overdue.


The aim of the event is to rally momentum and call for greater climate action and ambition. It will bring together leaders from across all levels of government, as well as the private sector and civil society, to present new measures, boosting ambition and action.

Recent data show greenhouse gas concentrations reaching record levels, and worsening climate impacts – from unprecedented wildfires, hurricanes, air pollution, droughts and floods – destroying lives, jobs and businesses.

In the light of this urgency, the Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed to convene global leaders in December to rally greater climate action.

“We have champions and solutions all around us, in every city, corporation and country.  But the climate emergency is fully upon us, and we have no time to waste. The answer to our existential crisis is swift, decisive, scaled-up action and solidarity among nations,” Guterres said.

According to the agenda, national governments will be invited to present more ambitious and high-quality climate plans (the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and long-term strategies), as well as COVID-19 recovery plans, new finance commitments and measures to build resilience that are aligned with limiting global warming to 1.5°C and the driving forward the Sustainable Development Goals.

It will demonstrate leading examples of the Secretary-General’s six climate-positive actions to recover better together: invest in jobs and green business, no bailouts to polluting industries, ending subsidies for fossil fuels, considering climate risks in all decisions and policy-making, working together and ensuring that no one is left behind.

Meanwhile, the UN Secretary-General has called on governments, businesses, civil and international organisations to develop a transition plan to net-zero emissions, and boost ambition in finance and adaption.

He made the call as global leaders last week presented bold climate ambition and urgent demands at the Climate Ambition Roundtable convened by Secretary-General, capping a week of major announcements – including from China, the EU and many global businesses.

Guterres called on stakeholders to turn the recovery from COVID-19 into an opportunity to do things right for the future.

“All actors – governments, cities and companies, NGOs and international organizations need to have their own transition plans to net-zero before 2050,” said the Secretary-General.


The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Climate Finance Mark Carney said of private finance: “It’s not just moving, it’s moving fast.

“The private financial sector is moving. We are at a tipping point. It is not just momentum. The decisiveness of your climate policies and the NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions), and the decisiveness of the action you take over the course of next year will allow the private sector to amplify and pull forward that adjustment in a virtuous cycle. That can help us achieve our goals.”

European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, said the EC’s proposal – announced just this week – to raise it ambition by cutting greenhouse gases by 55 per cent compared to 1990 levels by 2030, up from 40 per cent.

“It’s achievable,” she said and would require additional investments.

“We will raise the money,” she said of the EC’s proposal to issue 200 billion Euros of green bonds, and flagged greater EU cooperation with other nations and non-state actors.

Several leaders in the Roundtable said they were encouraged by China’s announcement this week that it would become carbon neutral before 2060, and China’s signal that it would pursue concrete plans and policies to achieve this goal.

Despite challenging economic and credit conditions due to COVID-19, the Roundtable reinforced the urgency of developed nations supporting developing nations, including through full delivery of the $100 billion commitment for climate finance in the Paris Agreement.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that more climate finance will be needed, which would require massive reorientation of capital flows.

Several private sector leaders stepped up calls for governments to set more ambitious policy frameworks to speed the shift from the grey to the green economy, and showed how they are leading by example.


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