China – the world’s largest polluter – underwhelmed green groups, only unveiling incremental changes to some targets. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced nothing new at all.
The most impassioned speech was delivered by Mottley, who warned the level of ambition adopted by world leaders at a crucial UN climate summit in Glasgow next November “will determine the fate” of countries most vulnerable to global warming, including her Caribbean island state.
“Frankly, at the global level we need to move from placatory rhetoric to real effective action or numerous nations across the world will be robbed of their future,” she said.
“I would like to believe the major emitters are not capable of what would, in essence, be close to climate genocide. I’d like to believe that we are visible and indispensable for them.”
The December 12 summit was held to mark the fifth anniversary of the Paris climate accord and build momentum towards the Glasgow talks. It was co-hosted by Britain, France and the UN.
Guterres opened the event with a plea for every country to immediately enact a “state of climate emergency”. Thirty-eight countries have already done so but the remaining 157 must join them, he said.
“Five years after the Paris [accord] we are still not going in the right direction,” he said.
“There is a promise to limit temperature rises to as close [to] 1.5 degrees [as] possible but the commitments made in Paris were far from enough to get there and even those commitments are not being met.
“If we don’t change course, we may be heading for a catastrophic temperature rise of more than 3 degrees by the end of the century. Can anybody still deny we are facing a dramatic emergency?”
The UN chief also criticised G20 countries – of which Australia is a member – for not directing more coronavirus stimulus spending towards green projects.
“So far the members of the G20 are spending 50 per cent more in their stimulus and rescue packages on sectors linked to fossil fuel production and consumption than on low carbon energy. This is unacceptable.
“This is a moral test. We cannot use these resources to lock in policies that burden future generations with a mountain of debt or a broken planet.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson again linked emissions reduction to job creation and warned against climate ideology.
“We’re doing this not because we are hair shirt-wearing, tree-hugging, mung bean-munching eco-freaks – though I’ve got nothing against any of those categories. We’re doing it because we know that scientific advances will allow us collectively as humanity to save our planet and create millions of high skilled jobs as we recover from COVID.”
Johnson has pledged to ban taxpayer financing for overseas fossil fuel projects and lift the United Kingdom’s 2030 emissions reduction target to 68 per cent.
In a speech which disappointed observers, Chinese President Xi Jinping said he would aim to cut emissions per unit of GDP by 65 per cent by the end of the decade – up slightly from the previous target of 60 per cent.
He also pledged to make non-fossil fuels account for 25 per cent of its energy mix by 2030, up from the existing 20 per cent goal.
Greenpeace described Xi’s promises as an “incremental step towards the right direction” but said more had to be done to meet Beijing’s target of net zero emissions by 2060.
Australia has promised to cut emissions by up to 28 per cent by 2030 without using Kyoto carryover credits but has not agreed to the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.
Bevan Shields is the Europe correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.