About 80 countries are on track to announce tougher greenhouse gas reduction targets during United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ climate summit this September, a UN official said Tuesday, the same day that Guterres warned that fossil fuel subsidies are helping “to destroy the world”.
The hopeful news came from Luis Alfonso de Alba, the Mexican diplomat serving as Guterres’ climate envoy, who warned an “exponential increase in ambition” from countries’ Paris Agreement commitments will be needed to avert the worst impacts of climate change, the New York Times reports.
“We need to step up ambition quite radically,” de Alba said. “We are not talking about a small, incremental approach.” While the number of countries preparing emission reduction announcements is a good sign, he added, “it doesn’t mean they are ready to do that in the scale we need and by September.”
While de Alba spoke in New York, Guterres was at a climate conference in Vienna, arguing that pollution should be taxed and fossil subsidies are a bad use of taxpayers’ money, the Thomson Reuters Foundation reports.
“Many people still think that to give fossil fuel subsidies is a way to improve living conditions of people,” he said. “There is nothing more wrong than that. What we are doing is using taxpayers’ money—which means our money—to boost hurricanes, to spread droughts, to melt glaciers, to bleach corals. In one word—to destroy the world.”
The International Monetary Fund placed fossil fuel consumption subsidies at more than US$300 billion in 2017, up from about $270 billion in 2016, Thomson Reuters states. The Paris-based agency calculated subsidies of all kinds at a “staggering” $5.7 trillion, or more than $10.8 million per minute, every minute of the year.
Asserting that most taxpayers would want their money returned to them, rather than being used to wreck the planet, Guterres called for “a rapid and deep change in how we do business, how we generate power, how we build cities, and how we feed the world.” He noted humanity would face a “catastrophic” situation of more than 3.0°C average global warming even if all countries met their commitments under the Paris Agreement, yet many of them “are not even catching up with their promise”.
At his New York summit, he added, “I am asking leaders not to come with beautiful speeches but to come with concrete plans to promote the climate action we need.” Those steps include “halting the building of coal power plants, decarbonizing urban infrastructure, and producing and consuming in a greener way,” Thomson Reuters states.