Urgent action by States needed to tackle climate change
by WMO, UNFCC, UN Child Rights Committee, agencies
9:32am 12th Sep, 2023
Earth had hottest three-month period on record, with unprecedented sea surface temperatures and extreme weather. (World Meteorological Organization, agencies)
Earth just had its hottest three months on record, according to the European Union Copernicus Climate Change Service. Global sea surface temperatures are at unprecedented highs for the third consecutive month and Antarctic sea ice extent remains at a record low for the time of year.
It was the hottest August on record – by a large margin – and the second hottest ever month after July 2023, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service. August as a whole is estimated to have been around 1.5°C warmer than the preindustrial average for 1850-1900.
The year so far (January to August) is the second warmest on record behind 2016, when there was a powerful warming El Nino event.
August as a whole saw the highest global monthly average sea surface temperatures on record across all months, at 20.98°C. Temperatures exceeded the previous record (March 2016) every single day in August.
Antarctic sea ice extent remained at a record low level for the time of year, with a monthly value 12% below average, by far the largest negative anomaly for August since satellite observations began.
A report in May from WMO and the UK's Met Office predicted that there is a 98% likelihood that at least one of the next five years will be the warmest on record and a 66% chance of temporarily exceeding 1.5°C above the 1850-1900 average for at least one of the five years.
“Our planet has just endured a season of simmering -- the hottest summer on record. Climate breakdown has begun. Scientists have long warned what our fossil fuel addiction will unleash. Surging temperatures demand a surge in action. Leaders must turn up the heat now for climate solutions. We can still avoid the worst of climate chaos – and we don’t have a moment to lose,“ said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
“The northern hemisphere just had a summer of extremes – with repeated heatwaves fuelling devastating wildfires, harming health, disrupting daily lives and wreaking a lasting toll on the environment. In the southern hemisphere Antarctic sea ice extent was literally off the charts, and the global sea surface temperature was once again at a new record. It is worth noting that this is happening before we see the full warming impact of the El Nino event, which typically plays out in the second year after it develops” said World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.
Governments are failing to cut greenhouse gas emissions fast enough to meet the goals of the Paris Climate agreement and avoid disastrous climate impacts, a major report by the UN has found.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) released the Global Stocktake synthesis report, which offers the most comprehensive overview of climate action since the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015, as well as a roadmap for governments moving forward.
The COP28 summit in Dubai, UAE, will center around how countries leverage the findings of the Global Stocktake report to keep the global goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C alive and address the impacts of climate change. The report highlights that global greenhouse gas emissions are still rising.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres: “The climate crisis is worsening dramatically – but the collective response is lacking in ambition, credibility, and urgency.. Half-measures will not prevent full climate breakdown”.
The UNFCCC report comes nearly eight years after countries finalized the Paris climate agreement, which aims to keep global temperature rise this century below 1.5°C, relative to preindustrial levels.
"The global stocktake was designed under the Paris agreement to assess our global response to the climate crisis and chart a better way forward," the UNFCCC explained Friday. The new synthesis report summarizes 17 key technical findings from the discussions.
"I urge governments to carefully study the findings of the report and ultimately understand what it means for them and the ambitious action they must take next," said U.N. Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell. "It's the same for businesses, communities, and other key stakeholders. While the catalytic role of the Paris agreement and the multilateral process will remain vital in the coming years, the global stocktake is a critical moment for greater ambition and accelerating action."
University College London professor of climatology Mark Maslin says the report "makes it clear that the Paris agreement was a game-changer" but also countries' greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction pledges are not in line with the 1.5°C target.
"The U.N. estimates that we need to reduce global GHG emissions by 43% by 2030 and further by 60% by 2035 compared to 2019 levels and reach net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 globally," Maslin explains. "This is a big ask given that greenhouse gas emissions were at their highest level ever in 2022."
"All the technology exists to undergo the net-zero transformation, we need big increases in renewables and batteries, we need everything to happen five times faster," he added.
“Achieving net zero CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions requires systems transformations across all sectors and contexts, including scaling up renewable energy while phasing out all unabated fossil fuels, ending deforestation, reducing non-CO2 emissions and implementing both supply and demand side measures,” reads key finding 6 of the Global Stocktake report.
The report states underlines that there is a “rapidly narrowing window” to implement existing commitments to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Global greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2025 and drop sharply thereafter to keep the 1.5C target in view, the stocktake said, drawing from a scientific assessment by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The stocktake also highlights the need to rapidly and radically scale up financial support to developing nations so they can adapt to climate-amplified weather disasters.
A number of African nations are dealing with high debt burdens, and are being impacted by worsening droughts, floods, heatwaves and storms.
Ani Dasgupta, President, World Resources Institute:
“The United Nations’ polite prose glosses over what is a truly damning report card for global climate efforts. Carbon emissions? Still climbing. Rich countries’ finance commitments? Delinquent. Adaptation support? Lagging woefully behind.
“This report is a wake-up call to the injustice of the climate crisis and a pivotal opportunity to correct course. We already knew the world is failing to meet its climate goals, but leaders now have a concrete blueprint underpinned by a mountain of evidence for how to get the job done.
“There are a few bright spots worth celebrating, such as the rapid uptake of renewable energy and electric vehicles in recent years. And numerous countries have rallied behind net-zero goals and passed important climate legislation. But overall, the report finds there are more gaps than progress – gaps that can only be erased by transformational change across systems like energy, food, land and transport.
“The future of our planet depends on whether national leaders use this stark assessment as a catalyst for bold systems transformation.
“At COP28, leaders must rally behind a response plan that accelerates action at a pace and depth not seen before. Critical steps include rapidly shifting away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy and fossil-free transport, transforming our food systems and boosting resilience. Wealthy nations need to provide far more funding to help developing countries transition to a better economy — one that lifts people out of poverty and ensures people can withstand floods and droughts, all while protecting nature and sharply reducing emissions.
“Success at COP28 hinges on whether governments respond to the Global Stocktake report not with words but through bold new commitments that steer humanity from our current destructive path.”
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Climate Justice Delayed, is Justice Denied. (IPS, agencies)
The failure to tackle the climate change crisis is an injustice to the millions who have lost lives and livelihoods through floods, extreme weather, and wildfires, pointing to the urgency of adaptation and mitigation finance, experts say.
It is a race against time to slash carbon emissions to keep global temperature below 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold, which gives the world some leeway to adapt to extreme events and prevent the planet from plunging further into crisis.
A global body of scientists assessing the science of climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has warned that “reaching 1.5°C in the near term would cause unavoidable increases in multiple climate hazards and present multiple risks to ecosystems and humans” and advised that limiting limit global warming to close to 1.5°C would substantially reduce projected losses and damages related to climate change in human systems and ecosystems.
Richard Munang, an environment expert and Deputy Regional Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Africa office says there are interrelated overarching priorities for climate action towards combating climate change.
“The first is to narrow down the global emissions gap to keep global temperature rise within the safe 1.5°C warming goal, and the second is to achieve a quantum leap in climate justice that addresses the needs of the communities, peoples, and countries on the frontlines of the climate crisis,” Munang told IPS.
“These are interrelated because the temperature goal of keeping warming to within 1.5°C is the best insurance against an escalation of climate change impacts and their associated costs that lead to the deprivation of many.”
Yamide Dagnet, director for Climate Justice at Open Society Foundations, says climate justice is needed more than ever because of the urgency of the impact of global emissions.
From heat waves and wildfires across Europe and Canada to droughts in China, the East, and the Horn of Africa to floods in India and the Himalayas, the impact of climate change-induced weather patterns is unrelenting. Through global temperature analysis, NASA found June 2023 to be the hottest on record.
“At a time when the world is boiling, and there are wide impacts of climate change not only in small developing countries but in developed countries too, which means that there is no justice for any of the vulnerable people anywhere,” Dagnet tells IPS in an interview.
“Communities in all countries are simply struggling to face the future with dignity. Climate justice is not just about subsistence and coping; it’s ensuring communities can thrive in a world transformed by climate impacts that are undeniable everywhere,” Dagnet says. “We need processes to build trust and ensure that those who make commitments fulfill them …The problem is that some of the commitments made years ago to support that transition have not been met, especially by developed countries when it comes to climate finance.”
The ‘Missing’ Climate Money
As vulnerable countries battle climate change impacts, the provision of finance remains a nagging question ahead of the COP28. According to the IPCC, climate finance for developing countries needs to be increased by up to eight times by 2030.
“Promises made on international climate finance must be kept,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, noting, “Developed countries must honor their commitments to provide $100 billion a year to developing countries for climate support and fully replenish the Green Climate Fund.”
Only two of the G7 countries — Canada and Germany — have contributed to the Green Climate Fund.
Without delay and excuses, Guterres has called on countries to operationalize the loss and damage fund at COP28 this year.
G20 countries need to take more drastic steps to reduce emissions and to invest in ways to adapt to climate change and face the limits to adaptation by supporting their most vulnerable communities and the most vulnerable countries, says Dagnet.
“This is why it is important to operationalize the Loss and Damage Fund in COP28 in Dubai. This already took too long — three decades — (to when it was) established at COP27,” she says.
Joab Okanda, Pan Africa Senior Advocacy Advisor, Christian Aid, told IPS that the least responsible for climate emissions are the most vulnerable. Speaking about Africa, he noted the impact is exacerbated “because we have the least resources to build the resilience we need. We are calling on those responsible for the climate crisis to take responsibility, pay for it, and deliver on the much-needed finance, which is delivering climate justice.
“There is a need to deal with the global financial architecture which is not delivering for the people of Africa. It is denying Africa the resources that governments require to invest in health care, education, and social protection and has also put Africa in unsustainable debt,” Okanda says.
Aditi Mukherji, Director of CGIAR’s climate impact platform, agreed.
“Contributing as little as four percent of global emissions, Africa faces the unjust dilemma of feeding a rising population with limited resources exactly as climate change is slowing down the rate of growth in food production as well as increases in pests and diseases,” she says.
“Unless green house (GHG) emissions decline rapidly, climate impacts will continue to worsen. Here, historical high emitters of the Global North can ratchet up their climate ambition and reduce their emissions while providing financial and technical assistance to put Africa on low emissions pathways that do not compromise future food security.”
Leleti Maluleke, a researcher for the human security and climate change program at Good Governance Africa, says: “When it comes to climate justice, particularly for Africa, Europe, and the West think that Africa wants aid and emergency relief, but what we are looking for is an investment in a climate-resilient future.”
“Africa has a plan to adapt to climate change, but it needs to build the infrastructure, and we need financing from the West … We need investment that will allow us to build resilience to climate change.”
Dagnet believes that “Climate justice is not just about survival but also about benefit sharing, reducing inequality and enabling a better society that thrives … We want to see a Fund that comes to life as soon as possible. With the right capitalization and mechanisms to make it accessible to those who need it the most; not just the vulnerable countries, but local vulnerable communities as well.”
The global impact of climate change is sobering, considering financial, social, and cultural losses across all development sectors.
According to the World Meteorological Organization, extreme weather anomalies have caused the deaths of two million people and incurred USD 4.3 trillion in economic damages.
While the World Health Organization has described climate change as the most significant health threat to humanity, with hundreds of thousands of additional deaths per year from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stress due to climate change.
An annual average of 21.5 million people were forcibly displaced each year by weather-related events – such as floods, storms, wildfires, and extreme temperatures – between 2008 and 2016, says the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), warning that more people will be displaced as climate change unleashes more shocks.
“There is high agreement among scientists that climate change, in combination with other drivers, is projected to increase the displacement of people in the future,” the UNHCR says, noting that climate change has also been a “threat multiplier” in many of today’s conflicts, from Darfur to Somalia to Iraq and Syria.
In the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia, more than 43 million people need humanitarian assistance, 32 million of whom are acutely food insecure due to devastating drought, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
Phasing Out Fossil Fuels?
The world can still change course to address the climate crisis. The Global Stocktake taking place for the first time at this year’s COP28 can help accelerate climate action.
The Paris Agreement’s Global Stocktake (GST) is an assessment of the global response to the climate crisis done every five years, and it evaluates the world’s progress on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, building greater resilience to climate impacts, and securing finance and support to address the climate crisis.
“But this cannot be just another global assessment showing how far off track we are. The Stocktake process should also serve as a global accelerator, driving nations to step up their climate action and pursue the transformational change needed to secure a zero-carbon, climate-resilient, and equitable future,” argues the World Resources Institute (WRI).
For the world to keep to the 1.5 C, a rapid phase-out of fossil fuels — coal, oil, gas — would be needed, and a similar escalation of investment in green energy such as wind and solar.
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Urgent action by States needed to tackle climate change, says UN Committee in guidance on children’s rights and environment. (OHCHR)
The United Nations Child Rights Committee today published authoritative guidance on children’s rights and the environment with a special focus on climate change. The guidance specifies the legislative and administrative measures States should urgently implement to address the adverse effects of environmental degradation and climate change on the enjoyment of children’s rights, and to ensure a clean, healthy, and sustainable world now and to preserve it for future generations.
The Committee has adopted its guidance, formally known as General Comment No. 26, after two rounds of consultation with States, national human rights institutions, international organizations, civil society, thematic experts and children.
The Committee received 16,331 contributions from children in 121 countries; children shared and reported on the negative effects of environmental degradation and climate change on their lives and communities and asserted their right to live in a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
“Children are architects, leaders, thinkers and changemakers of today’s world. Our voices matter, and they deserve to be listened to,” said 17-year-old Kartik, a climate and child rights activist from India and one of the Committee’s child advisers. “General Comment No. 26 is the instrument that will help us understand and exercise our rights in the face of environmental and climate crises,” he added.
“This general comment is of great and far-reaching legal significance,” said Ann Skelton, Chair of the Committee, emphasising, “as it details States’ obligations under the Child Rights Convention to address environmental harms and guarantee that children are able to exercise their rights. This encompasses their rights to information, participation, and access to justice to ensure that they will be protected from and receive remedies for the harms caused by environmental degradation and climate change.”
The general comment clarifies how children’s rights apply to environmental protection and underscores that children have the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. This right is implicit in the Convention and directly linked to, in particular, the rights to life, survival and development, the highest attainable standard of health, an adequate living standard, and education. This right is also necessary for the full enjoyment of children’s rights.
The general comment further asserts that States shall protect children against environmental damage from commercial activities. It specifies that States are obliged to provide legislative, regulative and enforcement frameworks to ensure that businesses respect children’s rights, and should require businesses to undertake due diligence regarding children’s rights and the environment. Immediate steps should be taken when children are identified as victims to prevent further harm to their health and development and to repair the damage done.
The Committee observes that, in many countries, children encounter barriers to attaining legal standing due to their status, limiting their means of asserting their rights in relation to the environment. States should therefore provide pathways for children to access justice for violations of their rights relating to environmental harm, including through complaints mechanisms that are child-friendly, gender-responsive and disability-inclusive. In addition, mechanisms should be available for claims of imminent or foreseeable harms and past or current violations of children’s rights.
With regard to climate change, the general comment underlines that States must take all necessary measures to protect against harms to children’s rights related to climate change caused by business enterprises, such as by ensuring that businesses rapidly reduce their emissions.
The guidance also emphasises the urgent and collective need for developed States to address the present climate finance gap, including through grants rather than loans to developing States to avoid negative impacts on children’s rights. It also notes that climate finance is overly slanted toward mitigation at the cost of adaptation and loss and damage measures, which has discriminatory effects on children who live in areas where more adaptation measures are needed.
The Committee urges immediate collective States actions to tackle environmental harm and climate change.
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