Finance boost crucial to get all on board for net-zero emissions, says UN chief

PUBLISHED: Thu, 22 Apr 2021 12:24:39 GMT

By Megan Rowling

BARCELONA, April 22 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The U.N. chief called for rich countries to make good on their promises of climate finance for developing nations at the G7 meeting in June, warning at a Thursday summit hosted by the U.S. president that the world is “at the verge of the abyss”.

Addressing the virtual summit on Earth Day, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said “dangerous greenhouse gases are at levels not seen in 3 million years”.

He noted that global warming had already hit 1.2 degrees Celsius and is “racing toward the threshold of catastrophe”.

Climate heating – which governments agreed in 2015 to try to hold to a ceiling of 1.5C – is already causing “ever rising sea-levels, scorching temperatures, devastating tropical cyclones and epic wildfires”, Guterres added.

“We need a green planet – but the world is on red alert,” he said. “We must make sure the next step is in the right direction. Leaders everywhere must take action.”

Poorer countries, along with climate scientists, businesses and green groups, want the summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden to ignite a virtuous circle of stronger action in 2021, seen as a decisive year for keeping climate goals in sight.

Before the summit, the Biden administration on Thursday pledged to slash U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 50%-52% from 2005 levels by 2030, a new target it hopes will spur other big-emitter nations to boost their ambition to curb climate change.

Japan also raised its target for cutting carbon emissions to 46% by 2030, from 2013 levels, with its prime minister saying he would instruct ministers to accelerate plans and the government would “continue trying for an even higher cut of 50%”.

Manish Bapna, CEO of the Washington-based World Resources Institute, said the new U.S. target could push other major emitters ahead of the COP26 U.N. climate summit in November to make their goals more ambitious.

But to “fully re-establish itself as a global leader” after a four-year absence under climate change sceptic Donald Trump, the United States should also provide a significant increase in financial support for developing countries, Bapna said.

“By ramping up its financial contributions, the United States can help unlock further global action to confront the climate crisis, which will deliver benefits at home and abroad,” he said in a statement.

Low levels of climate finance for poorer nations to develop cleanly and adapt to a warmer planet have long been a sticking point in U.N. climate negotiations, slowing down the transition to greener economies.

In December, Guterres warned wealthy governments were “lagging badly” on a longstanding pledge to channel $100 billion a year in funding from 2020 onwards to help developing nations from Africa to Asia and Latin America tackle climate change.

In his speech on Thursday, the U.N. chief said concrete proposals were needed before COP26 that ease access to finance and technological support for the most vulnerable countries.

“Developed states must deliver on public climate finance, including the long-promised $100 billion for climate action in developing countries, at the G7 Summit in June,” he added.

The United States is due to unveil a new climate finance plan by late April, with some elements expected to be announced at Biden’s summit on Thursday and Friday, but the event is unlikely to yield a big boost in global funding from donors.

In order to get all countries on board for a long-term goal of net-zero emissions by mid-century, a “breakthrough” was needed on finance and efforts to help communities adapt to the fast-accelerating impacts of global warming, Guterres said.

“This is critical for trust and collective action,” he emphasised. (Reporting by Megan Rowling @meganrowling; editing by Laurie Goering. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit

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