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Climate Action Q4 2021

Embarking on the road to net zero

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Inger Andersen

Executive Director, UN Environment Programme

No one is exempt from the climate crisis. There is no government, business or community that is immune to the risks that our current economic model brings.

It is often said that history is written by victors – either the winners of wars or those pioneering a revolutionary technology. The story of our current era will be written differently. Competition between countries certainly continues, but in our age, some of the biggest threats are common to all nations. 

The climate crisis is threatening all nations across the world and we must do far more and act more rapidly together to halt its impacts

Global environmental impacts 

Diverse economies such as Iraq, Madagascar, Kenya and the United States are enduring droughts. China, France and Germany buried hundreds of people following flash floods earlier this year, while poorer countries across the Sahel face similar tragedies.

Given our current trajectory towards a global warming of 2.7 degrees Celsius, it is safe to say that no one is safe.

Developed economies may have more resources to adapt to the current rise in temperatures of 1.2 degrees Celsius, compared with pre-industrial times. Yet given our current trajectory towards a global warming of 2.7 degrees Celsius, it is safe to say that no one is safe.

That is why multilateral and cross-sectoral efforts are absolutely essential on the road to a net zero carbon economy. 

Bold commitments needed

The 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global warming to well below the 2 degrees Celsius remains the guiding light, negotiated and agreed on by almost all countries in the world. The Glasgow Climate Pact negotiated, in November, keeps hope alive that a world where temperatures are limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius is indeed possible. But it is entirely up to us and we need to swing into emergency mode, as the UN Secretary-General has noted, baby steps won’t get us anywhere. 

The good news is that everyone is getting this message. At Glasgow, we saw people representing diverse groups, interests and stakeholders raising their hands, committing to bold climate action. This included mayors, indigenous leaders and activists, banksuniversitiesautomobile manufacturers and others. No one can afford to cop out any longer.

To stabilise the climateto protect and restore nature and to act on pollution, we will need step up this approach, closing the gap between ambition and action. Our history will be written not by any one victor, but by a planet of people and countries who collaborate and cooperate.

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