‘The point of no return is no longer over the horizon.’

Prior to the UN’s 25th Conference of the Parties (COP25) taking place in Madrid for two weeks in November 2019, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a stark reminder that climate change is upon us, now.

He went on to say, ‘In the crucial 12 months ahead, it is essential that we secure more ambitious national commitments – particularly from the main emitters – to immediately start reducing greenhouse gas emissions at a pace consistent to reaching carbon neutrality by 2050.”

Climate scientists are in agreement that the world is on course to warm by more than 2C and 2019 is set to be one of the hottest years on record. In July, global temperature records were broken in several countries, including peaks of 38.7 degrees in the UK and more than 40 degrees in Paris and Belgium.

In its annual analysis of emission trends, The Global Carbon Project has indicated that CO2 emissions have increased by 0.6% during 2019 – due to the continuing use of fossil fuel-based technology – in spite of a pledge in 2015 by 195 countries at the Paris Agreement to cut carbon emissions in order to keep global temperatures “well below” 2C above pre-industrial times and “endeavour to limit” them even more, to 1.5C


As reported in New Scientist, June 2019, Greenland’s ice sheet is melting at record speed. Runaway carbon emissions coupled with escalating ice melt, could lead to major sea level rises by the end of the century. According to the publication’s May edition, methane emissions, a major contributor to global warming – are approaching their highest level since the 1980’s.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have assessed existing science and presented evidence of accelerating climate breakdown. Their three special reports indicate that carbon pollution is leading to a massive ecological and humanitarian crisis. Devastating climate catastrophe can be prevented by limiting global warming to 1.5°C. This would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.

At the COP24 Climate Summit in 2018, the UN’s Secretary General António Guterres acknowledged that “we are still not doing enough, nor moving fast enough, to prevent irreversible and catastrophic climate disruption. He appealed for no new coal power plants to be built after 2020. The UN’s emissions Gap report 2019 concludes that the world needs to cut global emissions by 7.6% per year for the next decade to stay on track to meeting the Paris goals.

The 2020 COP26 UN climate change summit will be held in Glasgow, where countries have committed to submit updated national climate action plans, in line with the Paris Agreement. A symbolic step in the right direction would be for attendees to participate via video conferencing, thereby reducing their own carbon footprint and enhancing their credibility. Time is running out and concrete action is needed.

Writing by Philippa West.

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