Ovais Sarmad Sets Out Expectations for 2020, Highlights Business Climate Action

Speaking at the Aviation Sustainability Summit in Brussels, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Ovais Sarmad set out his expectations for international climate action in 2020. He said:

«2020 is the year when countries need to up their ambition, expressed in enhanced nationally determined contributions. They must. The world faces a climate emergency and strong political decisions must be taken immediately.»

Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs, are national climate action plans under the Paris Agreeent. The deputy UN Climate Change chief also said that the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 in November in Glasgow would have to “finish the work that COP25 was unable able to conclude – setting out the rules for a carbon market between countries.”

In Brussels, Ovais Sarmad spoke about the growing importance of non-State actors in climate action, explicitly recognized in the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

Global Climate Action brings together partners and potential partners to scale up cooperative action on: Climate Finance, Human Settlements, Resilience, Energy, Industry, Land Use, Oceans and Coastal Zones, Transport and Water.

Ovais Sarmad pointed out that whilst aviation accounts for about 2 percent of global emissions, these emissions are growing fast. 

UN Climate Change is increasingly working with the private sector to help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions in specific sectors of the economy with growing carbon footprints, working with groups such as Airports Council International, which is a partner of UNFCCC’s Climate Neutral Now initative, which to date has 340 signatories.

Read the full speech here:

We recently marked the 25th anniversary of UN Climate Change, and, from day one, science has provided the foundation for our work.

I think we were successful, together with countries, and a wide range of non-State actors, in helping to bring science to the fore in the Paris Climate Change Agreement, with its goal of restricting average global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

However, despite the success of the Paris Agreement, what the science is telling us is clear, and alarming.

We are facing a climate emergency and we are approaching a series of tipping points. We must act urgently.

To meet the Paris Agreement goal, we need to reach carbon neutrality by mid-century.

Mid-century is just 30 years away. Almost nothing. To put in perspective: 1990 is as far away from us now as 2050.

UN Secretary-General Guterres said it best at the opening of COP25 last month in Madrid. He said that by the end of this decade, we will be on one of two paths. One is the path of surrender. The other is a path of hope.

Despite Paris, we remain on the wrong path. That’s what the science is telling us, with alarming clarity.

Climate change is moving faster and stronger than we ever expected. The oceans are under threat, land is under threat, forests are under threat, biodiversity itself is under threat. We are poisoning the very foundational elements that keep us alive on this planet.

Climate change is a threat multiplier, it is tied to almost every major development challenge the world faces: from poverty, to food security, to clean energy access and much, much more.

Undernutrition, for example, could be the greatest health risk of climate change — such as from decreasing nutrients in food and freshwater fish die-offs. That’s according to a report released at the COP by Future Earth and the Earth League.

Who will be affected most? While climate change will certainly impact all people as this crisis continues to grow, it is affecting people in vulnerable communities throughout the world right now.

It’s not some future consideration. It’s here!

Yet, we are taking decisions today, especially with respect to infrastructure, that are taking us in the wrong direction.

Existing and proposed energy infrastructure, for example, commits us to 850 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. This is twice the budget available for stabilizing the climate at 1.5C. These numbers are from the same report I just cited.

We will never reach our goal if we continue down this path.

And, we must remember that the world’s population is not expected to decline over the coming decades, but to grow. These people will require infrastructure, just as we require it now. But it must be done differently – we simply cannot continue to use the same resources in the same way as we are using them now.

This includes major industries, including cement, steel, transport, and especially fossil fuels. And we must keep coal where it belongs—in the ground.

The next steps for the Paris Agreement implementation with a look out to COP26

I’ve mentioned the success of the Paris Agreement. That was five years ago. Where do we stand now?

2018 was to be the year that countries negotiated the Paris Agreement implementing decisions. And, they were quite successful with that task when they met in Katowice at COP24; but not completely successful.

When they met in Madrid last month, countries aimed to tie up loose ends, and take a decision on how to implement Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, something they were not able to do in Katowice.

Regrettably, countries were unable in Madrid to agree on Article 6 – which is all about cooperation on climate action, mostly with respect to use of carbon markets and mechanisms – including launch of a new sustainable development mechanism, something like the Clean Development Mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol.    

There’s no hiding that COP25 was a disappointment due to the lack of agreement on the guidelines for a much-needed carbon market.

Yet, many commitments from all sectors of society were announced at COP25. They showed an overwhelming agreement on the only way forward: we need to follow what science is telling us, with the sense of emergency and seriousness that this requires.

The 151 ministers who travelled to Madid, as well as all national delegations, showed a willingness to work together despite their differences, to reach agreements towards more ambitious climate action in mitigation, adaptation and means of implementation.

2020 is the year when countries need to up their ambition, expressed in enhanced nationally determined contributions. They must. The world faces a climate emergency and strong political decisions must be taken immediately.

By COP26 in Glasgow – in just 10 months from now – all countries are asked to submit their new long-term goals. So, ambition to address the global climate emergency will be high on the agenda.

And, COP26 will have to finish the work that COP25 was unable able to conclude – setting out the rules for a carbon market between countries.

From Glasgow onwards, the implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement will be the key driver of international climate action.

The role and necessary evolution of businesses in climate action

The secretariat supports a Convention of sovereign states. However, we continue to stress that addressing climate change is the job of everyone – it is not the job of governments alone, but includes all segments of society.

Countries recognized this explicitly in the Paris Agreement when they referenced the role of non-State actors for Global Climate Action, which brings together partners and potential partners to scale up cooperative action on: Climate Finance, Human Settlements, Resilience, Energy, Industry, Land Use, Oceans and Coastal Zones, Transport and Water.

There is good evidence that industrial sectors recognize the need to act on climate change, and are looking for ways to act. For example, under the banner of Global Climate Action, the secretariat has convened the fashion-industry led Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action and the Sports for Climate Action Framework.

In the case of the Fashion Charter, again for example, the signatories make a public climate pledge and then work together to find ways to deliver on those pledges.

The Climate Neutral Now initiative – of which the Airports Council International (ACI) is a partner – is another example of how companies are taking action. Under Climate Neutral Now – which to date has 340 signatories – companies, organizations, events, and even individuals are urged to measure their emissions, reduce what they can, and offset the rest . . . and then repeat the process.

UNFCCC’s views on Airport Carbon Accreditation and the European airport industry Net Zero commitment.

ACI is a fine example of this approach, with its accreditation process for airports, which focusses on sustainability, measurement, transparency and cooperation, including through use of offsets, which help fund emission reductions beyond airports.

I wish to applaud again ACI’s Airport Carbon Accreditation programme and the European Airport industry’s Net-Zero commitment. You provide an example of bold – necessary – action on climate change, that is example to the rest of the aviation industry, and in fact all industries.

I’ve been asked about UNFCCC’s expectation about how aviation should move forward. The last part of that is a pretty big request.

Aviation accounts for about 2 percent of global emissions, and these emissions are growing fast. 

When you look at the travel and tourism sector together, we’re talking about 8 percent of global emissions, and more than 10 percent of global GDP, or about 8.8 trillion dollars.

More and more people are flying, enjoying destinations that most people could only dream about just a few decades ago.

Thanks to this sector, millions of people have been able to explore new destinations, reunite with family and friends, and fulfill dreams of exploring the world. You see them every day passing through your airports. It has created jobs, most significantly in developing countries. It is truly a global economic powerhouse.

Yet, despite its significant economic and social benefits, the sector has no choice but to transform to survive and thrive in the face of climate change.

You might ask, with this sort of success, why should the industry change what it’s doing. Simply put, because there is no choice. None of us has a choice. We all must act on climate change, with urgency.

Aviation will need to find new technologies, find efficiencies where possible, and come up with an effective offsetting system – which the sector is working on now, with some difficulty. And, with respect to new technologies, and new fuels? Is there good news on the horizon? Remember that the horizon is almost at our feet.

The ravages of climate change will soon require all of us, government, and corporations especially, to do things differently. As heads of leading financial institutions said not long before COP25: If some companies and industries fail to adjust to this new world, they will fail to exist.

The EU Green Deal reflects that the urgency for climate action is being taken seriously

The time for action is now, and we welcome leadership at all levels. To this end, the fact that the EU’s Green deal is a cornerstone of the new EU administration reflects that the urgency for climate action is being taken seriously.

The EU can show leadership both internally in EU and externally globally, by having the highest possible ambition and by demonstrating that rapid decarbonization not only can be done but is actually generating immediate and long-term advantages.

The decisions by EU, and the ambitious implementation of those decisions, can and should have a huge impact.

The word in 2020 – for all policymakers, all co

mpanies, and all individuals – must be ambition.

Climate change is an existential threat to people and the planet.

Back to the question of our expectations from this event. I hope you will all keep the urgency of climate crisis in mind throughout your discussions, and keep in mind the grave stakes we’re dealing with.

We have no more time to waste.

Information taken from: https://unfccc.int/news/ovais-sarmad-sets-out-expectations-for-2020-highlights-business-climate-action 

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