UN chief hails launch of new expert group to boost net-zero climate change fight

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Net zero means cutting greenhouse gas emissions to as close to zero as possible. GRAPHIC/UN

By PATRICK MAYOYO

and AGENCIES

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has urged private investors businesses, cities, states and regions, to do more to cut harmful greenhouse gas emissions, launching a new group of experts to help with realizing a net-zero future.

Mr Guterres’s comments came as he unveiled his new initiative to develop stronger standards for “net-zero” pledges by partners below the national government level, in the fight against climate change.

“Despite growing pledges of climate action, global emissions are at an all-time high,” Mr Guterres warned. And they continue to rise, he said, adding that “the latest science shows that climate disruption is causing havoc in every region already.

The key objective is to stop global temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – as the international community agreed in Paris in 2015.

But the UN chief warned that the world was losing the race to reduce global temperature rise. Since the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015, the world has seen an increasing number of such commitments to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 — not only from countries, but also from businesses, investors, and cities who pledged to cut their carbon, methane and other greenhouse gas emissions to as close to zero as possible over the next decades.

To help tackle this challenge, UN Secretary-General  launched a High-Level Expert Group comprised of independent experts whose job will be to make recommendations to develop stronger and clearer standards for net-zero pledges by non-State entities, to hold them accountable and make sure the promises are converted into real emissions cuts as fast as possible.

GRAPHIC/UN

This is good news for climate action, as the Expert Group will recommend standard criteria for measuring and reporting on plans and solutions coming from large portions of our society, including investment banks and major corporations.

Governments had the biggest responsibility to achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century – “especially the G20” industrialized nations he said – before calling on “every business, investor, city, state and region to walk the talk on their net-zero promises”.

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has demonstrated that nearly half of humanity is already in the danger zone”, he said. “If we don’t see significant and sustained emissions reductions this decade, the window of opportunity to keep 1.5 alive will be closed – and closed forever.

He praised the commitment being made at Thursday’s meeting to create a new brains’ trust to make the commitments on net zero, a reality, in the form of the new advisoryHigh-Level Expert Group.

At COP26, last year, the Secretary-General flagged the need for “more credible and robust standards and criteria for measuring, analyzing and reporting on the net-zero pledges by non-State entities.

“Today we take a step towards meeting that need and ensuring the highest standards of environmental integrity and transparency. To avert a climate catastrophe, we need bold pledges but matched by concrete, measurable action,” Mr. Guterres said.

He stressed that net-zero standards at every level of activity, and strengthened accountability around implementing those goals, would deliver real and immediate emissions cuts.

GRAPHIC/UN

The Expert Group will make recommendations before the end of the year addressing four areas, he told the launch:

  • Current standards and definitions for setting net-zero targets.
  • Credibility criteria used to assess the objectives, measurement and reporting of net-zero pledges.
  • Processes for verifying progress towards net-zero commitments and decarbonization plans.
  • And, a roadmap to translate standards and criteria into international and national regulations.

Put simply, net zero means cutting greenhouse gas emissions to as close to zero as possible, with any remaining emissions re-absorbed from the atmosphere, by oceans and forests for instance.

The science shows clearly that in order to avert the worst impacts of climate change and preserve a livable planet, global temperature increase needs to be limited to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Currently, the Earth is already about 1.1°C warmer than it was in the late 1800s, and emissions continue to rise. To keep global warming to no more than 1.5°C  – as called for in the Paris Agreement – emissions need to be reduced by 45% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050.

He noted that the Group of experts was gender-balanced and geographically diverse, “with deep experience across government, business, the global financial system, civil society and academia.”

They will be working in a personal capacity, “and I expect them to consult widely, extensively and transparently to hear the perspectives and views of all stakeholders”, the UN chief concluded.

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