Mayank Chhaya –
With some 1,700 people dead, because of heat-related complications in Spain and Portugal, 21 countries in Europe in the deathly grip of unprecedented heat waves, and the rest of the world, including India, China, and the United States, experiencing record-breaking temperatures, catastrophes of climate change are already here.
Across America, 100 million people are under extreme heat advisory even as President Joe Biden appears to have stepped back from his widely reported consideration to declare a climate emergency in the country. Such a step would have released federal resources to deal with climate-related challenges.
So severe have the global heat waves been that United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has warned that unless the world takes collective action right now, it is facing “collective suicide.”
Across Europe and elsewhere fires ripped through Spain, Portugal, England, France, Greece, Croatia, Slovenia and Morocco. Since most countries in Europe are not equipped with central air-conditioning or often any air-conditioning, the heat waves are being felt even more acutely.
It is a measure of how diverse and widespread the heat waves are that Tunisia and China, over 5100 miles apart, were overwhelmed by extreme heat. Tunis, Tunisia’s capital, recorded a temperature of 118 degrees Fahrenheit on July 13, while Shanghai in China reported 105.6 degrees Fahrenheit the same day. The temperature in Tunisia broke a 40-year-old record.
In the midst of the unfolding climate crisis across the planet, Guterres reminded the world that in the eight months since COP26 or the twenty-sixth conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change failed to set the target of keeping global heating below 1.5°C, the world is “on life support.” Not just that, he even said, “Since then, its pulse has weakened further. Greenhouse‑gas concentrations, sea‑level rise and ocean heat have broken new records. Half of humanity is in the danger zone from floods, droughts, extreme storms and wildfires.”
“No nation is immune. Yet, we continue to feed our fossil fuel addiction. What troubles me most is that, in facing this global crisis, we are failing to work together as a multilateral community. Nations continue to play the blame game instead of taking responsibility for our collective future.
We cannot continue this way. We must rebuild trust and come together — to keep 1.5°C alive and to build climate-resilient communities. Promises made must be promises kept. We need to move forward together on all fronts — mitigation, adaptation, finance, [and] loss and damage,” he said.
Among the measure Guterres suggested is what he called “just transition” to accelerate a coal phase-out and deployment of renewable energy.
“But, let me be clear: these efforts should be additional — not a replacement — to the support that developing countries need to ensure their transition to a net-zero and climate-resilient future. I look to the G7 [Group of Seven] and the G20 [Group of 20] to show leadership — on NDCs [nationally determined contributions], on renewables and on working together in good faith,” he said.
He also spoke in terms of the adaptation of early warning systems, saying, “People in Africa, South Asia and Central and South America are 15 times more likely to die from extreme weather events. This great injustice cannot persist. Let’s ensure universal early warning systems coverage in the next five years, as a start. And let’s demonstrate how we can double adaptation finance to $40 billion a year and how you will scale it up to equal mitigation finance.”
He said there an urgent need to ensure that the $100 billion a year pledge to battle the devastating consequences of climate change is not just “lip service.”
He painted a dire picture for one million species of plants and animals which he said are threatened with extinction, threatening the livelihood of millions. “The global food system is a primary driver of this loss. Three quarters of the land and two-thirds of the ocean are adversely impacted by human activity. Some 3.2 billion people are affected by land degradation,” he said.
“At the twenty-seventh United Nations Climate Change Conference in Egypt, we need commitments that will deliver a reduction of emissions by 45 percent by 2030 so we can reach net zero emissions by mid-century. Current national commitments point to an increase of almost 14 percent this decade. That spells catastrophe,” he said.
He also called for the biodiversity finance gap of $700 billion to be taken care of even while eliminating the annual $500 billion dollars of “harmful subsidies and redirect them towards incentivizing biodiversity-positive activities.”