Annual UN Climate Meeting Opens With Strong Admonition by the Secretary General


After another UN Environment Program report last week made clear that the gap between climate action and necessary progress continues to widen, the Secretary-General excoriated the assembled 190 governments’ climate negotiators on Sunday, saying that so far the world’s efforts to stop climate change have been “utterly inadequate” and warned that global warming could soon pass the “point of no return.”  On Monday, at the UN meeting, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and a phalanx of U.S. Democratic legislators showed up to say to that group that “we are here to say to all of you, on behalf of the House of Representatives in the Congress of the United States, we’re still in it.  We are still in it.”

Why This Matters:  U.S. leadership on climate is critical to the success of global efforts.  Unfortunately, the three largest emitting countries — the United States, China, and India — have sent only lower-level officials to represent their governments at the UN meeting.  Despite this symbolic gesture by Pelosi and the Dems, only defeating President Trump in next year’s election can reverse the U.S. government’s course and put us back in a position to persuade the other large emitters to join us in curbing emissions.  Otherwise, the Secretary-General’s warning will likely prove true.  And the U.S. will be seen as a global scofflaw.

The UN Gap Report

The Gap Report was intended to create a greater sense of urgency for action at this year’s annual climate meeting.  It said:

  • “If we rely only on the current climate commitments of the Paris Agreement, temperatures can be expected to rise to 3.2°C this century. Temperatures have already increased 1.1°C, leaving families, homes and communities devastated.”
  • “Our challenge: based on today’s commitments, emissions are on track to reach 56 Gt CO2e by 2030, over twice what they should be.”
  • “We need to close the ‘commitment’ gap between what we say we will do and what we need to do to prevent dangerous levels of climate change….Economies must shift to a decarbonization pathway now.”

The U.S. Was Called Out

Speaker Pelosi made a strong statement, saying “Congress’s commitment to action on the climate crisis is iron-clad. This is a matter of public health, of clean air, of clean water, of our children, of the survival of our economies, of the prosperity of the world, of national security, justice and equality. We now must deliver deeper cuts in emissions.”

But many argued that these words did not match the U.S. government’s actions.  Lois Young, Belize’s permanent representative to the UN and chair of the Alliance of Small Island Developing States, in pointed criticism of the U.S. told the assembly, “We are outraged by the dithering and retreat of one of the most culpable polluters from the Paris agreement.”

To Go Deeper: You can read the UN Gap Report here in its entirety.

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