UN chief warns climate catastrophe close, Thunberg trashes deal at COP26

Published November 15, 2021
This file photo shows UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. — AFP/File
This file photo shows UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. — AFP/File

PARIS: UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned of an impending “climate catastrophe”, while environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg dismissed Saturday’s COP26 climate conference deal as “blah, blah, blah”.

And even those who welcomed the deal in Glasgow said a huge amount of work remained to be done.

Guterres acknowledged the shortcomings of the agreement, in a statement following the deal reached on Saturday evening at the Glasgow conference.

“The #COP26 outcome is a compromise, reflecting the interests, contradictions and state of political will in the world today,” he tweeted. “It’s an important step, but it’s not enough.”

“Our fragile planet is hanging by a thread”, he warned, adding “we are still knocking on the door of climate catastrophe.”

In a follow-up tweet, the UN chief sent a message to “young people, indigenous communities, women leaders, all those leading on #ClimateAction.” “I know you might be disappointed. But we’re in the fight of our lives & this fight must be won.”

Thunberg, arguably the world’s best known environmental campaigner, was more blunt in her assessment.

“The #COP26 is over,” she tweeted. “Here’s a brief summary: Blah, blah, blah.

“But the real work continues outside these halls. And we will never give up, ever.”

During the conference, Thunberg and other activists had denounced the way it was playing out, arguing that world leaders had failed to match their words with real action.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson remained relatively upbeat.

“There is still a huge amount more to do in the coming years,” Johnson said.

“But today’s agreement is a big step forward and, critically, we have the first ever international agreement to phase down coal and a roadmap to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.”

A European Commission statement said the deal kept the targets of the 2015 Paris climate agreement alive, “giving us a chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius”.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said delegates to the conference made progress on commitments to cut back on dangerous emissions, and on raising $100 billion a year to help developing and vulnerable countries. “But there will be no time to relax: there is still hard work ahead,” she added.

During the final negotiations, China and India insisted that language on fossil fuels be weakened in the final summit decision text. In recent days, the Australian government has vowed to sell coal for decades to come.

But Kevin Rudd, Australia’s former prime minister, now the president of the Asia Society, remained hopeful.

Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2021

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