UNITED NATIONS – China on Monday made no new promises to take stronger climate action. The United States, having promised to give up the Paris deal, said nothing, demonstrating the lack of leadership of the biggest polluter in history. Several presidents and prime ministers took the opportunity to brag about what they were doing to reduce emissions, but made only incremental promises.
This was the scene of the United Nations Climate Action Summit, which Secretary-General António Guterres organized to highlight what he called "concrete" commitments to lift the global economy from fossil fuels that cause global warming and make more to help the most. deal with the effects of global warming.
There were, in fact, some concrete commitments. About 60 countries have pledged to achieve zero net issuance by 2050, and several asset fund managers said they plan to reach a zero net investment portfolio by the same year.
The United States did not request a talk at the summit, but President Trump unexpectedly entered the General Assembly hall with Vice President Mike Pence late in the morning. Former New York mayor Michael R. Bloomberg welcomed Trump's presence and addressed the president directly saying, "I hope our discussions here will be helpful to you when you formulate climate policy."
This was followed by laughter and applause. This signaled a sharp contrast just a few years ago, when the United States was credited with pressuring other countries, including China, to take climate change seriously. The United States is not on track to deliver on its promises under the Paris climate agreement, and the Trump administration has repealed a series of environmental regulations, from car exhausts, coal plants and oil and gas wells.
But what really caught the attention of delegates at the salon was when Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, 16, earlier in the day, enlightened world leaders by her “business as usual” approach to such a serious problem. "The eyes of all future generations are upon you," she said, her voice shaking with anger. "If you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you."
Rarely does anyone speak this way in the world body. A little later, Thunberg watched with a look of fury in his eyes as Trump walked down a corridor, a video clip posted on Twitter showed.
As for China, it did not indicate its readiness to set stronger and faster targets to move away from fossil fuels, as many had hoped. Wang Yi, a special representative of President Xi Jinping, noted that his country was delivering on its promises under the 2015 Paris agreement and that "certain countries" – a clear reference to the United States, which it said it intends to withdraw – were not .
"China will faithfully fulfill its obligations," Wang said.
French President Emmanuel Macron also received a message for the United States, saying to the assembly: "I do not want to see new trade negotiations with countries that are against the Paris Agreement."
The statement could create a new obstacle to US-Europe trade agreements, which are already plagued by deep differences over agriculture, global trading system rules and potential Trump car tariffs.
China's decision not to signal a higher ambition partly reflects concerns about its own economic slowdown in the context of trade conflicts with the United States. It also reflected Beijing's reluctance to take stronger climate action in the absence of similar movements from richer countries. The European Union has also failed to signal its intention to cut emissions, and the United States is not on track to meet its original commitments under the Paris agreement.
"There is no specific reason for China to do anything new now because it is not receiving any pressure from the United States and is on track to meet its commitments," said Kelly Sims Gallagher, professor of energy and environmental policy at the Faculty of Law and Diplomacy. Tufts University Fletcher.
"This extends limbo while the rest of the world waits to see what the United States will do in 2020," she said.
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his country would increase its share of renewable energy by 2022, with no promise to reduce its dependence on coal. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has promoted a new $ 60 billion plan over 10 years to accelerate the transition to clean energy.
Russia announced that it would ratify the Paris deal, but added nothing more about reducing emissions from its large state-owned oil industry.
The summit unfolded in the context of new data showing the rapid pace of warming.
The world is getting warmer, faster, the World Meteorological Organization concluded in its latest report Sunday, with the warmest five-year period from 2014 to 2019 on record. Emissions of carbon dioxide, a major contributor to global warming when pumped into the atmosphere, are always high. The seas are rising rapidly. The global average temperature is 1.1 degrees Celsius higher than in the mid-19th century and, at the current rate, the global average temperature will be 3 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.
"I will not be there, but my granddaughters and their grandchildren," said United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in his opening speech. "I refuse to be complicit in destroying your only home."
Guterres's most direct call was to countries that use their taxpayers' money to subsidize fossil fuel projects that, as he said, "spur hurricanes, spread tropical diseases and escalate conflicts."
“We are in a deep climate hole. To get out, we must first stop digging, ”he said. “Is it common sense to build more and more coal plants that are choking our future? Is it common sense to reward pollution that kills millions with dirty air and makes it dangerous for people in the cities of the world sometimes to venture outside their homes? "
According to the United Nations Environment Program, the world's 20 largest economies, responsible for 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions, "are not yet making transformative climate commitments at the scale and scale required."
Scientists and policymakers said even keeping warming at 1.5 degrees less dangerous would mean a significant transformation of the global energy system, costing trillions of dollars.
But the cost of doing nothing is also incredibly high.
Studies show that if emissions continue to rise at the current rate, the number of people who need humanitarian aid as a result of natural disasters, it could double by 2050. And a comprehensive report from 13 US federal agencies last year warned that a lack of control over warming could reduce 10 percent of the nation's economy by the end of the century.