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The U.N.'s Guterres calls for an 'ambition supernova' as climate progress stays slow

Steam rises from the coal-fired power plant Neurath in November 2022 near Grevenbroich, Germany.
Michael Probst
/
AP
Steam rises from the coal-fired power plant Neurath in November 2022 near Grevenbroich, Germany.

Countries' climate action plans are still far behind what's needed to curb human-caused warming and limit the devastating effects of extreme heat, storms and droughts, but some nations have taken marginal steps toward slashing emissions, a United Nations analysis of national plans found Tuesday.

The report looked into the climate plans of 195 countries and found that emissions from the burning of coal, oil and gas will go up 9% by 2030 compared to 2010 levels, but will be 2% lower than 2019 levels because of some climate action from countries switching to cleaner energy. But climate scientists warn that the world needs to spew around 45% less by then.

"The world is failing to get a grip on the climate crisis," United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement. "Inch by inch progress will not do. It is time for a climate ambition supernova in every country, city, and sector."

He called for "net-zero" — when countries only spew as much carbon into the atmosphere as they can take back out — in developed countries to happen by "as close as possible" to 2040, and 2050 for developing nations.

The U.N. climate chief, Simon Stiell, urged that upcoming international climate talks in Dubai become a "turning point" where governments can get on track with plans to cut emissions in line with capping warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), as agreed by nations in Paris in 2015.

"Governments must not only agree what stronger climate actions will be taken but also start showing exactly how to deliver them," Stiell said in a press statement. He said that billions around the world expect governments to act on climate change.

Sultan al-Jaber, president of the COP28 climate talks in Dubai and chief of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, said the report shows "there is simply no time left for delays."

Extreme weather events charged by the warming atmosphere are increasing in magnitude and frequency around the world. The last 12 months were the hottest yearlong period ever recorded, according to a recent analysis. Many recent droughts, floods and storms were found to have fingerprints of human-cause climate change, according to attribution scientists.

When countries meet in Dubai, they'll review their climate action for the last three years as part of what's been called a "global stocktake." Negotiators plan to use this report and discussions later this year to figure out what nations need to do next to fight climate change.

Climate activists said the report is just one more reason why global leaders should be held accountable for their inaction at the talks.

"It's already hell for a lot of people," said Disha Ravi, an Indian activist with the youth climate group Fridays for Future, of current extreme weather. "I sometimes wonder if they (leaders) care about lives at all."

"Leaders have continued prioritizing profits over the health and safety of our planet and its inhabitants," she said. "We cannot continue this way."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The Associated Press