29 may 2019

Further inaction on climate change is simply not an option

Leaders must come to the UN summit in September armed with solutions as well as speeches

Antonio Guterres, Financlal Times, May 29, 2019

[4C Note: Antonio Guterres is Secretary General of the United Nations, which gives to this op-ed a special significance. Since copying whole articles from the Financial Times violates their copyright rules, we reproduce just a portion of this one below. The first part of Mr. Guterres’s opinion piece recounts a visit to the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu, now threatened with extinction by rapid sea level increase. The Secretary General describes the impact of climate change in Tuvalu, where no ground is more than five meters above sea level, as “heartbreaking”, and the prevailing state of mind as “perpetual anxiety about inundation by the relentlessly rising seas just steps away.” He then describes the larger picture:]

Make no mistake: it is not just Tuvalu, or small islands, or the Pacific at stake. It is the whole planet. What is happening to these countries is a sign of what is in store for the rest of us. People all over the world are starting to feel the impacts of the climate emergency — and these will only worsen.

In Tuvalu, I met children who, though young, are already fearful for their future and are relying on my generation to secure it. As secretary-general of the UN, I have many battles. But as a grandfather, the struggle against climate change is the fight of my life.

Unfortunately, it is one we are not winning. If we are to prevail, then we must find the political will to take transformative measures. We must acknowledge the moral authority of the Pacific nations, frontrunners in the race against the climate emergency. And we must find sustainable solutions, invest in renewable energies and increase resilience and adaptation.

It is essential that the goals laid out clearly by the scientific community are achieved: carbon neutrality by 2050 and limiting global warming to 1.5C by the end of the century.
My message to governments as the global community pursues those goals is clear, therefore. First, shift taxes from salaries to carbon. We should tax pollution, not people.

Second, stop subsidising fossil fuels. Taxpayers’ money should not be used to boost hurricanes, spread drought and heat waves, and melt glaciers.
Third, stop building new coal plants by 2020. We need a green economy, not a grey one.

What we need is a rapid and deep change in how we do business, generate power, build cities and feed the world. And the past decade has shown that we have the tools to tackle the climate crisis. We can save lives and property, breathe less polluted air, access cleaner water and protect biodiversity. Climate action could also yield a direct economic gain of $26tn, compared to business as usual, through to 2030, making it a cost-effective option.

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