In midst of the ongoing pandemic, global community celebrated the fifth anniversary of the adoption of Paris Agreement on December 12, 2020 through a virtual “Climate Ambition Summit,” showing that climate change is at the top of the global agenda despite our shared challenges of COVID-19. The United Nations (UN), with a leading role of United Kingdom (UK), France, Chile and Italy hosted the summit as a step towards tackling the global climate crisis and reasserted the commitment required to curb the greenhouse gas emissions. This summit marked a major milestone on the road to the crucial UN climate conference COP26, which will be held next year in Glasgow.
Leadership of 75 countries, as well as business community and civil society, hailing from all the continents outlined new commitments at the Summit and agreed to take collective actions underlying the three pillars of Paris Agreement: mitigation, adaption and financial commitments. This Summit is a clear signal that the Paris Agreement is the integral compass of international action and global community is committed for increased climate action. The assurances provided by the national and local climate change enthusiasts represented more than 70% of the global economy and it is a ray of hope for minimizing the emissions and carbon neutrality in near future. Global climate leaders took a major stride towards a resilient, net zero emissions future, presenting ambitious new commitments, urgent actions and concrete plans to confront the climate crisis by adopting the sustainable development goals (SDGs).
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said, “The Summit has now sent strong signals that more countries and more businesses are ready to take the bold climate action on which our future security and prosperity depend. Let us not forget that we are still on track to an increase of temperature of 3 degrees at least in the end of the century, which would be catastrophic. The recovery from COVID-19 presents an opportunity to set our economies and societies on a green path in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. As we look ahead, the central objective of the United Nations for 2021 is to build a truly Global Coalition for Carbon Neutrality.”
The ambitions of reaching carbon neutrality and net zero emissions were delineated by few European nations while setting out the dates as well. Finland committed for zero emissions in 2030, Austria in 2040 and Sweden in 2045. Pakistani leadership also committed for a transition to the clean energy and adopting renewable energy sources for majority of its energy production until 2030. Fiji, Malawi, Nauru and Nepal indicated that they are aiming for the 2050 goal. Countries The Summit also established a benchmark for other countries and multilateral forums like G20 countries due to the staunchness of member countries like Argentina, China, EU states, Japan, and South Korea.
A new global campaign was started in the Climate Ambition Summit, calling it “the Race to Resilience” making another stride towards a resilient, net-zero emissions future, where nations have committed to safeguarding 4 billion people vulnerable to climate risks by 2030. Zurich Insurance (Switzerland) announced that the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance would triple its climate funding by 2025 and expand its reach from 11 to 21 countries. Moreover, the Mayor of Freetown (Sierra Leone), following the commitment of Pakistan to plant a billion trees committed to planting 1 million trees between 2020 and 2021. Developed countries like UK, Spain, and Portugal etc. also pledged to step up their adaption efforts under the theme of resilience.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “Today we have seen what can be achieved if nations pull together and demonstrate real leadership and ambition in the fight to save our planet. The UK has led the way with a commitment to cut emissions by at least 68 percent by 2030 and to end support for the fossil fuel sector overseas as soon as possible, and it’s fantastic to see new pledges from around the world that put us on the path to success ahead of COP26 in Glasgow.”
The press release of the Summit highlighted the undertaking of countries to adopt the nature-based solutions in line with the SDGs as the UN Biodiversity Conference approaches. World Bank assured that 35% and European Investment Bank commitment to ensure 50% of their portfolio will include climate co-benefits with a 100 percent alignment of their development activities with the Paris agreement. Apple, a tech leader from the United States pledged carbon neutrality for its supply chain and products by 2030 and announced new progress that 95 of its suppliers have committed to moving to 100% renewable energy. Similarly, Artistic Milliners from Pakistan, a textile company announced joining the UN Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action and shared their actions on the circular economy to reduce their carbon footprint and provide zero emissions energy to thousands of homes.
IMRAN KHAN – PRIME MINISTER PAKISTAN
On the fifth-anniversary of Paris agreement, Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan virtually addressed the Climate Ambition Summit 2020 where he highlighted the initiatives taken by the Government of Pakistan to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change. PM Khan said that, “Pakistan’s contribution to global emissions is less than 1%, and yet we are the fifth most vulnerable country to climate change. He announced that by 2030, 60 percent of all energy produced in Pakistan will be clean energy generated through renewables and 30% of all vehicles would be on electricity.
He highlighted three nature-based solutions adopted by his government to surmount the climate challenge. Firstly, he mentioned the mega-plantation drive called Billion Tree Tsunami Plantation (BTTP) comprising of 10 billion trees in the country. Secondly, he pointed out the increase in the protected areas for national parks from 30 to 45. Thirdly, he revealed the ambition of Pakistani government to shift to clean energy and a transition to the renewable energy. He remarked, “We have already scrapped the Coal power projects, which was supposed to produce two thousand six hundred megawatts of energy and replaced it by hydroelectricity. At the same time, indigenous coal will be replaced by liquid or gas”. He concluded by assuring the global community that, Pakistan will be doing its best to make its contribution to mitigate the effects of climate change.
2020 CHAMPIONS OF THE EARTH
Displaying the success stories of people who have made strides by their environmental actions in 2020, the Summit also honored the six champions of the earth who have transformed our societies for the better. This aims to inspire and motivate other people to step up their efforts for the environmental safety and mitigating the effects of climate change. The six climate champions and laureates of 2020 were:
- Mindy Lubber (CEO of Ceres) awarded for her entrepreneurial vision
- Robert Bullard (Founder of Environmental Justice) awarded with Lifetime Achievement
- Nemonte Nenquimo (Environmental Activist from Ecuador) awarded for Inspiration and Action
- Frank Bainimarama (PM of Fiji) awarded for Policy Leadership
- Yacouba Sawadoga (the man who stopped the desert, from Burkina Faso) awarded for Inspiration and Action
- Dr Fabian Leendertz (Veterinarian and Zoonotic Disease Specialist) awarded for his contribution in Science and Innovation
GREENING THE BLUE REPORT 2020
The 2020 Greening the Blue report, released in line with the Climate Ambition Summit 2020, to provide a snapshot of the UN System’s environmental impacts throughout 2019 and the activities underway to reduce them. This year’s report includes 2019 data on greenhouse gas emissions, waste, water and environmental management from nearly 60 entities across the UN System, representing approximately 310,000 personnel. It shows that in 2019 the UN System emitted ~2 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2eq)– or 6.5 tCO2eq per capita. This is a further decrease since 2010 when the per capita emissions per UN personnel were 8.3 tCO2eq. According to Greening the Blue, in 2019, 43% of the UN’s greenhouse gas impact was from its facilities (headquarter offices, field offices, warehouses etc.), 45% from air travel, and 12% from other modes of travel.
The report also shows that 97 per cent of the System’s reported greenhouse gas emissions were offset via the purchase of carbon credits from the Clean Development Mechanism. The most important action in a trajectory to climate neutrality is however emissions reductions. The report shows how, in 2019, 28 UN entities, five more than the previous year, are engaged in implementing environmental management systems. A number of best practices show how these efforts are operated at ground level and what concrete results they have been able to obtain.