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Climate crisis: UN says world off course to meet Paris goals

September 8, 2023

A two-year evaluation of the 2015 Paris climate agreement goals found the world's efforts are falling woefully short. The UN warns "the window of opportunity" to tackle global warming "is rapidly closing."

Two firefighters tackling a fire in Greece
Extreme weather events are expected to get worse without more action to curb carbon emissionsImage: Alexandros Avramidis/REUTERS

The world is way off course to decrease global warming, the United Nations warned on Friday, urging for more action to phase out fossil fuels and achieve the 2015 Paris climate agreement goals.

"The Paris Agreement has driven near-universal climate action by setting goals and sending signals to the world regarding the urgency of responding to the climate crisis," the UN said in its first Global Stocktake Report. "While action is proceeding, much more is needed now on all fronts."

"The window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable for future for all is rapidly closing," it added.

The report, the result of a two-year evaluation of the Paris goals, will form the basis of the COP28 climate talks in Dubai later this year. 

Nearly 200 countries agreed during the 2015 Paris summit to limit global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. They also pledged to strive to limit the increase to 1.5 C.

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Where is the world lagging behind?

In the report, the UN warned that the existing pledges to cut emissions caused by the burning of fossil fuels were insufficient to curb global warming. It added that over 20 gigatons of further carbon emission reductions were needed this decade.

It stressed the importance of committing to phase out fossil fuels, urging countries to cut coal use by 67-92% by 2030.

The UN also called for setting 2030 targets for expanding renewable energy, and ensuring that the financial system can fund climate action and support adaptation and damage.

"We know that the burden of response sits with 20 countries," said UN climate chief Simon Stiell, referring to the nations of the Group of 20 that account for about 80% of global emissions. The G20 are holding a summit this weekend in the Indian capital, New Delhi.

China, the United States, the European Union and India contribute over half of total emissions.

On Friday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told G20 leaders that they have the power to reset a climate crisis which he warned is "spinning out of control."

rmt/nm (AFP, Reuters)