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State of the Global Climate 2020

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2021 is “make or break year” for Climate Action

2021 must be the year for climate action – “the make it or break it year,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres at the launch of WMO’s report on the State of the Global Climate 2020 which highlighted accelerating climate change indicators and worsening impacts.

“This is a frightening report. It needs to be read by all leaders and decision-makers in the world,” Mr Guterres told journalists.

“This report shows that 2020 was also another unprecedented year of extreme weather and climate disasters. The cause is clear. Anthropogenic climate change -- climate disruption caused by human activities, human decisions and human folly,” he said.

Mr Guterres joined WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas in releasing WMO’s trademark report, which includes input from national meteorological services, UN partners and the broader climate and scientific community.

The report is accompanied by a story map showing details of key climate indicators, including record greenhouse gas concentrations, increasing land and ocean temperatures, sea level rise, melting ice and glacier retreat and extreme weather. It also highlights impacts on socio-economic development, migration and displacement, food security and land and marine ecosystems.

“All key climate indicators and associated impact information provided in this report highlight relentless, continuing climate change, an increasing occurrence and intensification of extreme events, and severe losses and damage, affecting people, societies and economies,” said Prof. Taalas.

“It is therefore important to invest in adaptation. One of the most powerful ways to adapt is to invest in early warning services and weather observing networks and hydrological services,” he said.

2020 was one of the three warmest years on record, despite a cooling La Niña event. The global average temperature was about 1.2° Celsius above the pre-industrial (1850-1900) level. The six years since 2015 have been the warmest on record. 2011-2020 was the warmest decade on record.

“Our challenge is clear,” said the UN Secretary-General.

“To avert the worst impacts of climate change, science tells us that we must limit global temperature rise to within 1.5 degrees of the pre-industrial baseline. That means reducing global greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030 and reaching net zero emissions by 2050,” he said.

“We are way off track.”

Mr Guterres listed a number of concrete advances in the run up to the UN Climate Change negotiations, COP26, in Glasgow this November.

These include:

  • A global coalition committed to net zero emissions – to cover all countries, cities, regions, businesses and financial institutions.

  • The next 10 years need to be a decade of transformation, with more ambitious nationally determined contributions and climate plans under the Paris Agreement.

  • These commitments should be backed up with concrete immediate action. The trillions of dollars spent on COVID-19 recovery must be aligned with the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.

  • Subsidies to polluting fossil fuels must be shifted to renewable energy. And developed countries must lead in phasing out coal -- by 2030 in OECD countries, and 2040 elsewhere.

  • Developed countries also need to deliver on climate finance for the developing world, particularly the promise of $100 billion dollars per year. Half of all climate finance from donors and multilateral and national development banks must flow to resilience and adaptation, from a much lower level of 20 per cent today. Access to these sources of finance must also be made easier for the most vulnerable.

“I count first on developed countries to deliver on climate finance and, as I mentioned, the promised 100 billion dollars a year at the G7 Summit in June. Then, I will urge the G20 countries to take on the greening of the broader financial architecture, to address debt and make climate-related financial disclosure mandatory,” said Mr Guterres.

“This is truly a pivotal year for humanity’s future. This report shows we have no time to waste,” he said.

UN News story is here

Climate Indicators storymap is here

Digital assets and copies of the report and press release are here

Recording of press conference by UNTV is here