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UN chief urges world leaders to declare climate emergency

Last year Ireland became the second country in the world to declare a climate emergency.

A climate protester in Berlin yesterday. Her poster references the 1.5 degree Celsius target of the Paris climate agreement.
A climate protester in Berlin yesterday. Her poster references the 1.5 degree Celsius target of the Paris climate agreement.
Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

UN CHIEF ANTONIO Guterres has urged world leaders to declare a “state of climate emergency” and shape greener growth after the pandemic, as he opened a summit marking five years since the landmark Paris Agreement.

The Climate Ambition Summit, being held online, comes as the United Nations warns current commitments to tackle rises in global temperatures are inadequate.

The commitments made in Paris in 2015 were “far from enough” to limit temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the UN secretary-general said in his opening address to the summit.

“If we don’t change course, we may be headed for a catastrophic temperature rise of more than 3.0 degrees this century,” he said.

That is why today, I call on all leaders worldwide to declare a State of Climate Emergency in their countries until carbon neutrality is reached.

Last year Ireland became the second country in the world to declare a climate and biodiversity emergency.

The Fianna Fáil amendment to declare an emergency, which was tabled in relation to an Oireachtas report on Climate Change, was accepted by both sides of the Dáil without a vote.

16-year-old climate change activist Greta Thunberg tweeted to say it was “great news from Ireland” at the time.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the climate summit today that a traumatic year of pandemic was ending with the hope of vaccines coming on-stream.

“My message to you all is that together, we can use scientific advances to protect our planet, our biosphere against a challenge far worse, far more destructive, than even the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.

For its part, Britain was acting on climate not because it was a nation of “mung bean-eating eco freaks” but because scientific progress would allow the creation of “millions” of green jobs, Johnson added.

Speaking slots were handed to countries that submitted the most ambitious plans to accelerate their Paris promises. 

These include Honduras and Guatemala, which were hit last month by a pair of monster hurricanes, as well as India, which is battling increasingly erratic weather patterns and air pollution.

But major economies including Australia, Brazil and South Africa are absent. 

With reporting by Orla Dwyer

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