UN chief lauds ‘day of hope’ as US officially rejoins Paris climate accord

On Friday, the US officially returned to the Paris climate accord, 107 days after it left at the behest of former president Donald Trump. The United States under the Trump administration, withdrew from the landmark treaty to curb global warming but President Joseph Biden reversed the decision when he assumed office in January.

Friday’s event was organized by the United Nations Association of the United States of America. The UN chief Antonio Guterres lauds ‘day of hope’ as the US officially rejoins the Paris climate accord. “For the past four years, the absence of a key player created a gap in the Paris Agreement; a missing link that weakened the whole,” said Mr Guterres. “So today, as we mark the United States re-entry into this treaty, we also recognize its restoration, in its entirety, as its creators intended,” he added.

“Today is a day of hope, as the United States officially rejoins the Paris Agreement. This is a piece of good news for the United States and for the world,” the Secretary-General said. “It is a pleasure to mark this occasion with you all, and particularly with Special Envoy John Kerry, whose own work is reflected in this historic agreement,” Guterres said on Friday during a virtual event to mark the United States rejoining the Paris Agreement.

Trump had withdrawn the US from the historic Paris Agreement and Guterres had termed that decision as a major disappointment for global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote global security.

President Joe Biden had signed several key executive orders just hours after being sworn-in as the 46th President of the United States last month and Washington rejoining the Paris climate accord was among the first steps of the new presidency.

Kerry was the US Secretary of State when the Paris Agreement was adopted in December 2015. In a symbolic gesture, he had signed the treaty at the UN in April 2016 accompanied by his granddaughter.

Guterres said that while the Paris Agreement is a historic achievement, he warned that the commitments made so far are not enough and even those commitments made in Paris are not being met. “The warning signs are everywhere. The six years since 2015 have been the six hottest years on record. Carbon dioxide levels are at record highs. Fires, floods and other extreme weather events are getting worse, in every region,” he said. The UN chief cautioned that if nations don’t change course, we could face a catastrophic temperature rise of more than 3 degrees this century'” he added during a press conference on Thursday. Guterres said that the year 2021 is a ‘make-it-or-break-it year’ for the common future goal.

The Paris Agreement aims to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 Celsius above pre-industrial levels by curbing greenhouse gas emissions. It requires countries to commit to increasingly ambitious climate action through plans known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). “We expect all governments to present more ambitious concrete and credible Nationally Determined Contributions for the next 10 years, by COP26 in November”, he said.

The UN chief said a central objective for the United Nations this year is to create a truly global coalition for net-zero emissions by 2050. “In the past year, countries representing 70% of the world economy and 65% of global carbon dioxide emissions committed to net zero,” he said. He expressed hope that the US will formally join this coalition very soon, as pledged by President Biden, and will present its concrete plan to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

The Secretary-General stressed that the world must act now, and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic must include investing in a “green economy” to heal the planet and generate jobs. The Paris Agreement is our pact with our descendants and the whole human family. This is the race of our lifetimes. We must go much faster, and much farther”, the Secretary-General said.

Now is the time to implement transformative change: phase out coal; support a just transition, with training and opportunities for people whose jobs will be impacted; stop investing in fossil fuel projects; shift the tax burden from income to carbon, from consumers to polluters, said Guterres.

He stressed the need to close the finance gap by supporting countries that are suffering the ravaging impacts of the climate crisis. He urged the Group of Seven countries to deliver concrete results on finance at their summit in June. Those that have not done so already must commit to doubling their climate finance. All developed countries must honour the pledge to contribute 100 billion US dollars annually to developing countries, he said. He also asked all donors to commit to increasing the share of climate finance allocated to the adaptation to reach 50%, and all financial institutions and banks to align their investments with the Paris Agreement by 2024.

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