The United Nations will request guarantees from the United Kingdom that it will not go back on its commitment to achieving net zero emissions.
The United Nation’s secretary-general, António Guterres, will be asking the UK for confirmation that they will not go back on their climate commitments, following Rishi Sunak’s reversal on environmental actions.
The United Nations is worried that countries are not following through with their promises to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to keep global temperature increases under 1.5C compared to pre-industrial levels.
Senior United Nations leaders urged nations to set aside political conflicts and focus on addressing the urgent climate crisis during the upcoming Cop28 climate summit in Dubai. The summit is set to commence on 30 November.
Amina Mohammed, the UN’s deputy secretary general, expressed concern over potential backsliding on climate commitments, stating that there is significant evidence of it. In 2020, countries made pledges at the Cop27 summit in Egypt and reaffirmed their commitment to the 1.5C limit at the historic Cop26 summit in Glasgow in 2021.
Several nations may have shown some hesitation in their actions, either by increasing access to fossil fuels after the invasion of Ukraine or by not setting ambitious goals. In the United Kingdom, the prime minister has stated that the goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050 is still binding, but recent decisions such as delaying the elimination of gasoline-powered cars and gas boilers raise doubts about the country’s ability to meet its emission reduction targets for 2030.
In the United States, Joe Biden has approved and authorized the creation of new oil and gas projects, despite his firm stance on addressing the climate crisis. Similarly, the European Union has recently fallen short in strengthening its pledge to decrease emissions, which is currently set at a 55% reduction by 2030 in comparison to 1990 levels. Additionally, both China and India are still actively investing in coal.
“The secretary general will actively engage in discussions with countries such as the UK, US, China, and others. These conversations are ongoing and we must continue to involve them in the discussion of climate action. We must strive for the highest level of ambition from all parties involved.”
She expressed concern about backsliding. “We must address it and work to reverse it. It is quite prevalent. This further fuels doubt and suspicion, as the expectations may be shifting.”
In an interview, Simon Stiell, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the top climate official for the UN, stated that countries with the capability to make significant progress in reducing emissions must do so quickly. He also noted that those who have the means to take action but are not doing so are facing criticism.
The Cop28 summit is scheduled to occur during a period of increasing global tensions due to the ongoing conflicts between Israel and Hamas and Russia’s occupation of Ukraine.
Mohammed stated that the current climate summit is taking place during challenging times, but urged nations to set aside these challenges for the duration of the two-week meeting in Dubai. She emphasized the importance of receiving support from government officials, as it would encourage negotiators to aim for ambitious goals and seek solutions. She acknowledged the temptation to get caught up in geopolitical tensions, but also highlighted the potential for progress with strong leadership from heads of government.
Stiell stated that we are aware of the necessary tasks and how they should be carried out. The key factor is having the political determination to put the proposed actions into motion, which are currently being discussed. The crucial step is turning these plans into tangible results, and it is the responsibility of all participating ministers and heads of state at Cop28 to do so.
According to him, nations need to decrease emissions at a much quicker pace. He stated, “There is no time to waste, the evidence from science is abundantly clear. Their progress is too sluggish.”
Sunak is expected to encounter challenges at the upcoming Cop28 conference due to uncertainty surrounding the UK’s promises. King Charles has been asked to deliver a significant speech at the summit by the organizers. He is heavily invested in the climate negotiations and recently welcomed Cop28 president, Sultan Al Jaber, for a public event and private discussion at Buckingham Palace.
Claire Coutinho, the UK’s energy security and net zero secretary, will attend Cop28, the government confirmed. She said: “No major economy has cut emissions faster than the UK. We’re proud that we’ve overdelivered on every target to cut our emissions to date.
“Despite the UK’s ambitious climate change targets, it only contributes 1% to global emissions, highlighting the need for a global effort in tackling this issue. I am eager to represent the UK at Cop28, where we will collaborate with other countries to make further advancements in areas such as green finance, forest conservation, and clean energy. The UK’s experience and knowledge will be utilized to support others on the journey towards achieving net zero emissions.”