The United Nation’s (UN’s) 2019 Climate Action Summit, to be held next month, in New York, should deliver a solid plan of action to ensure radical changes with regard to climate change, says UN climate special envoy Luis Alfonso de Alba.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and De Alba will meet with world leaders at the summit.
In a statement issued this week, the UN urged governments to come to the summit with clear, concrete and ambitious plans to address the worsening climate emergency, enhancing their nationally determined contributions by 2020.
This should be in line with reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by 45% over the next decade and to net zero emissions by 2050.
The summit has been called amid rising global emissions levels. The last four years have been the four hottest on record and winter temperatures in the Arctic have risen by 3 ˚C since 1990.
This while sea levels are rising, coral reefs are dying and negative impacts on human health continue owing to air pollution, heatwaves and risks to food security.
The UN states that, if action is taken now, carbon emission can be reduced within 12 years and hold the global average temperature to well below 2 ˚C higher than pre-industrial levels and even to 1.5 ˚C above those levels.
Although the Paris Agreement is in place, setting out what needs to be done to stop climate disruption and reverse its impact, the UN says the agreement itself is meaningless without ambitious action.
The summit will bring together governments, the private sector, civil society, local authorities and other international organisations to develop ambitious solutions in six areas: a global transition to renewable energy; sustainable and resilient infrastructures and cities; sustainable agriculture and management of forests and oceans; resilience and adaptation to climate impacts; and alignment of public and private finance with a net zero economy.
“Business is on our side. Accelerated climate solutions can strengthen our economies and create jobs, while bringing cleaner air, preserving natural habitats and biodiversity, and protecting our environment.
“New technologies and engineering solutions are already delivering energy at a lower cost than the fossil-fuel driven economy. Solar and onshore wind are now the cheapest sources of new bulk power in virtually all major economies. But we must set radical change in motion,” notes De Alba.
He adds that this means ending subsidies for fossil fuels and high-emitting agriculture and shifting towards renewable energy, electric vehicles and climate-smart practices.
“It means carbon pricing that reflects the true cost of emissions, from climate risk to the health hazards of air pollution. Additionally, it means accelerating the closure of coal plants and halting the construction of new ones and replacing jobs with healthier alternatives so that the transformation is just, inclusive and profitable."
THE AFRICA CASE
UN Energy co-chairperson and Sustainable Energy for All CEO Rachel Kyte says economic transformation will be ushered in by the fight to arrest climate change, which holds promise for Africa.
She explains that the developed world needs to decarbonise its economy, while the cradle of innovation is currently in Eastern Africa, with off-grid solar solutions and new business models towards access to energy.
However, Kyte notes that Africa is not moving at scale and with sufficient speed to achieve universal access and, on top of that, access to clean energy.
More than 570-million people do not have access to electricity in Africa, while the energy grids that do exist still rely heavily on fossil fuels.
Kyte points out that Africa has an “extraordinary” renewable energy resource base for geothermal, wind, solar and hydropower.
“No more coal [power plants] should be built after 2020. The international community needs to keep on responding adequately so that African can accelerate universal clean access to energy.”
She adds that off-grid solutions can solve the electricity access problem in African countries, as well as problems that fossil-fuel-powered grids bring – higher costs and emissions.
Kyte further notes that the UN Climate Action Summit will showcase how companies continue to be profitable while not being dependent on carbon and emitting carbon into the atmosphere.
“Renewable energy is Africa’s opportunity to build a different pathway than the industrialised world in the last century did,” says Kyte.
De Alba adds that Africa has the potential to develop clean energy at scale and that the effort of the UN and the summit is an opportunity that Africa will benefit from.
“This is Africa’s time to develop differently, sustainably,” says De Alba.