UN Patricia Espinosa warns of catastrophic consequences of inaction

LONDON. There is reason for cautious optimism when it comes to negotiations at the COP26 Climate Change Summit in Glasgow, Scotland, according to the UN Climate Chief.

At a key conference, which the UK is hosting from 31 October to 12 November, several high-profile announcements were made in the first week.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pledged to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2070, and more than 100 world leaders, including US President Joe Biden, Xi Jinping of China and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, have pledged to end deforestation by 2030.

In addition, 28 more countries have joined the international coal phase-out alliance, although notable absentees included China, India and the United States.

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In an interview with CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick on Thursday, Patricia Espinoza, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, was asked how she assessed the progress made in Glasgow and if that was enough.

“I am very excited about what… we have already seen,” she said. “Of course we come to this conference with a clear message that our emissions figures are not very good,” she added. “That means we really need to get out of here with clarity on how we’re going to move forward.”

Espinoza performed after Finance Day COP26 on Wednesday. Among other things, UK Treasury Secretary Rishi Sunak announced plans to transform the country into “the first-ever clean, zero-leveling financial center.”

Elsewhere, the Glasgow Net Zero Financial Alliance said more than $ 130 trillion in private capital was “channeled into transforming the economy to achieve net zero.”

“What we saw here,” Espinoza said, “these 120 heads of state and government … Finance Day with ministers, heads of international financial organizations, people from [the] the private sector also makes promises, announces initiatives, I think there is … really reason for hope … cautious optimism. “

There is a huge amount of money on COP26. The official website of the UK summit says it will “bring the parties together to accelerate action to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.”

Described by the United Nations as a legally binding international treaty on climate change, the Paris Agreement aims to “limit global warming to well below 2, preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius, above pre-industrial levels.”

The challenge is daunting, and the United Nations has noted that 1.5 degrees Celsius is considered the “upper limit” when it comes to preventing the worst impacts of climate change.

In an interview with CNBC, Espinoza highlighted the consequences of inaction. According to her, the IPCC report showed that “the scenario of two degrees … terrible, catastrophic.”

“And the Prime Minister of Barbados said this in a plenary session, she said:“ For us, 2 degrees is a death sentence, ”added Espinosa. “This means that this is not really enough and we have to talk about it very frankly and openly.”

“Not to make people more pessimistic, but rather, on the contrary, I hope they become more energetic in taking really seriously the very difficult decisions that need to be made.”

—Chloe Taylor, Lucy Handley and Sam Meredith contributed to this report

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