The World Economic Forum (WEF) called on governments and companies to cut their emissions in a study published on Wednesday, addressing leaders who gathered for the two-week UN climate summit.
The call came as teen activist Greta Thunberg said at the UN World Climate Summit in Madrid that countries too often seek to avoid taking action.
So far, only 67 of the UN's 193 member states, together responsible for less than 15 per cent of global emissions, have committed to the goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions, the WEF study noted.
Governments and companies must raise their ambition levels and start setting and implementing targets, said WEF Managing Director Dominic Waughray. ‘What the world needs is a combination of public ambition, policy certainty and company leadership to create a tipping point.’ The study, created together with Boston Consulting, criticized the world's largest carbon dioxide (CO2) emitters for not doing enough to address the problem.
‘China, which is responsible for a quarter of current global emissions, has reportedly resumed construction of the world's largest pipeline of new coal power plants,’ the study states.
In the US, which is responsible for the planet's largest share of accumulated atmospheric CO2, ‘senior government officials are openly denying climate science and backtracking on previous regulations and international commitments, including their commitment to the Paris Agreement,’ the authors write.
A major turnaround is needed in all sectors to limit the rise in surface temperatures, according to the study's authors, who wrote, ‘the world needs to achieve a net-zero emissions level in order to prevent catastrophic climate change effects.’ The authors praised businesses for taking the lead but noted, ‘of the millions of corporations worldwide, only around 7,000 disclose their emissions to Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), the non-profit organization that monitors global emissions.’ Of those that do report their numbers to CDP, only a third provide full disclosure, only a quarter set any type of emission reduction target, and only one in eight actually reduce their emissions year on year.
Stronger words came from Thunberg, a member of a climate emergency panel at the conference.
‘Finding holistic solutions is what the COP [UN climate conference] should be all about. But instead it seems to have turned into some kind of opportunity for countries to negotiate loopholes and to avoid raising their ambition,’ she said.
‘Countries are finding clever ways around having to take real action, like double-counting emission reductions,’ Thunberg added.
She castigated leaders for their failure to act, saying, ‘There is no sense of urgency whatsoever. Our leaders are not behaving as if we were in an emergency, in an emergency you change your behaviour.’ Thunberg noted: ‘Without that sense of urgency, how can we - the people - understand that we are facing a real crisis. Without pressure from the people, our leaders can get away with basically not doing anything which is where we are now.’ She argued that as global temperatures rise, ‘even at one degree, people are dying from the climate crisis,’ and added that every fraction of a degree matters, ‘so that we have the best possible chance to avoid setting off irreversible chain reactions such as melting glaciers, polar ice and thawing Arctic permafrost.’ Thunberg called on the wider public to act too, saying, ‘Every great change throughout history has come from the people. We do not have to wait, we can start the change right now, we the people.’
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