Glasgow Climate Summit Faces ‘High Risk of Failure,’ U.N. Leader Says

Glasgow Climate Summit Faces ‘High Risk of Failure,’ U.N. Leader Says

Secretary-General Guterres says drastic action needed to meet emission cuts agreed to in 2015 Paris accord

The coming climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, runs a “high risk of failure” unless world leaders take stronger measures to stem greenhouse-gas emissions, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said Monday.

Mr. Guterres made his comments to reporters following a two-hour closed session with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry and other leaders on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meeting.

It followed a U.N. report Friday that said the world isn’t close to meeting targeted reductions in greenhouse gases laid out at the Paris climate accord in 2015.

Mr. Johnson called for the meeting on the sidelines of the General Assembly, the annual summit of world leaders at U.N. headquarters. One other senior U.N. official described a “brutally honest” session in which world leaders repeatedly said that the nations of the world weren’t acting fast enough and face dire consequences.

“This means that unless we collectively change course there is a high risk of failure” at the Glasgow summit in November, Mr. Guterres said. He called Monday’s meeting “a wake-up call to instill a sense of urgency on the dire state of the climate process.”

In a meeting with President Biden Monday night, Mr. Guterres said that America has made “very strong commitment on climate change” under Mr. Biden’s leadership.

Mr. Biden told Mr. Guterres that he had gone back and reread the United Nations charter and noted that every U.N. member nation has a responsibility to “uphold those fundamental commitments that we’ve all made.”

The Glasgow summit, known as COP26, will be a chance for global leaders to assess progress toward environmental goals set in Paris. The Paris agreement called for governments to limit the rise in global temperatures to close to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The recent U.N. report said the Earth is expected to be around 2.7 degrees Celsius warmer by the end of this century. Mr. Guterres said world leaders must come out of Glasgow with more aggressive targets for reducing emissions of planet-warming gases to meet the target set in Paris.

U.N. officials did, however, express growing optimism over progress in providing financing to poor countries that developed countries have promised but failed fully to deliver so far. Wealthy countries were supposed to give at least $100 billion annually starting in 2020 to help the developing world shift away from fossil fuels and protect themselves against the effects of global warming.

Several world leaders said in Monday’s session that they recognize how essential those payments are, Mr. Guterres said. And one U.S. official promised “some good news was imminent” on that financing, according to another senior U.N. official who was in the room.

Asked about the comments, a spokeswoman for Mr. Kerry pointed to impromptu remarks he made to television reporters earlier in the day outside the U.N. headquarters. He said he expects a financing deal to be done by the November summit.

“I’m telling you to stay tuned to the president’s speech and we’ll see where we are,” Mr. Kerry said.

Monday’s session kicked off a week of meetings at the annual summit, this time held in the middle of a pandemic and expected to tackle a host of thorny issues. Diplomats and leaders attending the U.N. General Assembly in New York will also contend with the return to power of the Taliban and the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, as well as any challenges posed by Iran under a new, hard-line president, Ebrahim Raisi.

But climate change is expected to be chief among them. Once a secondary issue at the General Assembly, many current and former diplomats expect it will now be front and center in the speeches of almost every head of government who addresses the forum.

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