For a Safer Earth, Healthier Climate

Fossil Fuels Must Be Phased Out By 2023- UN

By Ruth Tene Natsa, Abuja

The United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres has said fossil fuels must be phased out and the world must have zero tolerance for net-zero greenwashing by COP28 (2023)

He also said Government or private sector commitments to net zero cannot be a mere public relations exercise in his remarks, at the release of the Report of High-Level Expert Group on Net Zero Commitments of Non-state Actors at the COP27 in Egypt today.

According to Guterres “By the first half of 2023, all existing net-zero voluntary initiatives must explain how they will align and revise their standards accordingly — and all new initiatives must abide by these recommendations. My climate action team stands ready to assist in this process. I also ask UN agencies working on developing, implementing, or in any way supporting voluntary pledges, to abide by these standards and criteria” he added.

“For businesses, it means all emissions — direct, indirect, and those originating from supply chains. And for cities and regions, it means all territorial emissions. The message is clear to all those managing existing voluntary initiatives – as well as CEOs, mayors, governors committing to net zero” he said

He described the use of bogus ‘net-zero’ pledges to cover up massive fossil fuel expansion as reprehensible, adding that It is rank deception. This toxic cover-up could push our world over the climate cliff and the sham must end” he said

“We must have zero tolerance for net-zero greenwashing. He added that to achieve the above key criteria which include environmental integrity; credibility; accountability; and the role of government must be adhered to”

“On environmental integrity he said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is our scientific North Star, adding that Net-zero pledges must be in line with IPCC scenarios limiting warming to 1.5 degrees.  That means global emissions must decline by at least 45 percent by 2030 – and reach net zero by 2050.

“Second, on credibility, full and rapid decarbonization this decade is the ultimate test.  Leaders from businesses, financial institutions, and local authorities need to present transition plans with their net-zero pledges. These plans should be publicly available, with detailed, concrete actions to meet all targets.

The Secretary-General added that on accountability, full transparency is critical. He said by the first half of 2023, all existing net-zero voluntary initiatives must explain how they will align and revise their standards accordingly — and all new initiatives must abide by these recommendations.

And fourthly, he said governments need to ensure that these voluntary initiatives become the “new normal” The G20 — together with all OECD countries – must accelerate the decarbonization of their economies and end their addiction and subsidies to fossil fuels.

He said Net-zero pledges must be in line with IPCC scenarios limiting warming to 1.5 degrees.  That means global emissions must decline by at least 45 percent by 2030 – and reach net zero by 2050.

The Secretary-General noted that a growing number of governments and non-state actors are pledging to be carbon-free – and that’s good news, He, however, said the problem is that the criteria and benchmarks for these net-zero commitments have varying levels of rigor and loopholes wide enough to drive a diesel truck through.

“Abide by this standard and update your guidelines right away – and certainly no later than COP28. I also have a message to fossil fuel companies and their financial enablers.  So-called ‘net-zero pledges’ that exclude core products and activities are poisoning our planet. They must thoroughly review their pledges and align them with this new guidance.

He thanked the Group for providing clarity and details on what businesses, financial institutions, and sub-national authorities need to do to phase-out coal, oil, and gas. As fossil fuel finance is scaled down, climate finance for renewable energy should be scaled up.

Private financial institutions must now fully facilitate investments for a renewable energy revolution, and proactively work with international financial institutions to address issues of cost of capital and risk perceptions.

“At the same time, the transition to net zero must be just” he added.

Transition plans should address the needs of workers in fossil fuel industries and sectors affected by the renewable energy transition.

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