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Window to reach climate goals ‘rapidly closing’ – UN warns

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The world is not making sufficient progress to achieve the long-term goals established in the Paris Agreement, aimed at curbing the rise in global temperatures, A UN report issued on Friday has warned.

The Paris Agreement, signed by all nations, bound them to restrict the increase in global temperatures to as near as feasible to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. But, according to the report, there is a pressing need for substantial additional efforts in all aspects, ranging from mitigating the impacts of climate change to addressing the challenges of loss and damage caused by it.

The report presents 17 crucial findings derived from technical discussions held between 2022 and 2023, which assess the progress made in implementing the Agreement on Climate Change and its overarching objectives. On the basis of the findings, Simon Stiell, the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), emphasized the need for stronger commitment and swift action from all governments.

“I urge governments to carefully study the findings of the report and ultimately understand what it means for them and the ambitious action they must take next. It is the same for businesses, communities and other key stakeholders,” Stiell noted while releasing the report.

However, the report does not provide a detailed breakdown of which countries are lagging behind in their efforts, nor does it offer specific recommendations targeted at individual countries or regions.

The UN report, originally scheduled for release next week, will serve as the foundation for the inaugural “global stocktake” as part of the 2015 Paris Agreement. This global stocktake is designed to monitor and assess countries’ progress in achieving the treaty’s objectives.

The window of opportunity to ensure a livable & sustainable future is rapidly closing, warns @UNFCCC in latest report.

A transformational change & renewed commitments to #ClimateAction are needed to limit global temperature rise.

— United Nations (@UN) September 8, 2023

In a series of messages posted on their communication channel, the Climate Change Convention emphasized the urgency of accelerating actions, particularly with financial institutions taking the lead. Their goal is to bridge the financing gap and improve access to climate finance in developing countries.

Climate change funding has remained a central focus since the Paris Agreement. Notably, financial institutions have joined forces under the Net-Zero Banking Alliance, a coalition of banks committed to aligning their lending and investment activities with the goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

A recently released report from ActionAid International, published earlier this week, casts a critical light on these financial institutions’ public commitments. The report, titled “How the Finance Flows: The Banks Fueling the Climate Crisis,” sharply points out that despite their public declarations, these financial institutions are continuing to provide staggering levels of financing to fossil fuels and industrial agriculture.

The report finds that none of these institutions have put in place sufficient policies to genuinely reduce carbon emissions. It also underscores the alarming scale of the issue, revealing that since the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015, the world’s leading banks have channeled an astonishing USD 3.2 trillion to support the expansion of fossil fuel industries.

Another USD 370 billion has been directed towards industrial agriculture, which ranks as the second-largest contributor to climate change. This level of funding for activities that contribute to climate change far surpasses the financial support that governments in the Global South are receiving for climate solutions.

Countries in the Global South, such as Uganda, have a historical track record of relatively low greenhouse gas emissions. Paradoxically, these nations are disproportionately vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.

For instance, the International Rescue Committee reports that seven out of the 10 countries most at risk from climate-related disasters are situated in Africa, despite the entire African continent contributing only four per cent of global carbon emissions.

To address this imbalance, there has been a consensus that the major emitters, including China, the USA, and Europe, agreed to provide financial assistance to developing countries as part of the effort to combat climate change. This financial support is seen as a crucial step toward mitigating the impacts of climate change and enabling developing nations to adapt to the challenges it presents.

Meanwhile, in Uganda, the Ministry of Water and Environment has recently raised concerns about its insufficient resources to support numerous climate change mitigation and adaptation projects. This issue arises concurrently with the ministry’s ongoing efforts to seek workable financing solutions for climate change-related initiatives due to constrained budget allocations and cuts.

The ministry organized a conference this week, where experts offered guidance to the government. One of the key recommendations was the establishment of investment portfolios specifically dedicated to climate change-related activities. This strategy seeks to draw in investors as an alternative means of funding, reducing reliance solely on government budgets and donations.