Guterres: European Commitment To Carbon Neutrality Can Pave Way For Progress On Global Climate Agenda

Madrid – UN Secretary General António Guterres said he is more hopeful about obtaining commitments on climate action from the world’s largest carbon emitters, following the European Commission’s announcement of plans for a European “green pact” – committing Europe to dramatic reductions in its carbon emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050.

Guterres spoke here at a press conference on Monday, the opening day of the 25th UN Climate Conference (COP25), in a joint appearance with the President of Spain, Pedro Sánchez.

“We see already the very strong determination from many governments, but also from many actors in the business community, in the financial community, civil society, in cities and regions. We see a lot of commitment. The problem is that the most important emitters, the countries that have the largest emissions of greenhouse gases are lagging behind,” Guterres said.

UN Secretary General António Guterres (right) with Spanish President Pedro Sánchez.

“However, something very important has happened today, where the president of the European Commission has announced that the Commission will present a green pact, and that Europe will be determined to create the conditions for carbon neutrality in 2050, and for dramatic reductions in emissions from 2020 and 2030 – the conditions that are needed to reach 1.5 °C degrees at the end of the century,” Guterres said.

European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen has said that she wants to lead the way for a “green new deal” in Europe, and last week the European Parliament gave her resounding support, declaring a climate emergency. The Parliament called for a 55% reduction in European carbon emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050.

“I believe with Europe in this position, there is potential for successful negotiation with other key actors, be it the United States, China, India and Japan, and we need that negotiation…in 2020 in order to make sure that we are able to effectively defeat climate change,” Guterres said.

He added that the struggle will not, however, only be waged among governments.  “This is also an issue for public opinion, youth, the business community, civil society, cities and regions. We see everywhere a new dynamism a new determination that makes me be hopeful. I am hopeful but not yet entirely sure because there is still a long way to go and we are still running behind climate change,” he added.

Guterres praised Spain for the “exemplary” job in organizing the conference in “record time” after the original host, Chile, announced in late October that it couldn’t hold the event in Santiago due to prolonged civil unrest that has wracked the country.  Guterres added that the Spanish offer to host the conference on behalf of Chile was an “impeccable demonstration of the multilateralism” needed for a positive outcome on the climate agenda as well.

Spain has also been a leader in action on climate and social welfare agenda, Guterres noted, adding that the welfare benefits of climate action in terms of both jobs creation and social equity needs more emphasis in the climate debate.

‘”Better to subsidize families in need rather than subsidize fossil fuels,” Guterres said, noting that new taxes on carbon could help “support a just transition” to a green economy.


This article was published as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalistic collaboration to strengthen coverage of the climate story.

Image Credits: E. Fletcher .