UN chief urges climate action, says world cannot ‘afford any more greenwashing’

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Carbon neutrality goals are useless if not backed by action, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday, stressing that the world cannot “afford any more greenwashing.”

“Commitments to net zero are worth zero without the plans, policies and actions to back it up,” he said in a video message marking the release of an annual assessment by the UN-Environment Programme on progress towards commitments made by signatories of the 2015 Paris climate deal.


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“Global and national climate commitments are falling pitifully short,” Guterres said in the video, which was released less than two weeks before the start of the UN COP27 climate conference in Egypt.

“In other words, we are headed for a global catastrophe,” Guterres said.

He additionally called for closing the gap between what has been achieved and what is necessary to respect the Paris climate agreement’s commitment to limit warming below 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels, and to 1.5C if possible.

The message’s target audience was governments, in particular G20 countries, as well as private actors and financial institutions.

It comes as more and more governments, businesses and cities claim they are making commitments towards net zero, most often not to be achieved until 2050.

“Our world cannot afford any more greenwashing, fake movers or late movers,” Guterres said.

The group of experts established by the secretary-general to develop standards and to assess carbon neutrality commitments by non-state actors such as companies, cities, regions and investors, is to report its conclusions at COP27.

Thousands of companies have announced carbon neutral targets, but many are suspected or even openly accused of not delivering on their commitments.

Such greenwashing is further facilitated by the lack of a common international framework to assess and oversee emission reduction commitments.

Guterres also brought up the need to invest “massively” in renewable energy, urging the creation of a “historic pact between G20 developed and emerging economies” to boost the energy transition.

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