Capacity of cities to tackle climate change key in ‘crucial battle’ for planet’s preservation, says UN chief

11 January 2020

Cities – hubs of creativity and new ideas – can provide solutions to resolve humanity’s “suicide war” against nature, and lead the world towards a sustainable future, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Saturday in Lisbon, which has been named the 2020 European Green Capital. 

Nature has responded to this “suicide war” many times, “as we have seen through hurricanes, fires, and severe drought in various regions of the world,” Mr. Guterres told the ceremony, at which the European Commision honoured Lisbon’s push for a green transformation that could serve as a role-model for other European cities. 

But the UN chief stressed that no matter how much harm we do to the Earth, “it will continue to spin around the sun for millions of years.” The real problem is that “humanity is destroying itself, and the possibility of being able to live on the planet,” he explained. 

Cities can be the basis of success against climate change  

Mr. Guterres emphasized that in the “crucial battle for the preservation of the planet, and above all, for the preservation of our presence in the planet” are two essential factors: the capacity of the cities and the European commitment to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.  

Highlighting that cities have half of the world population, two thirds of the European population, and account for 70 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, the Secretary-General said: “Cities can be the basis of our success.”  

As for the European commitment to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, he stated that “our hope is that Europe will lead the example and convince other super powers to enter the right path to defeat climate change”. 

A New Year, a renewed push for sustainability 

In his remarks, Mr. Guterres also spotlighted 2020 as the year to make the fight against climate change more efficient. He identified three opportunities to start breaking the “cycle of war, which we are waging against nature”: 

  • The 2020 UN biodiversity Conference, set to be held in Kunming, China in October  
  •  The 2020 UN Ocean Conference, to be held in Lisbon from 2-6 June, and  
  • The next UN climate conference, COP26, which will take place in Glasgow next November and where countries can pledge concrete measures to combat climate change 

The Secretary-General pointed out that these major events will take place during Lisbon’s presidency as the Green Capital of Europe, and at a time when three major battles are being lost: one million of the Earth’s species are at risk of disappearing; pollution is increasing, especially plastics in the ocean; more efforts are needed to ensure the Paris Agreement is an effective tool to fight climate change. 

Looking ahead with hope 

The Secretary-General, however, expressed optimism because the international community knows what needs to be done.   

There is “no reason to continue to rely on fossil fuels,’’ when other technologies already exist. He also stressed that another hopeful development is the growing mobilization of youth who are demanding the “political will to drive these transformations.” 

“We see cities defending the environment, defending a green perspective and fighting against climate change,” he continued. 

Mentioning C40, the network of the world’s megacities committed to climate action, Mr. Guterres praised the cities that are the most determined to fight the battle against climate change.  

“Those cities are available to do everything that is necessary to guarantee that we can defeat climate change. The problem is that often governments [hinder] their action and the action of the regions in achieving a green economy, in leading an effective battle against climate change,” the Secretary-General added. 

This article was originally published by UNRIC, the UN Regional Information Centre in Brussels, and can be found here.

 

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