2019 was the second warmest year on record and the end of the warmest decade (2010- 2019) ever recorded.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) levels and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere rose to new records in 2019.
Climate change is affecting every country on every continent. It is disrupting national economies and affecting lives. Weather patterns are changing, sea levels are rising, and weather events are becoming more extreme.
Although greenhouse gas emissions are projected to drop about 6 per cent in 2020 due to travel bans and economic slowdowns resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, this improvement is only temporary. Climate change is not on pause. Once the global economy begins to recover from the pandemic, emissions are expected to return to higher levels.
Saving lives and livelihoods requires urgent action to address both the pandemic and the climate emergency.
The Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015, aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The agreement also aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change, through appropriate financial flows, a new technology framework and an enhanced capacity building framework.
As countries move toward rebuilding their economies after COVID-19, recovery plans can shape the 21st century economy in ways that are clean, green, healthy, safe and more resilient. The current crisis is an opportunity for a profound, systemic shift to a more sustainable economy that works for both people and the planet.
The UN Secretary-General has proposed six climate-positive actions for governments to take once they go about building back their economies and societies:
- Green transition: Investments must accelerate the decarbonization of all aspects of our economy.
- Green jobs and sustainable and inclusive growth
- Green economy: making societies and people more resilient through a transition that is fair to all and leaves no one behind.
- Invest in sustainable solutions: fossil fuel subsidies must end and polluters must pay for their pollution.
- Confront all climate risks
- Cooperation – no country can succeed alone.
To address the climate emergency, post-pandemic recovery plans need to trigger long-term systemic shifts that will change the trajectory of CO2 levels in the atmosphere.
Governments around the world have spent considerable time and effort in recent years to develop plans to chart a safer and more sustainable future for their citizens. Taking these on board now as part of recovery planning can help the world build back better from the current crisis.