Interview: UN special envoy highlights urgent action in fighting climate change

Source: Xinhua| 2019-08-27 23:17:12|Editor: yan
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by Xinhua writer Wang Jiangang

UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 26 (Xinhua) -- For Luis Alfonso de Alba, the special envoy for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, nothing outdoes the importance of urgent and concrete action in the struggle with climate change.

"What we need most now is not only the awareness of how serious climate change is. What really make sense are urgent and concrete actions to slow down or even stop the pace of global warming," said de Alba, who received a special assignment last year from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to take care of the UN chief's signature summit event.

"Today, if you take the overall understanding of the international community, even the most skeptical ones recognize the urgency of action and recognize that there are means to address the problem (of climate change) and that there are benefits in doing that," he said in a recent interview with Xinhua.

The secretary-general is going to "sound the alarm of urgent action" at the forthcoming climate action summit, to be held on Sept. 23, when world leaders assemble at the UN headquarters in New York for the general debate of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly.

"Action is the keyword for climate change, because raising awareness would be sufficient with a number of statements by the secretary-general and a number of reports," said de Alba.

"We need to convince every actor, including governments, the private sector and the civil society, that action is urgent," the envoy noted.

"What we have seen in the last few years is precisely a vision (of combatting climate change) that has been shared increasingly by all member states," he noted.

"Now we need to translate that vision into political will," noted de Alba, recalling that only a few years ago people denied the problem existed.

Climate change will exact a toll on global economic output as higher temperatures hamstring industries from farming to manufacturing, according to a new study published by the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research.

Record-breaking heat across the globe made headlines throughout July, and now researchers say a persistent increase in average global temperatures by 0.04 degrees Celsius per year, barring major policy breakthroughs, is set to reduce world real GDP per capita by 7.22 percent by 2100.

Guterres told world leaders to come to September's climate action summit with action plans. The UN's weather agency released its flagship report about global warming in March, saying that extreme weather last year hit 62 million people worldwide and forced 2 million people to relocate, as man-made climate change worsened.

In his capacity as the special envoy for the climate summit, de Alba is to work closely with Robert C. Orr, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Climate Change; Peter Thomson, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Ocean; and Michael Bloomberg, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Climate Action.


Noting that many countries remain heavily dependent on fossil fuels to power their economies, de Alba said that all countries should reduce their use of coal, a major contributor to global warming.

Guterres is championing ambitious climate action ahead of the critical summit, where countries are due to present concrete proposals to accelerate the pace of decarbonization. In a July letter to heads of state, the UN chief set net zero emissions as the benchmark for ambition.

Speaking of the target of carbon neutrality, de Alba expressed full confidence that the goal can be hit by 2050, while stressing that it will be achieved "sooner than expected" if urgent action is taken immediately.

Talking about positive progress made so far, de Alba gave thumbs up to the public statement by China, together with France and the UN secretary-general, at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, urging action against climate change.

"There are already three or four countries that have signaled that they will achieve carbon neutrality before 2050," he said. "The European Union, as a whole, will come to that understanding, hopefully in the coming months."

The special envoy commended China's role in the fight against climate change.

"We are very happy to see how China is leading the international community in the fight against climate change," he said, noting that this leadership role has been broadly recognized by the UN chief.

"It is a very welcome leadership at the global level to find the solutions to climate change," he said.

Also, de Alba said he was deeply impressed by China's efforts to reduce and eliminate pollution.

"We were very happy to learn that China is willing to enhance its nationally determined contributions (as committed in the Paris Agreement)," he said.

The coming climate action summit is not only an important event for world leaders, it is also appealing to young people across the globe.

The special envoy told Xinhua that some 700 young people from around the world are expected to attend the summit.

De Alba placed high hopes on youth, noting they have the capacity to mobilize public opinion and can "reach a very wide number of citizens all over the world."

"They also have a number of solutions and have the capacity to identify policies and actions. They are also consumers who can influence the pattern of consumption that needs to change, said de Alba, "because climate change is asking us to change the way we produce and consume."