At the 11th Petersberg Climate Dialogue that was held virtually this year, UN Secretary General António Guterres yesterday said that the US and China must stop supporting emitters in economic pandemic rescue packages.

Guterres said:

Let us not forget that the G20 countries collectively account for more than 80% of global emissions and over 85% of the global economy.

All of them must also commit to carbon neutrality by 2050.

The Paris Agreement was largely made possible by the engagement of the United States and China.

Without the contribution of the big emitters, all our efforts risk to be doomed.

The Guardian details the US’ and China’s counterproductive measures:

In the US the bailout of the airline industry is set to go ahead without conditions attached on their emissions, while the White House has moved to weaken a raft of environmental regulations. In China, subsidies for fossil fuel vehicles and the easing of permits for coal mining are also likely to raise emissions.

What needs to be done

Guterres also urged around 30 governments who participated in the dialogue to “devote economic rescue packages for the coronavirus crisis to businesses that cut greenhouse gas emissions and create green jobs,” according to the Guardian.

Guterres said:

Where taxpayers’ money is needed to rescue businesses, it must be creating green jobs and sustainable and inclusive growth. It must not be bailing out outdated, polluting, carbon-intensive industries.

He also called for fiscal firepower to shift economies from gray to green, public funds to be invested in sustainable sectors, the end of fossil fuel subsidies, always taking climate change into account in all global financial decisions, and working together as an international community.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoed that message yesterday:

It will be all the more important that if we set up economic stimulus programs, we must always keep a close eye on climate protection.

COP26 president Alok Sharma of the UK said in his closing remarks:

We have defined a number of key themes for COP26, which include transition to clean energy, clean transport, nature based solutions, adaptation and resilience, and of course bringing it all together, finance.

I think what is very heartening, was to see the contributions today have very much echoed these particular themes. We’ve heard colleagues talk about the need for a green deal, a green transition, the need to invest in innovation, to shift the investment to green technologies, and all of that is going to be absolutely vital.

As environmental activist George Monbiot more starkly put it in an op-ed today:

Bail out the living world, not its destroyers. Let’s not waste our second chance.

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