World leaders should declare states of “climate emergency” in their countries to spur action to avoid catastrophic global warming, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has told a climate summit.

More than 70 world leaders were due to address the one-day virtual gathering aimed at building momentum for much steeper cuts in planet-warming emissions on the fifth anniversary of the 2015 Paris climate accord.

“Can anybody still deny that we are facing a dramatic emergency?” Mr Guterres said via video in his opening remarks.

“That is why today, I call on all leaders worldwide to declare a state of climate emergency in their countries until carbon neutrality is reached.”

Mr Guterres said economic recovery packages launched in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic represented an opportunity to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon future — but warned this was not happening fast enough.

“So far, the members of the G20 are spending 50 per cent more in their stimulus and rescue packages on sectors linked to fossil fuel production and consumption, than on low-carbon energy,” Mr Guterres said.

“This is unacceptable. The trillions of dollars needed for COVID recovery is money that we are borrowing from future generations.

“We cannot use these resources to lock in policies that burden future generations with a mountain of debt on a broken planet.”

Humanity has been quilting the planet in ‘a toxic teacosy’

On Friday, summit co-host Britain announced it would pledge to end direct government support for overseas fossil fuel projects at the summit, aiming to spur similar moves by other countries to accelerate a shift to cleaner energy.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the summit that countries could work together to radically cut dependence on fossil fuels, change agricultural practices, and reverse the process by which for centuries humanity has been quilting the planet in “a toxic teacosy” of greenhouse gases.

“And at the same time, we can create hundreds of thousands of jobs, millions of jobs, across the planet as we collectively recover from coronavirus,” Mr Johnson said.

Diplomats are watching summit speeches for any signs of significantly stronger climate pledges from countries including China, India and Japan.

China and India set 2030 goals

China, the world’s top global emitter, said it would lower its carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by more than 65 per cent from the 2005 level by 2030.

In September China announced it would target net zero carbon emissions by 2060, saying it was raising its ambitions for shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

President Xi Jinping announced that China would aim to have more than 1,200 gigawatts of installed wind and solar capacity by 2030 — more than double the country’s existing capacity.

China’s National Development and Reform Commission, the state planning body, is aiming to have 240 gigawatts of wind and the same amount of solar capacity installed by the end of this year.

“We will take solid steps to implement the targets just announced and contribute even more to tackling the global climate challenge,” Mr Xi said via a video message.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the country was doubling down on clean energy sources and was on track to achieve the emissions norms set under the 2015 Paris climate change accord.

India, one of the top emitters of greenhouses gases that lead to global warming, is eyeing 450 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity by 2030, Mr Modi said in an address to the Global Climate Ambition Summit.

Renewable energy capacity would reach 175 gigawatts before 2022, he said.

The Pope has also committed the Vatican to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“The current pandemic and climate change, which are not only environmentally relevant, but also ethically, socially, economically and politically affect, above all, the lives of the poorest and most fragile,” he said in a video message to the summit.

“In addition to adopting some measures that cannot be postponed any longer, a strategy is needed to reduce net emissions to zero.”

A Vatican statement said the city-state was moving ahead with plans to substitute all its combustion engine cars with electric or hybrid vehicles.

It said the Vatican, which is the world’s smallest state, began installing solar panels in 2008 and banned single-use plastic bags last year and was now recycling 65 per cent of its waste and aimed to reach 75 per cent in 2023.

Source: Reuters (ABC Australia)