Climate Weekly: Guterres cracks the whip

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UN secretary general António Guterres is demanding countries come to his climate summit in New York with strengthened climate commitments (Photo: Daniel Mennerich/Flickr)


Governments have never been under so much pressure from the UN to ramp up their climate plans.

UN chief António Guterres sent a personal letter to every head of state asking them to come to his climate action summit in September ready to announce how they are going to increase their 2030 targets and plan for carbon neutrality by 2050.

This is an ambitious ask since only a handful of developed – mostly European – countries have committed to net zero by the middle of the century, with so far no sign that big emitters like China and India are ready to follow.

UN special envoy for climate change Luis Alfonso de Alba hammered home the message during a visit to New Delhi. He told Beijing the same.

In case officials were not feeling the heat, Guterres set a deadline of 7 August for leaders to indicate what they will bring to the summit. Will major economies will be ready to up their game in time to earn a place on stage?

Climate conversations

How von der Leyen could make a carbon border tax work – Harro van Asselt, Susanne Dröge and Michael Mehling

A weak carbon price is worse than no carbon price – Darragh Conway, Climate Focus

Corporate compensation 

An uphill battle is under way to reform an obscure international system that allows coal, oil and gas companies to sue governments if climate policies hit their profits.

Under this private courts system, known as the investor state dispute settlement (ISDS), a growing number of claims have been made against environmental measures.

The issue is making the sparks fly between the pro-reform EU and a block of countries led by the US and Japan defending business as usual.

*Calling African journalists*

We are looking for original, hard-hitting stories on links between climate science and African development. Details of how to pitch here

The Boris shuffle

Number 10 has a new resident this week, as former London mayor Boris Johnson takes on the big job of delivering Brexit – and, he says, delivering on net zero emissions. The latter remains to be seen.

That means it’s all change at Whitehall. Former energy minister Claire Perry was provisionally appointed Cop26 president – a little prematurely, since the UK is still waiting for approval to host next year’s UN climate talks.

Former UN Climate Change head Christiana Figueres is already confident the 2020 summit is “in good hands”.

Quick hits:

Read more on: Climate politics | COP26 | UN Climate Action Summit 2019