We are losing battle against climate change, says Macron

The Thomas wildfire in California. According to experts, global warming increases the risk of out-of-control fires by drying out vegetation, making it more inflammable and easily set alight by lightning, spontaneous combustion or fires lit by humans.
The Thomas wildfire in California. According to experts, global warming increases the risk of out-of-control fires by drying out vegetation, making it more inflammable and easily set alight by lightning, spontaneous combustion or fires lit by humans.PHOTO: REUTERS

Modern-day science revealing danger of global warming with each day: French President

PARIS • French President Emmanuel Macron has delivered a bleak assessment on the global fight against climate change to dozens of world leaders and company executives, telling them: "We are losing the battle."

"We're not moving quickly enough. We all need to act," he said, seeking to breathe new life into a collective effort that was weakened this year when President Donald Trump said he was pulling the United States out of an international accord brokered in the French capital two years ago.

Mr Macron, who has worked to establish his role as a global leader since his sweeping election win in May, said modern-day science was revealing with each day the danger that global warming posed to the planet.

"We are losing the battle," the French leader said at the opening of the one-day climate summit meeting in Paris on Tuesday.

He called Mr Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris deal "very bad news" but added that "many have decided to not necessarily accept the American federal government's decision to leave the Paris Agreement".

"We are not going fast enough," Mr Macron said. "What we are starting today is the time of action because the urgency has become permanent and the challenge of our generation is to act."

Several announcements by states, companies and international organisations were made at the One Planet meeting, aimed at helping industries and poorer countries reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and at shifting private investment away from fossil fuels towards cleaner, renewable energies.

World Bank president Jim Yong Kim announced to loud applause on Tuesday that the lender, one of the organisers of the meeting, would "no longer finance upstream oil and gas after 2019".

MUST WALK THE TALK

We are not going fast enough... What we are starting today is the time of action, because the urgency has become permanent and the challenge of our generation is to act.

MR EMMANUEL MACRON

Mr Ma Kai, a vice-premier of China, said his country would start its own carbon market in the coming days. And AXA, the global insurance giant, announced that it would phase out insurance coverage "for new coal construction projects and oil sands businesses".

Other announcements included the creation of a space observatory for climate research, a five-year initiative of 220 global investors to step up pressure on the 100 companies that emit the most greenhouse gas, and the start of a carbon pricing market, initiated by Mexico, to connect different regions of the Americas that have put a price tag on carbon, including California, Quebec and Ontario.

But the leaders at the summit did not announce new binding requirements to curb carbon emissions and did not unlock significant new funds to help developing countries transition away from fossil fuel economies.

More than 50 heads of state and government attended the gathering, held in a new performing arts centre shaped like a sailboat that sits on an island in the Seine, southwest of Paris.

The Paris climate deal was reached in December 2015, when nearly every country in the world agreed to reduce emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases. Since then, Nicaragua and Syria, two holdouts in 2015, have said they would join the agreement, leaving only the US opposed.

Critics called the announcements a vague laundry list of promises and said that too much public and private funding continued to finance fossil fuels.

Still, some said Tuesday's summit showed increased awareness of climate change issues at the business and local level.

"Cities, regions, companies - everybody is asking what has to be done," said Ms Laurence Tubiana, who was France's top climate change envoy at the 2015 talks in Paris. "That is a big change."

REUTERS, NYTIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 14, 2017, with the headline 'We are losing battle against climate change, says Macron'. Print Edition | Subscribe