February 19 kicked off Global Engagement Summit, and also marked the date the United States officially rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement, a historic multilateral effort to reduce global emissions and combat the harmful effects of climate change.

UNA-USA hosted its first ever all-virtual Global Engagement Summit February 19-20. This annual event brings together community leaders, young professionals, issues experts, lawmakers, and UN officials to dive deep into the mission and work of the United Nations. It welcomed more participants than ever before to delve into the mission and work of the United Nations. Both U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John F. Kerry and UN Secretary-General António Guterres joined this event to celebrate this important moment.  Indeed for this special day the U.S. recommitted to bold climate action, joining forces with hundreds of other nations representing the majority of the global population. Special Envoy Kerry and Secretary-General Guterres discussed the significance of America’s role in preserving a habitable planet and answered questions from Americans in UNA-USA’s network in a special opening program moderated by UN Foundation President and CEO Elizabeth Couse.

Describing the US’ re-entry into the Paris Climate Agreement as a day of hope for the world, UN chief Antonio Guterres has said the absence of a key player for the past four years was a missing link that created a gap and weakened the historic accord. On Friday, the US officially returned to the Paris climate accord, 107 days after it left at the behest of former president Donald Trump. “Today is a day of hope, as the United States officially rejoins the Paris Agreement. This is good news for the United States and for the world,” the Secretary-General said. “It is a pleasure to mark this occasion with you all, and particularly with Special Envoy John Kerry, whose own work is reflected in this historic agreement, Guterres said on Friday during a virtual event to mark the United States rejoining the Paris Agreement.

Trump had withdrawn the US from the historic Paris Agreement and Guterres had termed that decision as a major disappointment for global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote global security. President Joe Biden had signed several key executive orders just hours after being sworn-in as the 46th President of the United States last month and Washington rejoining the Paris climate accord was among the first steps of the new presidency. Kerry was the US Secretary of State when the Paris Agreement was adopted in December 2015. In a symbolic gesture, he had signed the treaty at the UN in April 2016 accompanied by his granddaughter.

During the virtual ceremony, Guterres said that for the past four years, the absence of a key player created a gap in the Paris Agreement; a missing link that weakened the whole. So today, as we mark the United States re-entry into this treaty, we also recognize its restoration, in its entirety, as its creators intended. Welcome back.

Guterres said that while the Paris Agreement is a historic achievement, he warned that the commitments made so far are not enough and even those commitments made in Paris are not being met. The warning signs are everywhere. The six years since 2015 have been the six hottest years on record. Carbon dioxide levels are at record highs. Fires, floods and other extreme weather events are getting worse, in every region, he said.

The UN chief cautioned that if nations don’t change course, we could face a catastrophic temperature rise of more than 3 degrees this century. During a press conference on Thursday, Guterres said that the year 2021 is a make-it-or-break-it year. We are not too late, but we need to make sure that we are able, not only to create the conditions for a drastic reduction of emissions in the horizon of the next decade, making it possible to achieve the limit of 1.5 degrees, he said.

The UN chief said a central objective for the United Nations this year is to create a truly global coalition for net-zero emissions by 2050. In the past year, countries representing 70 per cent of the world economy and 65 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions committed to net zero, he said.

He expressed hope that the US will formally join this coalition very soon, as pledged by President Biden, and will present its concrete plan to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. We rely on the United States to build on this with an ambitious and credible Nationally Determined Contribution for 2030, aligned with President Biden’s commitment to achieve net-zero emissions before 2050, he said. Outlining the actions needed now by the international community, Guterres said the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity to rebuild a stronger and better world. To do that, we must invest in a green economy that will help to heal the planet and its people, and create well-paying, stable jobs to ensure more equitable and sustainable prosperity, he said. Now is the time to implement transformative change, by phasing out coal and supporting a just transition, with training and opportunities for people whose jobs will be impacted, he said. He also called on nations to stop investing in fossil fuel projects that ruin people’s health, destroy biodiversity and contribute to climate catastrophe.

The Paris Agreement is our pact with our descendants and the whole human family. This is the race of our lifetimes. We must go much faster, and much farther. It is within our power to build a future of renewable energy and green infrastructure that protects people and planet and ensures prosperity for all, Guterres said.

By  Alize Utteryn   02/20/2021

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