PARIS (AFP) – Major investors vowed Tuesday to move away from Earth-warming fossil fuels as world leaders met in Paris seeking to unlock new cash to save humanity from climate “doom”.
Two years to the day since 195 nations sealed the Paris Agreement to avert worst-case climate change, banks and companies announced billions of dollars of intended divestments from coal, oil and natural gas at a finance-themed climate summit.
But conference host France, as well as the UN and the World Bank, said efforts to shift the global economy into a green energy future were too little and too slow, as a report warned about unprecedented Arctic warming.
“We are losing the battle” against climate change, French President Emmanuel Macron told delegates. “We are not moving fast enough.”
For his part, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said continued fossil-fuel subsidies amounted to humanity “investing in its own doom”.
“We are in a war for the very existence of life on our planet as we know it,” Mr Guterres told more than 50 heads of state including Mexico’s Enrique Pena Nieto, Britain’s Theresa May and Spain’s Mariano Rajoy, at the summit called by Macron.
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said Arctic warming – which is happening at twice the planetary rate – was the “new normal”, and would have global consequences.
“The Arctic has traditionally been the refrigerator of the planet,” said Jeremy Mathis, director of NOAA’s Arctic Research Program.
“But the door to that refrigerator has been left open.”
The Paris Agreement, which took more than two decades to negotiate, seeks to limit average global warming to under two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels.
Under it, countries have pledged nonbinding cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of oil, coal and natural gas.
US President Donald Trump has called climate change a “hoax”, rejecting the Paris deal and vowing to restore jobs in the fossil-fuel industry.
World Bank president Jim Yong Kim announced to loud applause Tuesday that the lender would “no longer finance upstream oil and gas after 2019” in a move hailed by Greenpeace as a “damning vote of no confidence to the future of the fossil fuel industry”.
French insurer Axa, meanwhile, said it would speed up its divestments from the carbon sector, pulling 2.5 billion euros ($2.9 billion) from companies which derive more than 30 percent of their revenues from coal.
And a group of more than 200 global investors launched a campaign to pressure the world’s largest corporate carbon emitters – including BP, Airbus, Volkswagen and Glencore – to go greener.