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U.N. says more needed 'on all fronts' to meet climate goals

Wildfires in Trapani Sicily

By David Stanway and Riham Alkousaa

(Reuters) -The world is not on target to curb global warming and more action is needed on all fronts, the United Nations warned on Friday, in the run-up to crucial international talks aimed at stemming the climate crisis.

The Global Stocktake report, the latest warning from the U.N. about environmental perils, will form the basis of the COP28 talks in Dubai at the end of the year and follows months of wildfires and soaring temperatures.

The report, culminating a two-year evaluation of the 2015 Paris climate agreement goals, distils thousands of submissions from experts, governments and campaigners and will lay the groundwork for the global stock-take discussion at COP28.

"The Paris Agreement has driven near-universal climate action by setting goals and sending signals to the world regarding the urgency of responding to the climate crisis," it said. "While action is proceeding, much more is needed now on all fronts."

Nearly 200 countries agreed in 2015 in Paris to limit warming to no more than 2 Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and to strive to keep the increase to 1.5 C.

While each country is responsible for deciding its own climate actions, they also agreed to submit to a progress report by 2023 to see what more should be done.

The U.N. said existing national pledges to cut emissions were insufficient to keep temperatures within the 1.5 C threshold. More than 20 gigatonnes of further CO2 reductions were needed this decade - and global net zero by 2050 - in order to meet the goals, the U.N. assessment said.

In Friday some of the world's most climate vulnerable countries said the report should spur action from global leaders.

"With leaders gathering this month for the United Nations Secretary General’s Climate Ambition Summit ahead of COP28, the findings and recommendations of this Report need to be a wake-up call and a trigger for cogent commitments," said Pa'olelei Luteru, chair of the Association of Small Island States.

'BOLD TO-DO LIST'

The report urged countries to cut the use of "unabated" coal power by 67-92% by 2030 versus 2019 levels and to virtually eliminate it as a source of electricity by 2050.

Low and zero-carbon electricity should account for as much as 99% of the global total by mid-century, while technological challenges holding back carbon capture must be resolved.

The report also called for funding to be unlocked to support low-carbon development, noting that billions of dollars were still being invested in fossil fuels.

"It serves up a bold to-do list for governments to limit warming to 1.5C and protect people everywhere from climate devastation," said Tom Evans, policy advisor on climate diplomacy at British climate think tank E3G.

Commitment is needed to phase out fossil fuels, set 2030 targets for renewable energy expansion, ensure the financial system funds climate action, and raise funds for adaptation and damage, he said.

"Anything less will fall short on the necessary steps laid out in this report."

Sultan Al Jaber, who will preside over the Nov. 30-Dec. 12 summit in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), told Reuters the stock take gave good direction, and urged states and private sector leaders to come to COP28 with real commitments.

Also on Friday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told G20 bloc leaders that they have the power to reset a climate crisis that is "spinning out of control".

A Brazilian climate official told Reuters: "What we need is an unprecedented mobilization both in terms of scale and speed of all of humanity’s financial, technology, and capacity building resources to be channeled towards sustainable development."

(Reporting by David Stanway in Singapore and Riham Alkousaa in Berlin; additional reporting by Jake Spring in Sao Paulo and Valerie Volcovici in Washington; editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Jason Neely)