World leaders on Sunday called for more action and inclusion of all countries in the global drive towards a cleaner and greener planet at a climate summit hosted virtually by South Korea.
Climate change is a major threat to global growth, with perils ranging from declines in crop yields, extreme weather that devastates tourist economies, disease outbreaks and other catastrophes that would sap productivity.
South Korea -- which recently announced plans to cut finance for international coal projects -- is seeking a bigger role in the global initiative to go green.
"South Korea will play a responsible role as a bridging nation between developing and advanced nations," said President Moon Jae-in as he opened the 2021 Partnering for Green Growth and the Global Goals 2030, or P4G, summit.
The two-day summit is the second of its kind following the inaugural meeting held in Copenhagen in 2018, and is focused on public-private partnerships, especially in developing countries.
Advanced nations have laid out ambitious emissions-cutting goals in recent months, as well as plans to ultimately go carbon neutral by 2050.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on the countries to phase out their dependence on fossil fuels, warning climate change is threatening people's lives and the economy as much as the Covid-19 pandemic.
Earlier this month Germany tightened its targets to reduce CO2 emissions -- including a 65 percent cut in emissions by 2030 -- after a landmark ruling by the country's top court declared a flagship climate protection law "insufficient".
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said countries must now deliver on their green pledges.
"It's a great start, but let's not pat ourselves on the back just yet because our planet and our people need more," he said.
"We need governments that will not just make promises on climate and nature but match those words with deeds."
- Falling behind-
World leaders committed under the 2015 Paris accord to keeping the global temperature increase to under two degrees Celsius -- and ideally closer to 1.5C -- by 2050.
Yet many of the largest emitters have so far failed to keep up their commitments and countries have not even agreed on a unified rulebook governing how the Paris agreement works in practice.
The UN says that emissions must fall nearly eight percent annually to keep 1.5C in play -- equivalent to the emissions saved during the pandemic every single year through 2030.
World leaders also stressed the importance of making sure that poorer countries are not left out in the global initiative to go green.
African countries should not be "locked up" in fossil fuels and be able to advance with the rest of the world, said French President Emmanuel Macron, calling for ways to draw large-scale investments in renewable energy.
"It is not a global partnership if some are left struggling to survive," added UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
"Tackling climate change head-on will help protect the most vulnerable people from the next crisis while sustaining a job-rich recovery from the pandemic," he said.
The World Bank estimates that between 32 million and 132 million additional people could fall into extreme poverty by 2030 due to the effects of climate change.