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The effects of unmet commitments on the environment, as seen in Antarctica: A blog post by the UN Resident Coordinator.
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The effects of unmet commitments on the environment, as seen in Antarctica: A blog post by the UN Resident Coordinator.

Maria José Torres Macho journeyed to Antarctica alongside United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, in preparation for the upcoming global climate conference, COP28, which is taking place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

“The sleeping continent hides under its beauty, its undeniable role as a key climate regulator for the planet. While we enjoyed the majestic and infinite white landscape of islands, glaciers and icebergs spotted with penguins, sea lions, whales and a distinct biodiversity underwater, we confronted the reality that scientific evidence is putting in front of decision makers at this year’s UN Climate Conference -COP 28: the planet needs the Antarctic to remain as it is.

The UN Resident Coordinator in Chile, Maria Maria Jose Torres Macho (second from left) joins the Secretary-General and the delegation from the Government of Chile on a visit to Antarctica.

© UN Chile

Maria Jose Torres Macho, the UN Resident Coordinator in Chile, accompanied by the Secretary-General and a delegation from the Government of Chile, visits Antarctica.

Protecting Antarctica is crucial in order to slow down the rapid increase of climate change and adhere to the goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C.

  • The rate at which ice is melting has tripled compared to previous decades, resulting in a loss of over 1.5 million square km in 2023 alone. This rapid melting is leading to a rise in sea levels, posing a catastrophic threat to the survival of coastal communities.

  • in the Southern Hemisphere

    The rising temperatures in the Antarctic are causing changes to the jet streams in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Secretary-General stated during his visit that although Antarctica may seem far away, its fate is entwined with that of future generations. He emphasized how the repercussions of events in Antarctica will significantly impact the rest of the globe.

He explained that what occurs in Antarctica does not remain in Antarctica.

A perspective from Chile.

In Chile, located thousands of miles north, I work as the UN Resident Coordinator and witness the undeniable impact of Antarctica’s melting ice and increasing sea levels.

As a witness, I have observed the devastating effects of climate change on communities and their ways of life, ranging from recurring periods of drought, desertification, and wildfires to fatal heatwaves and coastal erosion.

The UN is supporting government efforts to prevent biodiversity loss in Chile.

Unsplash/Toomas Tartes

The United Nations is aiding in the Chilean government’s endeavors to combat biodiversity decline.

The water shortage in Chile has a significant impact, especially on those living in rural areas who bear the brunt of its effects.

As the dangers grow, our UN group in Chile is collaborating closely with the local government to increase immediate efforts in addressing the threefold global emergency of climate change, pollution, and biodiversity decline.

We are working together to help the Government achieve its ambitious goals for protecting Chile’s biodiversity, decreasing emissions through the growth of carbon markets, and guiding societal, economic, and environmental shifts towards renewable energy. However, Chile’s involvement in addressing climate change extends beyond its own boundaries.

Guiding from the southern region

Chile is often referred to as the gateway to the Antarctic, serving as a facilitator for numerous countries with research stations in the region and relying on the important efforts of the Chilean Armed Forces.

While on my trip to the continent, I heard numerous accounts from scientists and officers about the unique allure and splendor of the Antarctic. Their dedication and willingness to spend a full year apart from their loved ones to safeguard this vulnerable area greatly impressed me.

COP28 is getting underway in Dubai, UAE.

© UNFCCC/Kiara Worth

The 28th Conference of Parties (COP28) is commencing in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

On a countrywide scale, I was struck by the effective guidance of the Chilean President and their team in coordinating this trip and promoting discourse on climate action and the distinct impact of the Antarctic. At the international level, Chile will also take charge in crucial talks about climate adaptation at COP28 in Dubai.

Towards COP28 

Now more than ever, there is a pressing need for effective regional leaders to step up and prioritize climate action.

Only a few days prior to our trip to Antarctica, the world achieved a somber accomplishment. This is the first instance in recent documented history where the Earth’s average temperature has risen by two degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels, not meeting the goals set in the Paris climate agreement.

During my time in Antarctica, I observed the consequences of broken promises, but also experienced the Secretary-General’s resolute efforts to deliver a powerful message from the southern region: in order to break the world’s reliance on fossil fuels, COP 28 must be a call to take action, not just empty rhetoric. The dedication and teamwork I witnessed during my trip to Antarctica prove that this goal is achievable.

“The Secretary-General expressed that in Antarctica, cooperation is prioritized over competition, and this is the same spirit that we should embrace at COP28.”

  • The UN Resident Coordinator, also known as the RC, is the highest-ranking official of the UN development system in a specific country.

  • For this special series, UN News is extending an invitation to RCs to contribute blog posts on topics that are significant to both the UN and the nation in which they are stationed.
  • Find out more about the United Nations’ efforts in Chile by visiting this site.

  • Find out more about the UN Development Coordination Office here.