The world risks crossing the point of no return on climate change, with disastrous consequences for people across the planet and the natural systems that sustain them, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres warned, calling for more leadership and greater ambition for climate action, to reverse course.
The pledge made by world leaders in the Paris Agreement three years ago to stop temperature rising by less than 2-degree-Celsius and working to keep the increase as close as possible to 1.5-degree-Celsius, “were really the bare minimum to avoid the worst impacts of climate change,” said Secretary-General Guterres, in a landmark speech on climate action, at UN Headquarters in New York.
“Put simply, we need to put the brake on deadly greenhouse gas emissions and drive climate action,” he added, calling for a shift away from the dependency on fossil fuels towards cleaner energy and away from deforestation to more efficient use of resources.
In his message, Mr. Guterres highlighted the huge economic costs of climate change and the opportunities presented by climate action.
“Climate action and socio-economic progress are mutually supportive, with gains of 26 trillion dollars predicted by 2030 compared with business as usual, if we pursue the right path,” he said, citing the findings of the recent Climate Economy report from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate Change.
The benefits transcend monetary figures.
“Climate-resilient water supply and sanitation could save the lives of more than 360,000 infants every year, clean air has vast benefits for public health [and] in China and the United States, new renewable energy jobs now outstrip those created in the oil and gas industries,” explained Mr. Guterres, noting several examples from across the world of climate action resulting in enormous benefits for countries and communities.
Underscoring that important strides are being made, the UN chief highlighted the imperative to speed up these transitions.
“And for that to happen, the leaders of the world need to step up.
“The time has come for our leaders to show they care about the people whose fate they hold in their hands. We need them to show they care about the future,” he stressed.
Looking ahead, the UN chief emphasised that he would be reiterating this message at the General Assembly’s high level segment later in the month as well as at other key events, including the G7 and G20 meetings of world leaders; and the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) meetings.