António Guterres, UN-Secretary-General: 

 

REMARKS on CLIMATE CHANGE

Speech at UN General Assembly, New York, 26.9.2018

…”Climate change is the defining issue of our time – and we are at a defining moment. Many times journalists ask me what are my priorities. I always say we have many priorities in the UN – peace and security, human rights, and development –  but I would say that this is the absolute priority.

When world leaders signed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change three years ago, they pledged to keep global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to work to keep the increase as close as possible to 1.5 degrees. These objectives were agreed as the bare minimum to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.The commitment was universal – but we are nowhere close to where we need to be to meet these minimum targets.

Climate change is indeed running faster than we are, and we have the risk to see irreversible damage that will not be possible to recover if we don’t act very, very quickly.

According to a United Nations study, the commitments made so far by Parties to the Paris Agreement represent just one-third of what is needed. We need to do more and we need to do it quicker: we need more ambition and accelerated action by 2020. If we do not reverse the current trend of emissions by 2020, it may be impossible to meet the 1.5 degree goal. And that is what leaders committed to do in Paris.

The effects of climate change are already upon us, with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain life in the planet. Just last year, the economic costs of climate-related disasters hit a record: US$320 billion. We know what we need to do.  We have the resources and technologies at our disposal.

Climate action makes moral sense, it makes business sense, and it is the keystone in our efforts to achieve sustainable development that leaves no one behind. So why is climate change faster than we are?

The only possible answer is that we still lack strong leadership to take the bold decisions needed to put our economies and societies on the path of low-carbon growth and climate-resilience.”

…” I call specifically on the countries that account for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions.  In this regard, I will be reaching out to the leaders of the G20, the group of countries that account for around 80% of the global greenhouse emissions. Only courageous leadership will make the goals of Paris a reality. It is also essential that governments fulfil their pledge to mobilize 100 billion dollars a year by 2020 for climate action.

The time is long gone when we could afford delay. Each day brings further evidence of the mounting existential threat of climate change to the planet. Every day that we fail to act is a day that we step a little closer towards a fate that none of us wants — a fate that will resonate through generations in the damage done to humankind and to life on Earth.

Our fate is in our hands. Let us finally commit – together — to rise to the challenge before it is too late.”

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