UN Secretary General alarmed by paralysis of world leaders on climate change

An environmental activist takes part in a demonstration in front of the United Nations building in Bangkok

Guterres warned that 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, 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 his landmark speech on climate action, at UN Headquarters in NY.

Antonio Guterres warned in NY that climate change was moving faster than humankind, and appealed for leadership from politicians, business and scientists to head off the threat.

The call comes amid growing concerns over the slow pace of United Nations negotiations.

Harjeet Singh, global lead for climate change at ActionAid International, highlighted Guterres' comments on the need to help the poorest nations and the most vulnerable people hit hardest by extreme heat, storms and floods.

Corals are dying, he said, the oceans are becoming more acidic, and there are growing conflicts over dwindling resources.

The announcement comes after the World Meteorological Organisation in May reported that the planet has reached the highest monthly average for carbon dioxide levels ever recorded, with a concentration level estimated to be the highest in 3 million years. Saying it was too expensive to do so was "hogwash". "We must halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and change the way we farm".

The world has the tools, and the ability. He cited the rising use of renewable energy, saying "today, it is competitive with - and even cheaper - than coal and oil, especially if one factors in the cost of pollution". By 2030, wind and solar could power more than a third of Europe. The past week of tense negotiations could end up "leaving the heavy lifting for COP24", said Greenpeace East Asia Global Climate Political Advisor Taehyun Park.

Guterres said 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 U.S., new renewable energy jobs now outstrip those created in the oil and gas industries, noting several examples from across the world of climate action resulting in enormous benefits for countries and communities.

"The U.S. has announced its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement but still negotiates as if it is a Party, weakening global cooperation by not contributing to finance and technology transfer to developing countries", Meena Raman, legal adviser at Third World Network, said in an emailed statement.

Progress on that road is now stalled.

Delegates will meet again in Katowice in Poland in December to try to finalise the rule book for the Paris pact, but the omens are not good.

President Donald Trump dealt a setback to the United Nations push for climate action when he announced final yr that the USA was as soon as withdrawing from the Paris settlement.

"The mountain in entrance of us is terribly high", he said. The "polluter to pay" norm has been the anchor in multilateral environment agreements since the Rio Agreement in 1992, but it is now being flouted openly. "But, in leading the charge to block practically every discussion on finance for the Paris guidelines, the U.S. administration is threatening the future of the agreement and multilateralism itself".

Asserting that climate change is pushing the world towards "the edge of the abyss", United Nations chief Antonio Guteress has said that he will convene a meeting in September 2019 to bring climate action to the top of the global agenda.

But recent reports have shown that we're far off the mark.

"Guterres' message sends a strong signal to rich countries that they must stop backtracking on their commitments", Singh said. "Our fate is in our own hands".

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