We are losing the race on climate catastrophe, warns UN chief, Latest World News - The New Paper

We are losing the race on climate catastrophe, warns UN chief

This article is more than 12 months old

But Guterres says there is still hope and greenhouse gas reduction targets are reachable

WASHINGTON:  United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres said on Tuesday the world was "losing the race" to avert climate disaster, but that greenhouse gas reduction targets were not out of reach yet.

He was speaking during an interview with the Covering Climate Now coalition of media days before a UN youth climate summit that will be followed by a meeting with world leaders, where he will urge countries to raise their commitments set under the Paris agreement.

The landmark accord saw countries pledge to limit the long-term rise in the average temperature of the earth to 2 deg C over pre-industrial levels, and if possible to 1.5 deg C.

"What I want is to have the whole of society putting pressure on governments to make governments understand they need to run faster, because we are losing the race," he said, adding: "What the science tells us today is that these targets are still reachable."

Mr Guterres said inaction by key countries, including the US, could at least be partly offset by action at the sub-national level, for example in carbon neutral pledges made by the states of California and New York.

"I think one of the best things of US society is the fact that it is a federal country... that decisions are decentralised, so I will be always very strongly in favour of keeping decisions on climate change as decentralised as possible," he said.

He noted banks and investment funds were pulling out of the coal and fossil fuel sectors.

Hecited the European Union, where just three countries oppose the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, saying he felt a "new wind" in the push for renewable energy, with the growth of solar power in India and China.

Failure to meet the goals could lead to the crossing of "tipping points" such as the thawing of the earth's permafrost that accelerates warming, creating a situation where extreme weather events become the norm.

Mr Guterres said he was heartened by growing societal awareness, which meant hope was not yet lost, "but that requires profound changes in the way we produce food, in the way we power our economies, in the way we organise our cities, in the way we produce energy".

"I feel that more and more people, companies, cities and governments are understanding that needs to be done." - AFP