U.N Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday that the climate crisis is a code red for humanity and that urgent action is needed before it is too late.
“The United Nations and this assembly were created precisely for the kind of challenge that brings us together today. The climate crisis is a code red for humanity. This assembly, and governments around the world, face a moment of truth,” he told a UN General Assembly high-level thematic debate on climate action.
In six days, world leaders will be put to the test at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland. Their actions — or inactions — will show their seriousness about addressing this planetary emergency, he said.
The warning signs are hard to miss. Pollution kills 9 million people every year. Every day, dozens of species go extinct. Scorching temperatures are turning farmlands into parched landscapes. Cities and entire countries are watching sea levels rise around them. Increasing temperatures will make vast stretches of the planet unlivable by century’s end, said Guterres.
The world is still on track for a global temperature rise of 2.7 degrees Celsius, a far cry from the 1.5-degree Celsius target to which the world agreed under the Paris Agreement, which is the only sustainable pathway, he said.
And the 1.5-degree Celsius target is entirely achievable — if global emissions are reduced by 45 percent compared to 2010 levels this decade; if global net-zero emissions can be achieved by 2050; and if world leaders arrive in Glasgow with bold, ambitious and verifiable 2030 targets, and new, concrete policies to reverse this disaster, he said.
“Group of 20 (G20) leaders, in particular, need to deliver. The time has passed for diplomatic niceties. If governments, especially G20 governments, do not stand up and lead this effort, we are headed for terrible human suffering,” said Guterres.
But he added that all countries need to realize that the old, carbon-burning model of development is a death sentence for their economies and for the planet.
“We need decarbonization now, across every sector in every country. We need to shift subsidies from fossil fuels to renewable energy and tax pollution, not people. We need to put a price on carbon, and channel that back towards resilient infrastructures and jobs. And we need to phase out coal — by 2030 in OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries and by 2040 in all other countries.”
He also asked businesses, investors, and individuals to do their part.
“Over the last 76 years, this assembly has gathered the world around crisis after crisis to build consensus for action. But rarely have we faced a crisis like this one. A truly existential crisis that — if not addressed — threatens not only us, but succeeding generations,” he said. “There is one path forward. A 1.5-degree future is the only livable future for humanity. I urge leaders to get on with the job before it’s too late.”