The UN secretary general has warned that the planet is close to “the point of no return” and branded global efforts to combat climate change “utterly inadequate”, as world leaders gather for a vital conference on the Paris Agreement.
Antonio Guterres issued the stark warning ahead of the fortnight-long UN climate change conference (COP25) in Madrid.
Noting that the world has the scientific knowledge and the technical means to limit global warming, the UN chief denounced policymakers’ lacklustre response in the face of a “global climate emergency”.
Mr Guterres said: “The signals of hope are multiplying. Public opinion is waking up everywhere, young people are showing remarkable leadership and mobilisation.
“More and more cities, financial institutions and businesses are committing to a 1.5C pathway … what is still lacking is political will.
He said that for the leaders of all countries to show “anything less” than accountability and responsibility, and a willingness to commit to ambitious targets “would be a betrayal of our entire human family and all generations to come”.
Mr Guterres said he hoped the Madrid meeting would prompt governments to aim for net-zero emissions by 2050, ahead of a deadline to do so at COP26 in Glasgow next year.
Last week, the UN’s World Meteorological Organisation warned that the level of greenhouse gases had reached another all-time high, “with no sign of a slowdown, let alone a decline”.
“We are here to find answers for article six, not to find excuses,” Mr Guterres said.
While these talks represent the last chance for countries to keep the Paris Agreement alive by firming up their targets for 2050 after a five-year grace period, the conference also marks the first since Mike Pompeo’s announcement that the US would turn its back on the accord, as Donald Trump had long threatened.
The US will be represented by Marcia Bernicat, the assistant state secretary for international environmental affairs, while House speaker Nancy Pelosi will also lead a delegation of Democratic lawmakers.
The talks were initially to be hosted in Chile, but deadly anti-government protests in its capital, Santiago, saw the conference relocated to Spain.
Greta Thunberg is making her way across the Atlantic in a catamaran in order to attend the talks, and is expected to land in Lisbon on Tuesday morning.