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.

Rulers and delegates from almost 200 countries will attempt to firm up the commitments made in 2015, establish new international rules for emissions trading, and broker systems of compensation for poorer countries already affected by global warming.
The Alliance of Small Island States, representing nations most at risk from rising seas, views the talks as the last chance to avert potential “catastrophe”, while Save the Children warns that 33 million African children are facing hunger as a result of cyclones and droughts made more likely by climate change.
“The point of no return is no longer over the horizon,” Mr Guterres told reporters in Madrid. “It is in sight and hurtling towards us.”

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.

“Political will to put a price on carbon. Political will to stop subsidies on fossil fuels. Political will to stop building coal power plants from 2020 onwards. Political will to shift taxation from income to carbon. Taxing pollution instead of people.”