Planet on ‘Red Alert’, UN Chief Warns Leaders at President Biden’s Climate Summit
New York (United Nations) – World leaders must act now and put the planet on a green path because “we are at the verge of the abyss”, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Thursday in his address to the virtual climate summit convened by United States President Joseph Biden.
“Mother Nature is not waiting”, the UN chief warned, as the past decade was the hottest on record, and the world continues to see rising sea-levels, scorching temperatures, devastating tropical cyclones and epic wildfires.
“We need a green planet — but the world is on red alert,” he said. “We are at the verge of the abyss. We must make sure the next step is in the right direction. Leaders everywhere must take action.”
The Secretary-General thanked President Biden for hosting the two-day Leaders Summit on Climate, and applauded US commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
In his introductory remarks, President Biden announced the country would slash emissions in half, by 2030. He spoke of the “extraordinary job creation and economic opportunity” that climate response provides, proposing investments in sectors such as energy, transportation, construction and farming.
President Biden acknowledged that no nation can solve the climate emergency alone, and he called for leaders of the world’s largest economies to “step up” in the race to a sustainable future.
“Scientists tell us that this is the decisive decade. This is the decade we must make decisions that will avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis,” he said.
Guterres used the Summit to amplify his call for a global coalition to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and for countries to ramp up their commitments under the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change.
The 2015 treaty aims to limit global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and requires governments to commit to increasingly ambitious climate action through plans known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
“All countries – starting with major emitters – should submit new and more ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions for mitigation, adaptation and finance, laying out actions and policies for the next 10 years aligned with a 2050 net-zero pathway”, he said.
These commitments also must be translated into “concrete, immediate action”, he added, as it is estimated that less than a quarter of pandemic recovery spending will go towards mitigating emissions, reducing air pollution or strengthening natural capital.