UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said 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, which includes AFP, 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.
It’s impossible not to be horrified by the level of destruction caused by #HurricaneDorian in the Bahamas.
In the era of the climate crisis, natural disasters have become more frequent and devastating.
It’s time to change course and implement strong #ClimateAction now. pic.twitter.com/P1Cx5JygDS
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) September 15, 2019
The landmark accord saw countries pledge to limit the long-term rise in the average temperature of the Earth to two degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels, and if possible to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
“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.”
Read more: Landmark UN report calls for fixing forests and food production to deal with climate change
Guterres said that inaction by some key countries, including the US, could be at least partly offset by action at the sub-national level, for example in the carbon neutral pledges made by the states of California and New York.
“I think one of the best things of the US society is the fact that it is a federal country… that decisions are decentralized, so I will be always very strongly in favor of keeping decisions on climate change as decentralized as possible,” he said.
The landmark accord saw countries pledge to limit the long-term rise in the average temperature of the Earth to two degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.
He noted that major cities, regions and businesses were taking over, and that banks and investment funds were pulling out of the coal and fossil fuel sectors.
Guterres also cited the example of the European Union, where only three countries now oppose the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, and said that he felt a “new wind” in the push for renewable energy, especially with the growth of solar in India and China.
Read more: Big Oil companies bet that climate change goals will not be met
Failure to meet the goals laid out under the Paris agreement could lead to the crossing of so-called “tipping points” such as the thawing of the Earth’s permafrost that further accelerate warming, creating a situation where extreme weather events become the norm.
Guterres said he was heartened by growing societal awareness, which meant that 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 organize 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,” he said.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk.