Humanity is going through a brand new war, unprecedented in historical past, the secretary general of the UN has warned, which is in peril of destroying our future earlier than we have now absolutely understood the danger.
The stark message from António Guterres follows a 12 months of world upheaval, with the coronavirus pandemic inflicting governments to close down complete international locations for months at a time, whereas wildfires, hurricanes and highly effective storms have scarred the globe.
Guterres mentioned: “Humanity is waging war on nature. This is suicidal. Nature always strikes back – and it is already doing so with growing force and fury. Biodiversity is collapsing. One million species are at risk of extinction. Ecosystems are disappearing before our eyes … Human activities are at the root of our descent toward chaos. But that means human action can help to solve it.”
He listed the human-inflicted wounds on the pure world: the unfold of deserts; wetlands misplaced; forests lower down; oceans overfished and choked with plastic; dying coral reefs; air air pollution killing 9 million individuals a 12 months, greater than the present pandemic; and the truth that 75% of recent and rising human infectious ailments have, like Covid-19, come from animals.
Though Guterres, like his two predecessors, has frequently spoken on the hazards of the local weather disaster, this was his strongest language but. The UN was based 75 years in the past on the finish of the second world war to attempt to promote world peace after two devastating world conflicts. Guterres made a deliberate invocation of that unique mission, making use of it to the climate and biodiversity crises.
“Making peace with nature is the defining task of the 21st century,” he mentioned, in a digital tackle entitled The State of the Planet, at Columbia University in New York. “It must be the top, top priority for everyone, everywhere.”
He mentioned future generations would face ruin from our actions immediately. “This is an epic policy test. But ultimately this is a moral test … We cannot use [our] resources to lock in policies that burden [future generations] with a mountain of debt on a broken planet.”
He additionally put inequality firmly on the coronary heart of the issue, warning that the poorest and most susceptible – even in wealthy international locations – have been going through the brunt of the assault.
Guterres mentioned greenhouse gas emissions were 62% higher than when worldwide local weather negotiations started in 1990. A report from the World Meteorological Organisation, additionally printed on Wednesday, discovered 2020 was on monitor to be one of many three warmest years on file globally, regardless of the cooling results of the La Niña climate system, whereas the previous decade was the most popular in human historical past and ocean warmth was discovered to be at file ranges.
Even with the impacts of the coronavirus crisis, greenhouse gasoline emissions are set to rise once more this 12 months.
However, Guterres additionally struck a be aware of hope. Many international locations, together with the largest emitter, China, the EU, and the US president-elect, Joe Biden, have adopted targets of reaching net-zero emissions across the center of the century. Renewable vitality is now cheaper than coal in lots of areas, and new applied sciences akin to electrical automobiles are gaining tempo.
He mentioned: “I firmly believe that 2021 can be a new kind of leap year – the year of a quantum leap towards carbon neutrality. Sound economic analysis is our ally.”
Investors and governments should seize the chance to “flick the green switch” whereas there was nonetheless time, he mentioned. He regarded forward to the important UN Cop26 local weather talks, to be hosted by the UK subsequent 12 months, because the second when nations ought to make a decisive flip in the direction of a inexperienced world financial system.
In 10 days’ time, Guterres, together with the French authorities and Boris Johnson, will host a summit of world leaders to arrange for the Cop26 talks that have been postponed by a 12 months to subsequent November due to the pandemic.
At the Climate Ambition Summit, which marks 5 years because the forging of the Paris settlement, governments are anticipated to affirm plans to cut back greenhouse gasoline emissions drastically within the subsequent decade, according to their long-term objectives.
Earlier this week, the Climate Action Tracker calculated that if all of the net-zero pledges made by governments and leaders have been to be fulfilled, temperatures would rise by about 2.1C above pre-industrial ranges. That is not far above the higher restrict set by the Paris settlement, of holding temperatures to not more than 2C above pre-industrial ranges, considered the restrict of security past which local weather breakdown is more likely to change into catastrophic and irreversible.
However, that relies upon on long-term targets set for many years therefore to be fulfilled with motion now. Guterres warned that pledges weren’t sufficient in themselves.
He mentioned: “We need all governments to translate these pledges into policies, plans and targets with specific timelines. This will provide certainty and confidence for businesses and the financial sector to invest for net zero.”
Guterres referred to as for international locations to place a worth on carbon emissions, cease investing in fossil fuels and part out fossil gasoline subsidies, cease constructing new coal energy vegetation, and to shift their fiscal base from taxing incomes to taxing air pollution.
He additionally mentioned governments should act swiftly on the biodiversity disaster, because the UN plans a number of main conferences subsequent 12 months that may tackle species destruction, the oceans, meals manufacturing and cities. “Next year gives us a wealth of opportunities to stop the plunder and start the healing,” he mentioned.
The stark message from Guterres was echoed by Laurent Fabius, the French overseas minister, who led the landmark Paris conference in 2015. “There is no vaccine against climate warming,” he warned. “But there is an antidote, which is to fully implement the Paris agreement.”
He mentioned monetary help for growing international locations could be important to forging a world consensus on reaching net-zero emissions, because it was basic to success at Paris.
“Money, money, money,” mentioned Fabius, was key to the talks, and wealthy international locations should make good on their promise to supply at the very least $100bn a 12 months to growing nations, to assist them lower emissions and address the impacts of local weather breakdown.
Along with monetary help, governments should attempt to make sure that the transition to a inexperienced financial system benefited all sections of society, added Fabius. “The question of climate change is also a question of inequality. We must deal with this, otherwise we have a big problem.”
Amber Rudd, the previous UK vitality and local weather minister, who represented the UK on the Paris talks, mentioned Boris Johnson had weakened his personal place at Cop26 by decreasing the UK’s spending on abroad help, which might diminish the host’s leverage in bringing growing international locations collectively.
“A country that understood the seriousness of Cop26 would not be cutting international aid right now,” she mentioned.