The world must cease its “senseless and suicidal war against nature”, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, singling out developed nations and their gluttonous use of the planet’s resources.
Guterres said if global consumption were at the level of the world’s richest countries, “we would need more than three planet Earths”.
“We know what to do and increasingly we have the tools to do it, but we still lack leadership and cooperation. So today I appeal to leaders in all sectors – lead us out of this mess,” Guterres said on Thursday.
Developed nations must at least double financial support to developing countries so they can adapt and build resilience to climate disruptions that are already happening, the UN chief said.
“The 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement show the way, but we must act on these commitments. Otherwise, they are nothing but hot air – and hot air is killing us.”
Guterres was speaking in Stockholm where he met Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson in advance of a two-day climate and environment conference.
Humanity has less than three years to halt the rise of planet-warming carbon emissions and less than a decade to slash them almost in half, a recent UN report said.
Global emissions are now on track to blow past the 1.5°C warming limit envisioned in the 2015 Paris Agreement and reach 3.2 degrees Celsius (5.76 degrees Fahrenheit) by the century’s end.
“There is one thing that threatens all our progress – the climate crisis. Unless we act now, we will not have a livable planet,” said Guterres.
Fossil fuel dependency
Andersson said Russia’s war against Ukraine must not overshadow the climate crisis.
“We must never let one crisis overshade another. We just have to work harder. And the war in Ukraine has also made it very clear fossil fuel dependency is not only a climate risk, it is also a security risk. And it has to end,” said Andersson.
In recent months, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has published the first two instalments in a trilogy of mammoth scientific assessments covering how emissions are heating the planet – and what that means for life on Earth.
Carbon emissions need to drop 43 percent by 2030 and 84 percent by mid-century to meet the Paris goal of 1.5C (2.7F).
Nations must stop burning coal completely and slash oil and gas use by 60 percent and 70 percent, respectively, to keep within the Paris goals, the IPCC said.
The Stockholm conference commemorates 50 years since the creation of the UN Environment Programme in 1972.
“We face a triple planetary crisis,” said Guterres. “A climate emergency that is killing and displacing ever more people each year. Ecosystem degradation that is escalating the loss of biodiversity and compromising the wellbeing of more than three billion people. And a growing tide of pollution and waste that is costing some nine million lives a year.”