Antonio Guterres: “We are close to a climate catastrophe”

The UN Secretary-General made a report on the situation on the planet at Columbia University.

On Wednesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivered a speech in New York, at Columbia University. He said that today our planet is in a “very difficult state” because humanity has launched a suicidal war against nature, which in turn is striking back. Ecosystems are “disappearing before our eyes.”

Every year, humanity loses 10 million hectares of forest, and the oceans are “suffocated by plastic waste.” Air and water pollution kills 9 million people every year, which is more than 6 times the pandemic’s current losses.

Two new authoritative reports from the World meteorological organization and the United Nations Environment Programme show “how close we are to a climate catastrophe,” Guterres said.

“2020 will be one of the three warmest years on record, even taking into account the cooling effect of the La niña phenomenon this year,” the UN Secretary-General said. – The last decade was the warmest in the history of humanity. Ocean temperatures have reached a record high. In the Arctic in 2020, exceptionally high temperatures were recorded, more than 3 degrees Celsius above average, and more than 5 degrees in Northern Siberia. In October, the area of Arctic ice decreased to a record low value, and now its recovery is at a record low rate.”

Also, permafrost melts and, consequently, releases methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Apocalyptic fires and floods, cyclones, and hurricanes are increasingly becoming the new normal. As noted by Guterres, 30 hurricanes passed in the North Atlantic during the hurricane season, which is more than twice the average for many years and is a new seasonal record. Last year, such disasters cost the world $ 150 billion.

According to the UN Secretary-General, the quarantine regime connected with COVID-19 has led to a temporary reduction in emissions and environmental pollution. However, the level of carbon dioxide is still at a record high and continues to grow. In 2019, the level of carbon dioxide reached 148 percent of pre-industrial levels. In 2020, despite the pandemic, the upward trend continued. Methane levels soared even higher, to 260 percent. Nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas that also harms the ozone layer, increased by 123 percent.

Overall, today, Guterres said, emissions are 62 percent higher than in 1990 when international climate negotiations began.

The UN Secretary-General called for overcoming the pandemic “not just to restart the world economy, but also to transform it.”

“First, we need to achieve global carbon neutrality in the next three decades,” Guterres said. – Secondly, we must provide global funding for activities under the Paris agreement, a global climate action plan. Third, we must make a breakthrough in adaptation to protect the world – and especially the most vulnerable peoples and countries – from the effects of climate change.”

As Guterres noted, the European Union has already committed to becoming the first “climate-neutral continent” by 2050. The UK, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and more than 110 other countries have committed to carbon neutrality by 2050. The future administration of the United States, as the UN Secretary-General stressed, has set itself the same goal. China has committed to do this by 2060.

“This means,” added Antonio Guterres, ” that by the beginning of next year, countries that account for more than 65 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions and more than 70 percent of global GDP will have made ambitious commitments to ensure carbon neutrality.”

The UN’s main goal for 2021, Guterres emphasized, will be to create a Global coalition for ensuring carbon neutrality.

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