UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday denounced a “suicidal” failure to combat global warming and said recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic could be humanity’s chance for a reset to save the planet.
“The state of the planet is broken. Humanity is waging war on nature. This is suicidal,” the UN chief said in a speech at Columbia University in New York City.
“Next year we have the opportunity to stop plunder and begin healing,” he added. “COVID recovery and our planet’s repair must be two sides of the same coin.”
Guterres called for a reduction in use of fossil fuels, and said a summit planned on December 12 for the fifth anniversary of the Paris climate change agreement should chart a new way forward.
“A new world is taking shape,” he said.
“Biodiversity is collapsing. One million species are at risk of extinction. Ecosystems are disappearing before our eyes. Deserts are spreading. Wetlands are being lost. Every year, we lose 10 million hectares of forests.
“Oceans are overfished – and choking with plastic waste. The carbon dioxide they absorb is acidifying the seas. Coral reefs are bleached and dying. Air and water pollution are killing nine million people annually.”
As such “making peace with nature” must “be the top, top priority” of the 21st century, he warned, adding: “there is no vaccine for the planet.”
Welcoming the first commitments toward carbon neutrality from China, the European Union, Japan and South Korea, he hoped that the movement would become global.
“Every country, city, financial institution and company should adopt plans for transitioning to net zero emissions by 2050,” he concluded.