Climate crisis: Humans waging ‘suicidal’ war against natural world, UN secretary general warns

‘The state of our planet is broken,’ says Antonio Guterres, urging countries to reduce emissions and overhaul tax structures to effect environmental change

Harry Cockburn
Wednesday 02 December 2020 16:19
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Humans waging suicidal war against natural world UN secretary general warns
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Humans are waging a “suicidal” war against the natural world which is devastating our planet, the secretary general of the UN, Antonio Guterres, will warn on Wednesday.

In a speech for the BBC, Mr Guterres will warn “our planet is broken”, and will announce the UN’s core objective in 2021 will be to tackle the worsening climate crisis by building a global coalition aiming to help countries reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

In a clip of the speech released by the BBC, Mr Guterres said: “Let’s face facts, the state of our planet is broken. Humanity is waging war on nature. This is suicidal. Nature always strikes back, and is doing so with gathering force and fury. Biodiversity is collapsing, deserts are spreading, oceans are choking with plastic waste – in 30 years there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.”

Mr Guterres will say that every country, city, financial institution and company “should adopt plans for a transition to net-zero emissions by 2050”, the BBC reported.

The countries which have pledged to reach net zero by this target, and China, which has set out a 2060 target, must be backed up by immediate plans and policies to make progress by 2030, Mr Guterres said.

In total, 127 countries, responsible for around 63 per cent of global emissions, are considering or have adopted net-zero targets.

All these countries are expected to put forward plans this year for how they will progress towards net zero, including explicit targets for 2030 – known as “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs) – though there are major concerns that many of the world’s biggest polluters are not making enough headway.

Mr Guterres will say international efforts must be enough to reduce global emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 compared with 2010 levels.

He will also set out a list of recommendations for countries, including putting a price on carbon, phasing out fossil fuel subsidies and other forms of support, overhauling tax structures so the burden moves from income tax to carbon tax, and away from taxpayers to companies and activities causing pollution, introduce carbon reduction goals in all areas of policy, and provide support to the parts of the world bearing the brunt of the climate crisis.

“The science is clear,” Mr Guterres will say. “Unless the world cuts fossil fuel production by 6 per cent every year between now and 2030, things will get worse. Much worse.”

In a stern warning about why the huge international effort is necessary, Mr Guterres will say existing efforts to tackle the crisis have not been enough.

“Without concerted action, we may be headed for a catastrophic three to five-degree temperature rise this century”, he will say.

“Apocalyptic fires and floods, cyclones and hurricanes are the new normal,” he will warn.

“Biodiversity is collapsing. Deserts are spreading. Oceans are choking with plastic waste.”

The warning comes after separate analysis, carried out by Climate Action Tracker, suggested this week the goals of the Paris climate agreement were “within striking distance”.

Five years after the landmark accord, the analysis said if all national governments which have pledged to hit net zero emissions by 2050 keep to their targets, warming could be up by 2.1C by 2100.

The core objective of the 2015 Paris climate agreement is to limit the rise in the average global temperature to “well below 2C”.

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