Climate action is a necessity. UN chief urges world to rally behind Paris Climate Accord
by UN Secretary-General António Guterres
10:22am 31st May, 2017
30 May 2017
The effects of climate change are dangerous and they are accelerating.
Highlighting the seriousness of the impact of climate change on the planet and its inhabitants, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres today called for sustained action to meet the global challenge and to ensure a peaceful and sustainable future for all.
“The effects of climate change are dangerous and they are accelerating,” Secretary-General Guterres told a gathering of students, business leaders and academics at the New York University Stern School of Business.
“It is absolutely essential that the world implements the Paris Agreement on climate change and that we fulfil that duty with increased ambition,” he underscored, recalling the ground-breaking agreement that entered into force last November.
The Agreement calls on countries to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future, and to adapt to the increasing impacts of climate change.
Allow me to be blunt. The world is in a mess. Countries and communities everywhere are facing pressures that are being exacerbated by megatrends – like population growth, rapid and many times chaotic urbanization, food insecurity, water scarcity, massive movements of population and migration… the list can go on and on.
But one overriding megatrend is far and away at the top of that list – climate change.
Climate change is a direct threat in itself and a multiplier of many other threats -- from poverty to displacement to conflict.
The effects of climate change are already being felt around the world. They are dangerous and they are accelerating.
And so my argument today is that it is absolutely essential that the world implements the Paris Agreement – and that we fulfil that duty with increased ambition.
Climate change is undeniable. The science is beyond doubt. The world’s top scientists have been shouting it from the rooftops.
As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has put it and I quote: “Human influence on the climate system is clear. The more we disrupt our climate, the more we risk severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts.”
If anything, that disruption is happening even faster than expected. Last year was once again the hottest on record. The past decade has also been the hottest on record.
Every geo-physical system on which we depend is being affected, from mountains to oceans, from icecaps to forests, and across all the arable lands that provide our food.
Sea ice is at a historic low; sea levels are at a historic high, threatening the existence of low-lying island nations and cities.
The seas are also being affected by warmer temperatures, rapid acidification and coral bleaching, endangering the marine food chain on which so many livelihoods and economies depend.
On land, glaciers are retreating almost everywhere – a risk to the breadbaskets of the world as rivers fed by glaciers run dry.
Soon the famous snows of Kilimanjaro will exist only in stories. Here in the United States, only 26 of Glacier National Park’s glaciers remain. When it was made a Park in 1910, there were around 150.
Further north, we see an unfolding crisis of epic proportions. The ice caps in the Arctic Ocean are shrinking dramatically. Some even predict that the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free by the summer of 2020.
That would be catastrophic for Arctic wildlife. It would be a death-blow to the ways of life of indigenous peoples. And it would be a disaster for the world. Why?
Because ice reflects sunlight. Dark water much less. That means warming will accelerate.
Frozen tundra will thaw earlier and freeze later, releasing vast amounts of methane into the atmosphere. Methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
This will mean more ice melting from the Greenland ice cap. It could alter the Gulf Stream and affect food production, water security and weather patterns from Canada to India.
We are already seeing massive floods, more extreme tornadoes, failed monsoons and fiercer hurricanes and typhoons. But slow-motion disasters are also speeding up.
Areas where drought once struck every decade are now seeing cycles of five or even two years between droughts. Moreover, dry spells are lasting longer, from California to the Sahel.
The moral imperative for action is clear. The people hit first and worst by climate change are the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalized. Women and girls will suffer as they are always the most disproportionately affected by disasters.
The nations that will face the most profound consequences are the least responsible for climate change and the least equipped to deal with it.
Droughts and floods around the world mean poverty will worsen, famines will spread and people will die.
As regions become unliveable, more and more people will be forced to move from degraded lands to cities and to other nations. We see this already across North Africa and the Middle East.
That is why there is also a compelling security case for climate action. Around the world, military strategists view climate change as a threat to global peace and security.
We are all aware of the political turmoil and societal tensions that have been generated by the mass movement of refugees. Imagine how many people are poised to become climate-displaced when their lands become unliveable.
Last year, more than 24 million people in 118 countries and territories were displaced by natural disasters. That is three times as many as were displaced by conflict.
Climate change is also a menace to jobs, to property and to business. With wildfires, floods and other extreme weather events becoming more common, the economic costs are soaring.
The insurance industry raised the alarm long ago. They have been joined by many others across the business community. They know that the time has come for transformation.
Climate action is gathering momentum not just because it is a necessity but also because it presents an opportunity – to forge a peaceful and sustainable future on a healthy planet.
This is why governments adopted the Paris Agreement in 2015, with a pledge to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees.
I applaud the immense efforts of my predecessor, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who brought the essential stakeholders to the table and helped forge this landmark Agreement.
It is worth taking a moment to step back and reflect on the unity that was forged in Paris. It was a remarkable moment in the history of humankind.
The world came together for the first time to address this global challenge collectively. And it did so at a time of division in so many other areas. There has been nothing like it in terms of enabling the global community to work on an issue together that none of us can solve on our own.
Today, it is increasingly understood that implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development goes hand-in-hand with limiting global temperature rise and increasing climate resilience.
As of today, 147 Parties representing more than 82 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions have ratified the Paris Agreement. Every month, more countries are translating their Paris pledges into national climate action plans.
Yes, not everyone will move at the same pace or with equal vigour. But if any government doubts the global will and need for this accord, that is reason for all others to unite even stronger and stay the course. It is reason to build ever broader coalitions – with civil society and business, with cities and states, with academia and community leaders.
The Paris pledges are historic but still do not go nearly far enough to limit temperature rise to well below 2 degrees and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees. Commitments so far could still see temperatures rise by 3 degrees or more.
So we must do our utmost to increase ambition and action until we can bend the emissions curve and slow down global warming.
If we work together as a global community, we can emerge stronger, safer and more prosperous for our shared future and the future of all of our children and grandchildren. http://bit.ly/2qE1UYx
http://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/statement/2017-05-30/secretary-general-climate-action-delivered http://newsroom.unfccc.int/unfccc-newsroom/finale-cop21/ http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs
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