Antonio Guterres: 'We are digging our own graves' with climate change

UN Secretary General lambasts the developed world's 'addiction to fossil fuels'

World leaders deliver opening remarks at Cop26

World leaders deliver opening remarks at Cop26
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Humans are “digging our own graves” through climate change and by “brutalising biodiversity”, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said at the opening of Cop26.

He criticised “a deficit of credibility and a surplus of confusion” over emissions reduction and net-zero targets, which held “different meanings and different metrics”.

Mr Guterres said that already the “sirens are sounding” and “our planet is telling us something”.

He urged the international community to give more aid — whether climate related or not — to the developing world.

But Mr Guterres praised the “unstoppable” and vocal, youth-led “climate action army” demanding action. “I assure you, they are not going away,” he said.

“Our addiction to fossil fuels is pushing humanity to the brink. We face a stark choice: either we stop it — or it stops us,” Mr Guterres said.

“It’s time to say, 'enough. Enough of brutalising biodiversity. Enough of killing ourselves with carbon. Enough of treating nature like a toilet. Enough of burning and drilling and mining our way deeper'. We are digging our own graves."

Recent climate actions announcements “might give the impression that we are on track to turn things around,” he said. “This is an illusion.”

Mr Guterres referred to a recent UN report that current commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions put the planet on track for an average 2.7°C temperature rise this century.

“Even in the best-case scenario, temperatures will rise well above 2°C. So, as we open this much-anticipated climate conference, we are still heading for climate disaster,” he said.

“Young people know it. Every country sees it. Small island developing states — and other vulnerable ones — live it. For them, failure is not an option. Failure is a death sentence.”

He said the target to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels must be kept in reach and called for firm action to reduce global emissions by 45 per cent by 2030.

Mr Guterres reiterated that this must be led by the wealthy nations that comprise the G20 and account for around 80 per cent of the planet's emissions.

"But emerging economies, too, must go the extra mile as their contribution is essential for the effective reduction of emissions," he said.

"We need maximum ambition — from all countries on all fronts — to make Glasgow a success. I urge developed countries and emerging economies to build coalitions able to create the financial and technological conditions to accelerate the decarbonisation of the economy and the phase-out of coal."

Updated: November 01, 2021, 11:15 PM