The world is “facing a climate emergency” and is “not on track” to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said Sunday.
Speaking in Auckland alongside New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, Guterres said, “Climate change is running faster than what we are.”
Despite clear manifestations of the climate and ecological crises—including record warm temperatures, a million species at risk of extinction, and atmosphere carbon levels at historic highs—global political leadership is not taking action in line with the needed urgency and scope, he said.
“We are facing a paradox,” said Guterres.
“We are feeling clearly by what happens on the ground that things are getting worse, even worse than it was forecast,” he added, referencing the recent storms in Mozambique and increasingly frequent droughts.
“We are seeing everywhere a clear demonstration that we are not on track to achieve the objectives defined in the Paris Agreement,” Guterres said. “The paradox is that as things are getting worse on the ground, political will seems to be fading.”
One outlier to such inaction, said Guterres, is New Zealand. The U.N. chief applauded the country for “leadership” in tackling the climate crisis. It recently unveiled a proposal to be carbon neutral by 2050—though some climate campaigners said that deadline is two decades too late.
On Monday, speaking to a group of youth in Auckland, Guterres praised “the very important leadership that youth around the world is providing” on the climate crisis.
Guterres also laid out steps he said governments should take:
First, shift taxes from salaries to carbon. We must tax pollution not people.
Second stop subsidies to fossil fuels. Taxpayers’ money should not be used to boost hurricanes, to spread drought and heatwaves, to bleach corals, or to melt glaciers.
Finally, stop the construction of new coal plants by 2020. We want a green economy not a grey economy in the world.
“We cannot allow for a runaway climate change,” Guterres said Sunday. “We need to protect the lives of all people and we need to protect our planet.”