UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on the world leaders to put a price on carbon, end subsidies for fossil fuels and stop financing of coal and building of new coal power plants as he sounded alarm that the "the world is on red alert."
Speaking at the Leaders' Summit on Climate convened by US President Joe Biden on Thursday, Guterres sounded a dire warning that "Mother Nature is not waiting" and "we need a green planet — but the world is on red alert."
Calling on world leaders everywhere to take action, Guterres said they must put a price on carbon and shift taxation from income to carbon.
He called on governments to end subsidies for fossil fuels, ramp up investments in renewable energy and green infrastructure, stop the financing of coal and the building of new coal power plants and phase out coal by 2030 in the wealthiest countries, and by 2040 everywhere else.
"To build a truly global net zero coalition, we need a breakthrough on finance and adaptation. This is critical for trust and collective action," he said.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are hosting the virtual climate summit, which will see participation by over 40 world leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Guterres called on world leaders to make this a decade of transformation. "All countries – starting with major emitters – should submit new and more ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions for mitigation, adaptation and finance, laying out actions and policies for the next 10 years aligned with a 2050 net-zero pathway," he said, adding that those commitments need to be translated into concrete, immediate action.
China, India, Russia, Japan and the US are among the world's biggest emitters.
With only 18 to 24 per cent of pandemic recovery spending expected to contribute to mitigating emissions, reducing air pollution or strengthening natural capital, Guterres said the trillions of dollars needed for COVID-19 recovery is money "we are borrowing from future generations. We cannot use these resources to lock in policies that burden them with a mountain of debt on a broken planet."
Guterres told the summit that the past decade was the hottest on record and dangerous greenhouse gases are at levels not seen in three million years.
"Global temperature has already risen 1.2 degrees Celsius – racing toward the threshold of catastrophe. Meanwhile, we see ever rising sea-levels, scorching temperatures, devastating tropical cyclones and epic wildfires," he said.
"We are at the verge of the abyss. We must make sure the next step is in the right direction," he added.
Lauding the commitment of the United States to cut greenhouse gas emissions 50 to 52 per cent below 2005 levels, Guterres said world leaders must build a global coalition for net-zero emissions by mid-century.
"Let us now mobilize political leadership to move ahead together – to overcome climate change, end our war on nature and build lives of dignity and prosperity for all," Guterres added.
The UN chief stressed that ahead of the United Nations climate conference in November in Glasgow this year, there is need for concrete proposals that ease access to greater finance and technological support for the most vulnerable countries. "Developed states must deliver on public climate finance, including the long-promised USD 100 billion for climate action in developing countries, at the G7 Summit in June."