National leaders have until 2020 to step up efforts to curb global climate change before it’s too late, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres warned Monday, in a statement at UN headquarters in New York.
“If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change,” he said, just hours after a disappointingly “uneven” round of UN-sponsored climate negotiations closed in Bangkok, and days before the beginning of this week’s Global Climate Action Summit in California.
“Climate change is the defining issue of our time, and we are at a defining moment,” he added. “Scientists have been telling us for decades. Over and over again. Far too many leaders have refused to listen.”
Guterres pointed to the jobs and economic gains that would result from a shift off fossil fuels, calling it “hogwash” to suggest the shift would be too costly. “He cited the steps private companies are taking to wean themselves away from polluting fossil fuels—including a hat tip to the insurance company Allianz, which has promised to stop insuring coal-fired power plants—though he said such actions are plainly insufficient,” the New York Times reports.
“These are all important strides,” but “they are not enough. The transition to a cleaner, greener future needs to speed up,” he said. “What we still lack, even after the Paris Agreement, is leadership and the ambition to do what is needed.”
An earlier draft of Guterres’ speech referred to “government backsliding” on climate change and urged countries to “break the paralysis” on global climate action, the Times reports.