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UN secretary general says global climate change response is falling short


NEW YORK — United Nations Secretary General António Guterres delivered a stark message demanding more aggressive action to mitigate climate change at the beginning of the UN General Assembly.

Speaking at a Wednesday press conference, Guterres decried “the sheer inadequacy of the global response to the climate crisis.”

He began his opening remarks by talking about Pakistan’s ongoing massive flooding, which is .

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari speak to media representatives at the Foreign Office in Islamabad, Pakistan, on September, 09, 2022. (Muhammad Reza/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari speak to media representatives at the Foreign Office in Islamabad, Pakistan, on September, 09, 2022. (Muhammad Reza/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

“I have just returned from Pakistan, where I looked through a window into the future,” Guterres said. “A future of permanent and ubiquitous climate chaos on an unimaginable scale: devastating loss of life, enormous human suffering, and massive damage to infrastructure and livelihoods. … What is happening in Pakistan demonstrates the sheer inadequacy of the global response to the climate crisis, and the betrayal and injustice at the heart of it.”

Climate change, Guterres noted, is caused by greenhouse gas emissions that have overwhelmingly come from the world’s richest countries, but the extreme weather events and the devastation they cause are falling hardest on poor countries like Pakistan.

In addition to the Pakistani flooding, which is caused by record high temperatures this spring leading to glacial melting and a particularly intense monsoon season, Guterres discussed other climate change-related crises enveloping the developing world, such as .

“Whether it’s Pakistan, the Horn of Africa, the Sahel, small islands or , the world’s most vulnerable — who did nothing to cause this crisis — are paying a horrific price for decades of intransigence by big emitters,” Guterres said. “G20 countries are responsible for 80 percent of emissions… If one-third of G20 countries were under water today, as it could be tomorrow, perhaps they would find it easier to agree on drastic cuts to emissions.”

Guterres argued that rich countries must commit to more ambitious emissions reductions and to funding adaptation to climate change for poorer countries.

  A view from flooded area after flash flood hits Kahirpur district in southern Sindh province, Pakistan, on September 04, 2022. (Ahmed Ali/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

A view from flooded area after flash flood hits Kahirpur district in southern Sindh province, Pakistan, on September 04, 2022. (Ahmed Ali/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

“Unless action is taken now, unless funds are disbursed now, these tragedies will simply multiply, with devastating consequences for years to come including instability and mass migration around the world,” he said.

“My message to world leaders gathering here is clear: Lower the temperature — now. Don’t flood the world today; don’t drown it tomorrow.”

The reporters’ questions, however, were mostly about the Russian war on Ukraine, illustrating the difficulty of maintaining global attention on climate change.

“It would be naive to think we are close to the possibility of a peace deal,” Guterres said, about the war. “My office is ready, … but the chances are minimal at the present moment.”

In response to a question about the European energy crisis triggered by the Ukraine war, Guterres called for governments to tax the record profits being enjoyed by fossil fuel companies as a result of high oil and gas prices.

Guterres also said he spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin this morning about expanding the Black Sea Grain Initiative, an effort to export Russian and Ukrainian grain, in spite of the war between the countries grain, to alleviate the food crisis in parts of Africa and other low-income countries.

A reporter from Pakistan asked what the UN can do for his country.

“Pakistan needs a massive inflow of financial resources,” Guterres said.

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Global temperatures are on the rise and have been for decades. Step inside the data and see the magnitude of climate change.



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