UN Secretary General António Guterres appealed to world leaders Tuesday to show solidarity and act on the climate crisis, warning that humanity was on track for a "hellscape" of temperature rise that would bring "catastrophe."
At the opening of the UN General Assembly in New York, Guterres called specifically on leaders to end subsidies on fossil fuels, end the use of coal, invest in renewable energy, and tax carbon and pollution "instead of people's income."
"The climate alarm bells are also ringing at fever pitch," he said. "The recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was a code red for humanity. We see the warning signs in every continent and region -- scorching temperatures, shocking biodiversity loss, polluted air, water and natural spaces."
He also said the climate divide between the rich and poor world must be bridged, calling explicitly for developed countries to contribute funds to help developing nations confront the climate crisis.
Guterres opened the 76th General Debate with high hopes that US President Joe Biden would live up to the global challenges that his speech laid out. In a sharp contrast to his predecessor, Donald Trump, Biden has promised to increase support for developing nations, though he has yet to announce an increase in funds. Biden has also promised leadership in convening nations around new environmental protection pledges, with his climate envoy John Kerry touring the world to push countries to limit their fossil fuel emissions.
The assembly is the last major international event before world leaders meet again at the G20 in Rome in October, followed immediately by the UN climate conference in Scotland.
"We are weeks away from the UN climate conference in Glasgow, but seemingly light-years away from reaching our targets," Guterres said. "We must get serious and we must act fast".
Guterres' speech revealed his increasing impatience and frustration with leaders. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro -- whose government has allowed rampant deforestation in the Amazon -- is also speaking Tuesday.
The UN chief's speech and newly strident tone comes as Guterres prepares to launch his next five-year term as UN Secretary General. It also comes amid a global political landscape that has itself grown more moderate in tenor since the exit of former US President Donald Trump.
The Secretary General and President Biden met briefly on Monday evening at Biden's Manhattan hotel, with a discussion that "reaffirmed the strong partnership between the United Nations and the United States, anchored in shared principles and values," Guterres' office said.
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