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As Climate Talks Stall, UN Chief Presses World Leaders to Take Action

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UN Secretary General António Guterres addressed the future of international cooperation at Westminster Central Hall in London on May 10, 2017. International Maritime Organization / CC BY 2.0

UN Secretary General António Guterres urged world leaders to pick up the pace on fighting climate change in a speech at the UN headquarters in New York Monday, The New York Times reported.

"If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change," Guterres said.


Guterres' speech came a day after climate talks concluded in Bangkok without producing a draft of rules that could be presented at the next round of UN climate negotiations in Katowice, Poland in December, which will be dedicated to the implementation of the Paris agreement, The Associated Press reported.

"We cannot allow Katowice to remind us of Copenhagen," Guterres said, referring to climate talks there that fell apart in 2009, BBC News reported.

The major disagreements at the Bangkok talks revolved around how developing countries would finance and report their Paris commitments.

Developed countries are supposed to provide funds to assist developing countries, but ActionAid International Climate Policy Manager Harjeet Singh told The Associated Press that countries like the U.S., Japan, Australia and the EU declined to say "how much money they are going to provide and how that is going to be counted."

Other delegates expressed frustration with the role of the U.S. in negotiations, saying the country undermined the process despite President Donald Trump's announcement that he would pull the U.S. from being impacted by the final agreement.

"The U.S. has announced its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement but still negotiates as if it is a Party, weakening international cooperation by not contributing to finance and technology transfer to developing countries," Third World Network legal adviser Meena Raman told The Associated Press in an email.

Guterres did not refer to Trump by name in his remarks Monday, but called on global leaders generally to meet their Paris targets, The New York Times reported.

Few countries are close to meeting those targets, and the UN has found that existing targets would only get the world one-third of the way towards limiting warming "well below" two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

"The time has come for our leaders to show they care about the people whose fate they hold in their hands," Guterres said, according to The New York Times. "We need to rapidly shift away from our dependence on fossil fuels."

Guterres dismissed the idea that doing so was too expensive, saying that renewable energy was now competitive with oil and coal and that meeting the Paris goals would boost the economy overall, BBC News reported.

"For every dollar spent restoring degraded forests, as much as $30 can be recouped in economic benefits and poverty reduction," Guterres said, according to BBC News.

Guterres urged world leaders as well as city and business leaders to join him in September 2019 for a climate change forum, The New York Times reported.

The inclusion of city and industry is designed to put pressure on national governments, The New York Times surmised.

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