U.N. secretary-general: ‘We have a rendezvous with climate disaster’

Opening the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Secretary-General António Guterres criticized the lack of action on the climate crisis, calling it “the defining issue of our time.”

Video transcript

ANTÓNIO GUTERRES: Excellencies, there is another battle we must end our suicidal war against nature. The climate crisis is the defining issue of our time. And it must be the first priority of every government and multilateral organization. And yet, climate check-- climate action is being put on the back burner, despite overwhelming public support around the world.

Global greenhouse gas emissions need to be slashed by 45% by 2030 to have any hope of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. And yet, emissions are going up at record levels on course to a 14% increase this decade.

We have a rendezvous with climate disasters. I recently saw it with my own eyes in Pakistan, where one-third of the country is submerged by a monsoon on steroids. We see it everywhere. Planet Earth is a victim of scorched Earth policies.

The past year has brought us Europe's worst heatwave since the Middle Ages. Mega-drought in China, the United States, and beyond. Famine stalking the Horn of Africa. One million species at risk of extinction. No region is untouched.

And we ain't seen nothing yet. The hottest summers of today may be the coolest summers of tomorrow. "Once in a lifetime" climate shocks may soon become once-a-year events. And with every climate disaster we know that women and girls are the most affected.

The climate crisis is a case study in moral and economic injustice. The G20 emits 80% of all greenhouse gas emissions. But the poorest and most vulnerable, those who contributed least to this crisis, are bearing its most brutal impacts.

Meanwhile, the fossil fuel industry is feasting on hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies and windfall profits while households budgets shrink and our planet burns.