UN's Guterres calls for 'transformational change' on climate

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (R), pictured during a question and answer session at an event on sustainable development and climate change in Islamabad, said "too many decision makers continue to fiddle" while the plant burns

Governments must deliver decisive actions and "transformational change" to combat global warming, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Sunday, blasting a recent climate summit in Madrid.

The so-called COP25 climate talks in the Spanish capital in December were supposed to build on breakthrough promises made at the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris.

Instead, governments equivocated and observers decried their response as inadequate and unambitious.

"Our planet is burning but too many decision makers continue to fiddle," Guterres said in a speech he delivered in Islamabad.

"The only answer is decisive climate action... Gradual approaches are no longer enough."

A United Nations panel concluded late in 2018 that avoiding global climate chaos will require a major transformation of society and the world economy. The landmark report said global CO2 emissions must drop 45 percent by 2030, and reach "net zero" by 2050, to cap temperature rise at 1.5 degrees Celsius, the safe cap set as a goal in the Paris accord.

Guterres said that at the next climate conference, the COP26 in Glasgow later this year, "governments must deliver the transformational change our world needs and that people demand, with much stronger ambition."

Guterres said rich countries should lead the way, including by ending "perverse" fossil fuel subsidies.

Following a year of deadly extreme weather and weekly protests by millions of young people, Madrid negotiators were under pressure to send a clear signal that governments were willing to intensify their efforts.

The summit was at times close to collapse as rich polluters, emerging powerhouses and climate-vulnerable nations groped for common ground in the face of competing national interests.

Guterres credited Pakistan for banning plastic bags in the capital Islamabad and for a large tree-planting programme.

Guterres is in Pakistan for a three-day visit that will include his attendance at a conference on Pakistan's hosting of Afghan refugees for 40 years.

Pakistan is one of the largest refugee-hosting nations in the world, home to an estimated 2.4 million registered and undocumented people who have fled Afghanistan, some as far back as the Soviet invasion of 1979.

Many live in camps, while others have built lives for themselves in Pakistan's cities, paying rent and contributing to the economy.

Guterres said the "preferred, durable solution for the refugees has always been one-time repatriation with safety and dignity to the country of origin".