'We're losing the race': UN secretary general calls climate change an 'emergency'
(The Guardian, 18 Sep 2019) António Guterres cites ‘fantastic leadership’ of young activists and is counting on public pressure to compel governments to honor the 2015 Paris Agreement.
The UN secretary general says that he is counting on public pressure to compel governments to take much stronger action against what he calls the climate change “emergency”.
“Governments always follow public opinion, everywhere in the world, sooner or later,” António Guterres, said on Tuesday in an interview with Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets, led by Columbia Journalism Review and the Nation, in partnership with the Guardian. Guterres, a former prime minister of Portugal, added: “And so … we need to keep telling the truth to people and be confident that the political system, especially democratic political systems, will in the end deliver.”
Guterres refused to comment on Donald Trump and the Trump administration’s hostility to climate action, but a CBS News poll released on 15 September found that 69% of Americans want the next president to take action, while 53% say such action is needed “right now”. Guterres said that “it would be much better” if the US was “strongly committed to climate action”, just as it would be better if Asian countries [notably, China and Japan] stopped exporting coal plants. Until then, he said, “what I want is to have the whole society putting pressure on governments to understand they need to run faster. Because we are losing the race.”
With five days remaining before the UN climate action summit on 23 September, the secretary general cited the “fantastic leadership” of young activists as a leading example of how civil society can pressure governments to honor the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit temperature rise to “well below” 2C and preferably to 1.5C. Recent election results across Europe – where green parties gained significant public backing – also left Guterres optimistic that at next Monday’s summit the European Union will announce that it promises to be “carbon neutral” by 2050, as the Paris Agreement mandates.