NEW YORK: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Wednesday (Dec 2) that humanity is waging a suicidal war on nature and that there is no way to address the climate emergency without global leadership from the United States.
In a keynote speech at Columbia University in New York, Guterres declared: "The state of the planet is broken."
He said global carbon neutrality needed to be achieved within the next three decades, global finance had to be aligned behind the 2015 global accord to fight climate change, and there needed to be a breakthrough on adaptation to protect the world, especially the most vulnerable people, from climate impacts.
Answering a question from a student, Guterres said: "I do believe that there is no way to address the climate emergency in the world without US leadership."
He said that the global accord to fight climate change would not have been possible without the leadership of then-US President Barack Obama, noting that a summit between Obama and China's President Xi Jinping helped win Beijing's support.
Since then, Obama's successor Donald Trump has referred to climate change as a "hoax," questioned the science and in 2017 pulled the United States out of the global climate change deal - a decision which took effect on Nov 4. US President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to rejoin the agreement.
"I trust the American people to make sure that this country will assume the global leadership that is necessary for climate action to be successful," Guterres said. "Everything you can do to make cities, states and the federal government assume leadership globally for climate action is very important."
A group representing European and US investors with a collective US$30 trillion in assets last month warned that by leaving the climate deal the United States risked falling behind in the race to create a cleaner global economy.
Biden and Guterres spoke on Monday, discussing the need for a "strengthened partnership" to combat climate change.