UN chief warns against the perils of continued fossil fuel reliance

UN chief warns against the perils of continued fossil fuel reliance

United Nations secretary general António Guterres warned that the world is facing “a direct existential threat” if our dependence on fossil fuels is not reduced, or entirely eliminated, by 2020. Guterres called attention to this urgent crisis and the lack of global leadership regarding climate action in a speech on Monday.

Communities around the world continue to experience the dangerous by-products of global warming – record breaking temperatures, heatwaves, wildfires, storms, and floods. As Guterres put it, these disasters “are leaving a trail of death and devastation” in their paths.

In 2015, the United Nations created the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals aimed at addressing a wide range of global challenges.  Goal 13, dedicated to climate action, is far from being fulfilled.  “These targets were the bare minimum to avoid the worst impacts of climate change,” Guterres said. “But scientists tell us that we are far off track.”

Some key stipulations of Goal 13 include integrating climate change measures into national policies, improving education and awareness of climate change, and strengthening the resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters.

A focal point in Guterres’s speech was the urgent need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.  Alternatives include clean energy sourced from water, wind, and the sun. New technology can also be a source of hope for those looking for environmentally beneficial alternatives to fossil fuels.

As the components of Goal 13 continue to be unmet, Guterres calls for leaders from around the world to take on stronger positions on climate action. “If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us,” Guterres warned.

The Global Climate Action Summit is underway in San Francisco, California this week and Guterres has recently called for a climate summit among world leaders in September of 2019 in order to “bring climate action to the top of the international agenda”.

The AIDF Global Summit will return to Washington D.C, in 2019. 

If you’d like to stay informed on the latest updates in aid and development, please sign up for the AIDF newsletter.  

Photograph: Li Muzi/Barcroft Images

Be part of the humanitarian aid and development community!

Register now to receive AIDF's newsletter with insights into latest trends, innovations and best practice in the humanitarian and development sectors