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UN Chief: Step up on climate or choose ‘immoral, suicidal’ path

Call by António Guterres was joined by Fiji’s prime minister, who said not succeeding on climate change would be “craven, irresponsible and selfish”

UN secretary general António Guterres (Photo: UNFCCC)

By Natalie Sauer and Sara Stefanini

Governments face a choice between increasing their climate pledges or embarking on an “immoral” and “suicidal” path, UN secretary general António Guterres said on Wednesday.

At a UN climate summit in Poland, Guterres was joined by Fijian prime minister Frank Bainimarama in issuing a plea for countries to renew and upgrade their Paris Agreement promises within a year.

“To waste this opportunity would compromise our last best chance to stop runaway climate change. It would not only be immoral, it would be suicidal,” Guterres said. “This may sound like a dramatic appeal, but it is exactly this: a dramatic appeal.”

The remarks were some of the last to be made at the Talanoa Dialogue, a diplomatic procedure initiated by the Fijians in 2017 that aims to bridge divides in the polarised climate process through the sharing of stories.

In an effort to build urgency, the Fijian and Polish governments who presided over Cop23 and Cop24 UN climate summits released the Talanoa Call to Action, which asked governments to place climate change at the top of the political agenda and step up their policies immediately.

Launching the call, Bainimarama said governments needed to increase their current national climate pledges five-fold to limit warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial level.

“Or enter history as the generation that blew it; that sacrificed the health of our world and ultimately betrayed humanity because we didn’t have the courage and foresight to go beyond our short-term individual concerns. Craven, irresponsible and selfish,” said Bainimarama.

Under the Paris Agreement, countries made pledges to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. But the combination of these pledges fell far short of what will be necessary to stabilise the climate.