A 'winter of global discontent' is on the horizon, UN chief warns
The UN Secretary-General says fossil fuel companies and their enablers need to be held accountable.
The United Nations' massive global summit returned Tuesday with a warning from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres about an upcoming "winter of global discontent" from rising prices, a warming planet, and deadly conflicts.
After two years of pandemic restrictions and video addresses, the UN General Assembly again asked leaders to come in person if they wish to speak - with a sole exception made for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
While saluting efforts for global cooperation, Guterres warned of a dire state of the planet.
"A winter of global discontent is on the horizon," Guterres pointed out as he opened the annual General Assembly.
"Trust is crumbling, inequalities are exploding, our planet is burning. People are hurting - with the most vulnerable suffering the most."
With global temperatures rising and a chunk of Pakistan recently under water, Guterres criticized fossil fuel companies and the "suicidal war against nature."
“We are retrieving our belongings. Our beddings, cupboards, and everything else here."#Pakistan has urged the international community to help with relief efforts while struggling to cope with the aftermath of massive floods that killed more than 900 people.#PakistanFloods pic.twitter.com/IA0g6asB8a— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) August 26, 2022
"Let's tell it like it is - Our world is addicted to fossil fuels. It's time for an intervention. We need to hold fossil fuel companies and their enablers to account," UN Secretary-General said.
He called on all developed economies to tax profits from fossil fuels and dedicate the funds both to compensate for damage from climate change and to help people struggling with high prices.
"Polluters must pay," Guterres said.
With the war in Ukraine leading to a global grain crisis, hunger is another major issue on the agenda. More than 200 NGOs called for urgent action from leaders gathered for the General Assembly to "end the spiraling global hunger crisis."
"Around the world, 50 million people are on the brink of starvation in 45 countries," they said, adding that as many as 19,700 people are estimated to be dying of hunger every day, which translates to one person every four seconds.
World heading in wrong direction: climate report
It is noteworthy that the UN warned last week in an assessment that humanity is "going in the wrong direction" on climate change due to its addiction to fossil fuels.
The UN's World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and its Environment Program warned that catastrophes will become commonplace in case the world economy fails to decarbonize in line with what science says is needed to prevent the worst impacts of global heating.
The WMO and the Environment Program pointed to Pakistan's monumental floods and China's crop-withering heatwave this year as examples of what to expect.
From bad to worse: Guterres
On his part, Guterres said that "floods, droughts, heatwaves, extreme storms, and wildfires are going from bad to worse, breaking records with alarming frequency."
He considered that "there is nothing natural about the new scale of these disasters. They are the price of humanity's fossil fuel addiction."
The UN's United in Science report underscores how, nearly three years since Covid-19 handed governments a unique opportunity to reassess how to power their economies, countries are continuing ahead with pollution.
"The science is unequivocal: we are going in the wrong direction," said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.
Taalas pointed out that "greenhouse gas concentrations are continuing to rise, reaching new record highs. Fossil fuel emission rates are now above pre-pandemic levels. The past seven years were the warmest on record."
Summer 2022 was the hottest in Europe: EU
The report indicated that there was a 93% chance that the record for the hottest year globally - currently, 2016 - will be broken within five years.
The European Union's Copernicus climate monitor had highlighted that summer 2022 was the hottest in Europe and one of the hottest globally since records began in the 1970s.
Last month, the UN warned that the drought gripping the Horn of Africa and threatening millions with acute food shortages was now likely to extend into the fifth year.
Earth on course to warm 2.8C by 2100
The United in Science assessment warned that the continued use of fossil fuels meant the chance of the annual mean global temperature temporarily exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels in one of the next five years was roughly even.
It is noteworthy that keeping longer-term temperatures below 1.5°C is the most ambitious goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Despite more than three decades of UN-led negotiations, rich polluters show little sign of being willing to make emissions cuts that would keep the 1.5°C goal in action.
The UN's Environment Program (UNEP), in an update to its annual "emissions gap" assessment following new pledges made at last November's UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, noted that these promises were far from sufficient.
It explained that the ambition even in countries' most recent pledges would need to be four times greater to limit warming to 2°C, and seven times higher to make 1.5°C.
The UNEP warned that current worldwide climate policies put Earth on course to warm 2.8°C by 2100.
Uncharted territory of destruction
Guterres considered that the assessment showed "climate impacts heading into uncharted territory of destruction."
"Yet each year we double-down on this fossil fuel addiction, even as the symptoms get rapidly worse," he said in a video message.