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The head of the UN warns of a dangerous tipping point about climate change

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Warning of the risks of "runaway" global warming, the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, on Monday urged global leaders to control climate change more quickly.

"If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid the runaway climate change," Guterres said at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

"Climate change is the defining problem of our time and we are at a decisive moment," he said. "Scientists have been telling us for decades, again and again, too many leaders have refused to listen."

His remarks came with countries around the world that are far from achieving the goals they have set themselves in the context of the Paris Agreement of 2015 to reduce the emissions that the planet has heated over the past century. The next round of climate negotiations is planned for this year in Poland.

One of the major tests in those talks, which will begin in Katowice on December 3, will be whether countries, especially industrialized countries that produce a large share of global emissions, will set higher targets to reduce their emissions.

"It's time for our leaders to show that they care about the people whose fate they hold," Guterres said, without taking questions from reporters. "We have to deviate quickly from our dependence on fossil fuels."

Mr Guterres's speech came days before a high-profile climate summit in San Francisco, led by California Governor Jerry Brown, to show what companies and local leaders have done to tackle climate change.

The head of the United Nations seems to take a page from the diary of Mr. Brown. He also looks beyond national leaders to make a difference. He has invited the Heads of Government and Government of the city to his climate change forum of September 2019 in an apparent attempt to increase pressure on national governments.

The Paris Agreement aims to keep the temperature from the ascent of more than 2 degrees Celsius pre-industrial levels to prevent what scientists call the most catastrophic consequences of climate change.

But few countries are even close to achieving the goals they place the pact of Paris. And an assessment by the United Nations showed that country targets so far would only reach one third of the global target.

Guterres tried to defend the proposition that a shift of fossil fuels such as oil and coal would create jobs and strengthen the economy. Refusing critics who claim that such a change would be expensive, he called that idea 'nonsense & # 39 ;.

He mentioned the steps taken by private companies to extract themselves from polluting fossil fuels – including a tip for insurer Allianz, who promised to stop assuring coal-fired power plants – although he said such actions are clearly insufficient.

& # 39; These are all important steps, & # 39; said Mr. Guterres. "But they are not enough, the transition to a cleaner, greener future must speed up."

He warned that governments did not fulfill their obligations under the Paris Agreement and led the world leaders to step up.

"What we still miss, even after the Paris agreement, is leadership and the ambition to do what is needed," he said.

Guterres has not mentioned any country or head of state. But looming his comments was the leader of the world's most powerful country: President Trump, who has rejected climate science, has rolled out environmental regulations and has promised to get the United States out of the Paris climate agreement.

For more news about climate and the environment, follow @NYTClimate on Twitter.


An earlier version of this article contained quotations from a copy of Mr. Guterres's speech that was ultimately not used in his speech at the headquarters of the United Nations. He did not use the term "disruption of the paralysis" referring to global action against climate change, nor did he use the words "the government's decline."

Somini Sengupta deals with international climate issues and is the author of "The End of Karma: Hope and Fury Among India" s Young. " @SominiSengupta Facebook

A version of this article appears in press , at page A6 from the New York edition with the head: Climate crisis is near point of no return, warns U.N.. Order Reprints | Today's paper subscribe

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