UN chief warns of insufficient political will on climate change

29 Jan 19

A lack of political will on climate change poses a “systemic threat” to the global economy, the head of the United Nations has warned.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week, António Guterres said: “Climate issue is the defining issue of our time. I believe we are losing the race.”

The UN secretary general said trade tensions, debt and political instability – which all impact financial markets – are key risks to growth.



But he warned that climate risk “is the most important systemic risk to the world economy”. 

“The reality is proven to be worse than scientists had foreseen. We are moving dramatically into a ‘run-away’ climate change,” he said. “And at the same time, I see political will slowing down.”

Subsidies for fossil fuels, carbon pricing, and the fact that many governments are still debating whether climate change is a threat, shows that politicians are not taking the threat seriously, he added.

“It is absolutely central to reverse this trend,” Guterres said. “We need political will and we need governments who understand that this is the most important priority of our times.”

He added that businesses and civil society are growing increasingly keen to tackle climate change.

The US pulled out of the Paris Agreement – the global UN-backed commitment to tackle climate change – after Donald Trump became president, and Brazil’s new right-wing leader Jair Bolsonaro has threatened to do the same.

The UN chief said the promises made in Paris were already “not enough”, even if they materialised.

“We need countries to make stronger commitments,” he said, calling for more measures to mitigate against climate change and adapt to it, along with financial aid for poorer countries.

He added that the global challenges are “interlinked” but the world’s response is “fragmented”. “We need more integrated global action to repair broken trust and uphold dignity.”

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