Progress has been limited. Global emissions hit a record high last year, Donald Trump has said the US, the world’s second-largest emitter, will quit the Paris deal and the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, has opened the way to raze vast tracts of the Amazon rainforest.
Guterres said neither Brazil nor the US have “turned up” with any new commitments for the UN summit.
“Clearly, we are lagging behind and that there are many resistances in many areas,” he said. “I feel that we are still running late and we need to accelerate. The next few years are absolutely crucial to reverse the present trend, that is still a negative trend.
“Emissions are still growing and the situation is getting worse, clearly. I am deeply convinced that climate change is the defining issue of our time.”
The daunting task of staving off disastrous climate change has been laid bare in a new analysis released by the UN that shows global emissions are not estimated to peak by 2030, the year when scientists say emissions must be slashed by nearly half from now to avoid devastating heatwaves, flooding and loss of species.
This dire forecast, driven by the continued dominance of fossil fuels despite the growth of alternatives such as solar and wind power, means countries will need to at least triple their current emissions reduction commitments to meet the Paris target, the UN report states.
The G20, the world’s wealthiest countries, represent 80% of emissions but are according to the UN doing “nowhere near enough” to scale up their ambition, eclipsed by developing countries that in the case of low-lying countries in Asia and the Pacific are at most peril from rising seas and drought.