Middle East

UN chief urges action to avert climate change 'catastrophe'

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Climate-related devastation is striking the planet on a weekly basis and must be stopped, according to UN chief Antonio Guterres.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned world leaders of a "grave climate emergency" and urged immediate action to avoid a "catastrophe".

Speaking at a two-day climate meeting in the United Arab Emirates, where production of hydrocarbons remains a key driver of the economy, he painted a grim picture of how rapidly climate change is advancing.

"Climate disruption is happening now... It is progressing even faster than the world's top scientists have predicted," Mr Guterres said.

"It is outpacing our efforts to address it. Climate change is running faster than we are."

Antonio Guterres said destructive climate change was moving at an increasingly fast pace.
Antonio Guterres said destructive climate change was moving at an increasingly fast pace.
AAP

He said every week brings new climate-related devastation, including floods, drought, heatwaves, wildfires and superstorms.

The UN chief called on officials to realise the dangers and "act now with ambition and urgency".

The meeting in Abu Dhabi is being held in preparation for a Climate Action Summit in New York in September.

Government and civil society participants from dozens of countries will select from 100 proposals for protecting the climate, said UN special envoy Luis Alfonso de Alba.

UN chief Antonio Guterres at the Abu Dhabi climate meeting.
UN chief Antonio Guterres at the Abu Dhabi climate meeting.
AAP

"I think what is important is to identify those proposals that have transformation impact," De Alba said.

The selected proposals will be submitted to the summit in New York, he said.

The UN chief held out hope that the Paris Agreement could cut harmful emissions and reduce global warming.

"But we know that even if the promises of Paris are fully met, we still face at least a three-degree temperature rise by the end of the century - a catastrophe for life as we know it," Mr Guterres said.

He was convening the Climate Action Summit because many countries were not even keeping pace with their promises under the Paris Agreement.

At the recent G-20 meeting, 19 countries re-committed to the Paris agreement, with the only the United States withdrawing.

An end to coal and gas

The UN Secretary-General also urged governments to stop building new coal plants by 2020 and end fossil-fuel subsidiaries.

Under the Paris Agreement, the world is required to keep the temperature rise under two degrees celsius by the end of the century.

France's secretary of state for ecological and inclusive transition, Brune Poirson, who also took part in the Abu Dhabi meeting, said more private investors were needed to fund climate programmes and actions.

Wind and solar power put less pressure on the environment.
Wind and solar power put less pressure on the environment.
AAP

"What we have to do is mobilise more private capital and instead of having private money invested in coal projects... it should be invested in renewable energy," she said.

IPCC warned in October that warming was on track towards a catastrophic 3C or 4C rise, and that avoiding global chaos would require a major transformation.

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