As US weighs climate pullout, UN wants world to be more ambitious

Guterres speaks on climate action at the New York University Stern School of Business, May 30, 2017.
Guterres speaks on climate action at the New York University Stern School of Business, May 30, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

UNITED NATIONS, United States (AFP) - UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday (May 30) said it was "absolutely essential" that the Paris climate agreement be implemented, as the United States weighed pulling out of the emissions-cutting deal.

In his first major address on climate, Guterres said the world must fulfil the commitments of the 2015 agreement "with increased ambition."

The United States is among the 147 countries and parties that have ratified the agreement but President Donald Trump has voiced concerns that the deal signed by the previous US administration could harm the US economy.

Guterres made no direct mention of Trump's wavering, but said: "If any government doubts the global will and need for this accord, that is reason for all others to unite even stronger and stay the course."

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The Paris agreement's commitment to curb carbon emissions and limit temperature rise to well below 2 deg C and as close as possible to 1.5 deg C "do not nearly go far enough," he said.

"So, we must do our utmost to increase ambition and action until we can bend the emissions curve and slow down global warming," said Guterres in the address at New York University.

At a summit meeting of the Group of Seven leading economies over the weekend, Trump refused to join the other six leaders in pledging to implement the Paris accord and said he would announce the US position this week.

Guterres' appeal suggested that if the United States, the world's biggest carbon emitter after China, were to leave the deal, the onus would be on other key players like China, India and the European Union to do more to fight global warming.

Describing the agreement as a "remarkable moment in the history of humankind," the UN chief stressed that private corporations including oil and gas companies were not awaiting government policy and joining the green economy.

"Those who fail to bet on the green economy will be living in a grey future," he warned.

"On the other hand, those who embrace green technologies will set the gold standard for economic leadership in the 21st century."