Losing the Race on Climate Change: Antonio Guterres Plea for Action

During a speech at the Davos forum, United Nations Chief Antonio Guterres warned about the ongoing race with climate change that has already impacted several nations across the world. He said that the world was “losing the race” and demanded that governments act with a greater commitment towards the issue. The speech comes after a recent survey released during the World Economic Forum, which outlined that the greatest concern for the attendees was the increase of extreme weather incidents and the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.

In his speech at Davos, Antonio Guterres emphasized that “climate change is the defining issue of our time. We are losing the race.” He stressed that “we need political will and we need governments who understand this is the most important priority of our times.” The need for greater climate action was echoed by Greta Thunburg, a young Swedish activist responsible for sparking climate change protests by school children across the globe. In a recent interview with AFP news, Greta said that “they (companies) have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money.”

The current status of climate change policy is troubling and needs greater political focus from governments. Recent studies have shown that time is running out, with an estimated grace period of 12 years as per the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report last year which warned of an approaching climate catastrophe that will dramatically change the globe’s landscape. There are already nations feeling the impacts of climate change, with some facing heat-waves and others the prospect of their homes sinking into the ocean. The latter especially is a problem that could result in a future refugee crisis that current international law cannot accommodate.

October last year, the IPCC published a report that reignited the debate over climate changes’ impacts. The report estimated that the world has twelve years before a potential climate disaster occurs that will bring about rising sea-levels and dangerous weather phenomena. Furthermore, the effects of the United State’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement can still be felt. However, John Kerry, former United States Secretary of State, has stated that 38 out of 50 US states were still working on their own climate change policies in spite of the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. Although the process will be a slow withdrawal, the United States’ lessened presence in the accords will deeply hinder future international climate policy.

Climate change is a threat that impacts all of us across the globe and is already being felt by many nations in the Pacific. The island nation of Kiribati is on the front-line of climate change, with its fresh-water sources being distressed by rising sea levels and talks of mass-migration being considered by former president Anote Tong. Tuvalu is another island nation under threat. While it has experienced a land-mass increase of 2.9%, this is counteracted by the sea-level rising almost twice as fast as before. While climate change policy must become a stronger focus for governments across the world, this should not discount the fact that some action is already being taken by those directly afflicted. But more policy actions, along with stronger political will by other governments is needed if meaningful climate action is to be taken.

Joshua Robinson