The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, has referred to the devastating floods in Kerala and the wildfires in California as he expressed concern that climate change is 'running faster than we are' and called for urgency and action to prevent greater climate-related crises. He said last year, such disasters were responsible for thousands of deaths and USD 320 billion dollars in losses.
'Climate change is running faster than we are and the impacts are devastating. It is usually the poorest and the most vulnerable who are hit first and worst by storms, floods, droughts, wildfires and rising seas,' Guterres pointed out at the launch of the 2018 New Climate Economy report in New York.
'This year, we have seen the terrible flooding in Kerala, savage wildfires in California and Canada, and dramatic warming in the Arctic that is affecting weather patterns across the northern hemisphere. The trend is clear. The last 19 years included 18 of the warmest years on record, and greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere continue to rise,' he said.
Kerala witnessed the worst flooding in 100 years and about 80 dams overflowed and more than 370 lives were lost. The state's Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, had said that a total of 1.2 million people affected by floods had been housed in 3,314 relief camps.
Guterres warned that runaway climate change is a real possibility, with severe implications for communities, economies, peace and the security of nations. 'Climate change has been proven to amplify and exacerbate other risks. Put simply, we need climate action to prevent ever greater crises. We must act with greater ambition and urgency.'
The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate document finds that the benefits of smarter and clearer growth are significantly under-estimated, and that bold climate action could deliver USD 26 trillion in economic benefits through to 2030.
Other benefits of switching to a clean economy include the creation of over 65 million new low-carbon jobs, and 700,000 fewer air pollution-related deaths. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former finance minister of Nigeria and co-chair of the Commission, said, 'Policy makers should take their feet off the brakes, send a clear signal that the new growth story is here and that it comes with exciting economic and market opportunities. In all USD 26 trillion and a more sustainable planet are on offer if we act decisively now.'
Guterres added that momentum for climate action is growing every day, with over 130 of the world’s most influential companies now committed to using only renewable energy, fossil fuel-dependent countries looking to diversify and over 250 investors with USD 28 trillion in managed assets signing on to the Climate Action 100+ initiative.
The Climate Action is a five-year initiative led by investors to engage systemically important greenhouse gas emitters and other companies across the global economy that have significant opportunities to drive the clean energy transition and help achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Guterres said clean energy systems help developing countries, where over a billion people still do not have access to electricity. 'It can help deliver access to energy to the one billion people who currently lack electricity.' Underlining the risks faced by the world, the UN chief said women, the poorest and the most vulnerable are hit first and worst by storms, floods, droughts, wildfires and rising seas.