Citing the "dramatic floods" in India and Nepal, UN chief Antonio Guterres has urged nations to commit to the historic Paris deal to address the threats posed by climate change as natural disasters become frequent and more devastating.
Weeks of torrential monsoon rains and catastrophic flooding in India, Nepal and Bangladesh have devastated the lives of millions of children and families. UNICEF estimates that almost 16 million children and their families are in urgent need of life-saving support. Since mid-August, there have been at least 1,288 reported deaths.
"First of all, climate change today is undeniable. In the US, as in Portugal and other parts of the world, we are seeing heat waves, we are seeing dramatic floods – Sierra Leone, India, Nepal – we always had floods in the past but now natural disasters are becoming more frequent, more intense and with more devastating consequences," Guterres said.
He said as deserts are progressing, glaciers diminishing and sea levels starting to rise, it is clearly a threat to humanity. "To fight it we have today an important instrument – the Paris Agreement. We need to make sure that all countries commit themselves to that [accord]," he said.
Without naming the US, which has decided to pull out of the climate accord, Guterres said wherever countries are not able to commit to the climate deal at the government level, societies, the business communities and cities should lead the process.
The Paris climate deal aims to prevent the Earth from heating up by 2 degrees Celsius since the start of the industrial age. The US is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China.
"…In this way, we can be able to meet the Paris Agreement, but with an increased ambition because Paris is not enough to be able to contain global warming at the level that is acceptable," he added.
With the world facing the challenges of terrorism, extremism and the refugee crisis, Guterres said the UN must be an instrument for a surge in diplomacy for peace. He said nations must forget their and come together to put an end to these tragic series of crises, violence and conflicts.
"Because these conflicts are also becoming more and more interlinked and more linked to global terrorism. So we need to fight terrorists where they are, but we need to address the root causes of terrorism," he said.
Guterres asserted that there is need for nations to come together to solve conflicts and at the same time build cohesive societies where "people can feel they belong, where they don't feel discriminated [against] and respect human rights, to make sure that terrorist organisations have more and more difficulties recruiting people".
"So we need – in sustainable development, in human rights and in a peace and security approach – to combine all the UN instruments in order to be able to defeat terrorism," he added.
Earlier this week, Guterres had said that India, China and the US have experienced the most natural disasters since 1995 as he urged nations to get serious about keeping the ambition high on climate action.
"The United States, followed by China and India, have experienced the most disasters since 1995," Guterres had said, adding that last year alone, 24.2 million people were displaced by sudden-onset disasters – three times as many as by conflict and violence.
Guterres had said the UN stands ready to support relief efforts in any way possible. He added that the number of natural disasters has nearly quadrupled since 1970.