United Nations head Antonio Guterres
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks to the media regarding Russia's invasion of Ukraine, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, U.S., March 14, 2022. Photo: Reuters / ANDREW KELLY

António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, has come down heavily on wealthy countries taking their own sweet time to fulfil targets required to control climate change.

The UN chief was speaking at the UN climate ambition summit, held in New York on Wednesday, when he made the remarks.

He underlined that the world is decades behind in the transition to clean energy, adding that humanity has "opened the gates to hell" with extreme weather events making their presence frequent worldwide.

"Horrendous heat is having horrendous effects," he warned, as he highlighted how the world is already heading towards a 2.8°C temperature rise.

However, Guterres also said that there is still hope and that the target fixed under the Paris Agreement is still attainable. "We can still build a world of clear air, green jobs, and affordable clean power for all," he said.

The Paris Agreement involves keeping the increase in global average temperature well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and limiting the increase to 1.5°C to fight climate change.

However, the United Nations has time and again warned that the world is far from achieving this goal and that more needs to be done, especially by the global north.

To limit global warming to below 2.0°C and 1.5°C, global GHG emissions must be reduced by 30% and 45% respectively.

Climate change and its impact:

Floods, droughts, wildfires, and excessive heat during the summer months have already become frequent due to climate change, and experts believe not enough is being done to reduce their pace.

The effects of climate change are already being felt by small island development states (SIDS). They are among the most vulnerable countries on the planet, as rising sea levels around them are inching higher. According to a report by the UN's World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), two million people have already been killed by extreme weather, climate, and water-related events since 1970.

The UN chief has called on developing countries to support emerging economies in their fight against climate change and global warming.

It is said that developed countries are responsible for 75% of the accumulated atmospheric greenhouse gases causing climate change. The developing countries believe that the developed countries should shoulder most of the burden of reducing emissions since they are the ones who have contributed significantly to the crisis that humanity faces today.

In fact, the latest catastrophic floods in Libya have been attributed to the current state of the climate. At least 3,950 people have been killed while thousands remain missing after last week's tsunami-like flooding in the Libyan city of Derna.

The heavy rainfall that led to flooding was caused by Storm Daniel which first hit regions of Bulgaria, Spain, Turkey, and Greece.

A World Weather Attribution report claimed that "for the large region including Greece and parts of Bulgaria and Türkiye, we find that human-induced climate change made an event as extreme as the one observed up to 10 times more likely and up to 40 per cent more intense".

It is said that Earth's average temperature will hit the 1.5ºC threshold around 2030, a decade earlier than projected only three years ago. The UN has urged the world to urgently take steps to stop global warming.

In order to limit global warming to 1.5ºC, greenhouse gas emissions must peak before 2025 at the latest and decline by 43 per cent by 2030.

Earlier this year, a UN climate report found that global sea levels are rising at more than double the pace they did in the first decade of measurements in 1993–2002 and hit a new record high last year.

The planet is already 1.2°C warmer than in pre-industrial times. If the rising temperatures are not brought under control, extreme weather events will only become more frequent and catastrophic.