UN chief urges governments to use pandemic to ‘rebuild our world for the better’

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UN chief António Guterres has said the coronavirus pandemic has exposed how fragile societies are but that if governments work together on common challenges, including the climate crisis, it can be an opportunity to “rebuild our world for the better”.

Speaking at a two-day international meeting on climate breakdown, the secretary-general said the only effective response to the worldwide health emergency is “brave, visionary and collaborative leadership”.

“The same leadership is needed to address the looming existential threat of climate disruption,” Guterres said, noting that the past decade was the hottest since measurements began.

He urged the European Union to show “global leadership” by presenting updated emissions reduction plans by the end of the year that would put Europe on course to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050.

But Guterres added that other big emitters also have to come on board. He noted that the G20 group of major developed and emerging economies together accounts for more than 80% of global emissions.

“The Paris Agreement was largely made possible by the engagement of the United States and China,” he said, referring to the 2015 climate accord. “Without the contribution of the big emitters, all our efforts will be doomed.”

Under president Donald Trump, the US has moved to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, which commits to keeping global warming below 2C by the end of the century.

“These are dark days, but they are not without hope,” Guterres said. “We have a rare and short window of opportunity to rebuild our world for the better.

“Let us use the pandemic recovery to provide a foundation for a safe, healthy, inclusive and more resilient world for all people.”

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