UN chief warns of 'existential threats' to climate, biodiversity

UN chief warns of 'existential threats' to climate, biodiversity
© getty: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

The leader of the United Nations warned Monday of “existential threats” to the global climate and biodiversity. 

Speaking to the World Economic Forum, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said that today’s world suffers from “fragility,” invoking issues such as the coronavirus pandemic and resulting job losses. 

“We also see fragility in the climate and biodiversity crisis. Both are existential threats, and both are getting worse,” Guterres said. 

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“We are waging war on nature and destroying our life support system, and nature is striking back,” he added. 

Later in his speech, he said 2021 is the “make-it-or-break-it year” and called on countries to commit to reaching carbon neutrality. 

“We need to make sure that countries present their nationally determined contributions in 2021 with a dramatic reduction in emissions up to 2030,” he added, referring to national goals to reduce emissions. 

His comments follow recent U.N. reports raising concerns about biodiversity. 

In October, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity said in a report that habitat destruction and overconsumption would increase the chances of animal-borne diseases infecting people in the future, noting that there are currently 850,000 viruses found in animals that could eventually infect humans. 

And a September U.N. report found that the world had failed to meet any biodiversity objectives agreed to at a 2010 summit. 

Meanwhile, the world is also facing extreme heat and weather events linked to climate change. Last year, global temperatures were about on par with the previous hottest year on record, 2016, according to findings from U.S. and European agencies.