"We are confronted with a global climate crisis and the point of no return is no longer over the horizon, it is in sight and hurtling towards us," said United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the eve of the two-week COP25 global climate summit in Madrid.
"Our war against nature must stop, and we know that it is possible," he said Sunday. "We simply have to stop digging and drilling and take advantage of the vast possibilities offered by renewable energy and nature-based solutions."
Across the globe, catastrophic weather patterns — from floods to fire to extreme droughts and heavy snowstorms — are wreaking havoc on both human and animal life. Scientists are warning that the world is running out of time to reverse the worst possible effects of man-made climate breakdown.
Guterres took member nations to task for not sticking to the 2015 Paris climate agreement, which calls on a limit to fossil fuel use in an attempt to curb global temperatures increases.
'World's largest emitters are not pulling their weight'
"We also see clearly that the world's largest emitters are not pulling their weight," he said, "and without them, our goal is unreachable."
The world's largest carbon emitter is China and the second-largest, the United States.
At last year's UN climate summit in Katowice, Poland, member states drew up a framework for monitoring emission reductions and made plans for further cuts in the future. However, there has still been no agreement on key elements like putting a price on CO2 emissions that could allow carbon taxes to be traded between countries.
On Friday, mass rallies were held around the world as people called on their governments to address climate change before it's too late.
New EU Commission plans 'Green Deal'
The newly minted leadership of the European Commission, under former German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, has set lofty climate goals for itself under a policy initiative called the "European Green Deal." Among the goals set out by the campaign is the plan to make Europe the "first carbon-neutral continent."
As von der Leyen and her cabinet took office on Sunday, she hailed the COP25 summit as the perfect "starting point" for her climate policy plans.
"Europe is leading in this topic and we know that we have to be ambitious for our planet,'' von der Leyen told reporters.
On Thursday, European lawmakers voted to declare an EU-wide climate emergency in a symbolic move aimed at increasing pressure on the incoming European Commission to take a stronger stance on climate change.
On Sunday, European Parliament President David Sassoli also spoke of the need "to turn the promises of the past few months into results that improve people's lives. From the fight against climate change to tackling the rise in the cost of living, Europeans want to see real action.''
es/cmk (AP, AFP, Reuters)