UN General Assembly to Tackle Climate Change in 74th Session

The United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan. The 74th session of the U.N. General Assembly opened this week.

UNITED NATIONS (CN) – The 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly opened this week and world leaders are set to focus on climate issues, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday.

The world is at a critical moment on several fronts,” Guterres told reporters in prepared remarks. “Climate emergency, rising inequality, increasing hatred and intolerance, as well as an alarming number of peace and security challenges. Tensions are rising everywhere.”

The world needs international cooperation more than ever, he said, and the week ahead is designed to create solutions that respond to people and scientists. 

“Let’s face it – we have no time to lose,” Guterres said, adding that humans are losing the race against climate change. So this week, he said, he and his colleagues will spotlight that issue, “which threatens everyone and everything.”

He praised the upcoming Youth Climate Summit on Saturday and commended youth around the world for holding their leaders accountable for their future.

“Young people are leading the debate, and they are absolutely right to press us to do better and to unite behind science,” he said. 

Sixteen-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg is expected to attend both the youth climate summit and Monday’s U.N. Climate Action Summit. Thunberg was in Washington, D.C., Tuesday, where she testified before Congress about the urgent need for U.S. action to curb climate change. 

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (right) addresses the press at the start of the 74th session of the U.N. General Assembly.

I told leaders not to just come with fancy speeches but with concrete commitments,” Guterres said of the climate action summit. Later, during the question-and-answer portion of the press conference, he added, “I have three grandchildren, and I don’t want to be responsible for them to live in a semi-destroyed planet.”

Guterres said he expects the summit attendees to commit to improving their contributions to the Paris climate agreement, and he hopes for a 45% reduction of emissions in the next decade. 

During the press conference, the secretary-general also condemned the recent attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities, which it says was perpetrated by Iran. Yemeni Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for the attack. President Donald Trump announced today that he would order new sanctions on Iran in response. 

U.N. experts have already left for Saudi Arabia to investigate the incident, Guterres said. 

“I strongly condemn this attack,” Guerres said. “I think this attack is a dramatic escalation in the Gulf, and we absolutely need to stop immediate impact on the market.”

He also said he still believes a two-state solution is possible between Israel and Palestine, and encouraged dialogue between India and Pakistan.

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