UN Chief Warns of ‘Dramatic Climate Emergency’

Demonstrators hold upside-down portraits of French President Emmanuel Macron in Bayonne, France, on Sunday, demanding he do more to protect French workers and the planet. (AP photo/Emilio Morenatti)

BIARRITZ, France (AP) — UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says that the world faces “a dramatic climate emergency,” and urged leaders at a Sept. 23 summit in New York to agree to cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than they promised in the 2015 Paris climate accord.

Guterres said Monday at the Group of Seven summit in Biarritz, France, that “we are much worse than we were during Paris … and so it’s absolutely essential that countries commit themselves to increase what was promised in Paris.”

Guterres said that Greenland’s ice cap was melting “dramatically” and that 2015 through 2019 were “the five hottest years on record.”

President Donald Trump has pulled the United States out of the Paris accord but Guterres said states, cities and businesses had “the capacity to deliver in relation to climate action.”

Trump missed the session on climate Monday at the Group of Seven summit in France. He was scheduled to attend the meeting on climate, biodiversity and oceans, but his chair was empty during a portion of the meeting reporters were allowed to witness.

French President Emmanuel Macron said that Trump’s aides were there. Trump is a climate change skeptic who once claimed it’s a hoax invented by the Chinese.

Also Monday, Macron did not back down in his dispute with Brazil’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro. Macron has threatened to block a European trade deal with Brazil and other South American countries over the Amazon wildfires and what he has called Bolsonaro’s lies about containing deforestation.

The acrimony deteriorated over the weekend when Bolsonaro endorsed a Facebook post insulting Macron’s wife, Brigitte. Macron also accused him of missing a scheduled meeting with the French foreign minister in favor of a barber appointment and reiterated that Bolsonaro had lied to him.

Macron said: “It’s sad. First for him and for the Brazilians.”

He said Brazilian women “are doubtless ashamed to read that about their president” and that he hoped the country would soon have a president who could behave according to the standards of the office.

The G-7 countries agreed to an immediate $20 million fund to help Amazon countries fight wildfires and launch a long-term global initiative to protect the rainforest.

The announcement came from Macron and Chilean President Sebastián Piñera. Macron said that the Amazon represents the lungs of the planet and that leaders were studying the possibility of similar support in Africa, also suffering from fires in its rainforests.

Satellites have recorded more than 41,000 fires in the Amazon region so far this year — with more than half of those coming this month alone. Experts say most of the fires are set by farmers or ranchers clearing farmland.

Meanwhile, French officials said the United States and France were nearing a possible deal on taxing online powerhouses — and avoiding new tariffs on French wine.

Two officials said Monday that progress was made at a dinner Sunday night with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, France’s finance minister and other U.S. officials on the sidelines of the Group of Seven summit in Biarritz.

France in July introduced a 3% tax on French revenues of big tech companies like Google and Amazon, which pay next to no taxes on French sales.

President Trump threatened retaliatory measures on French wine, which could be announced as soon as Monday.

Asked about the wine tariffs Monday, Trump said, “It depends on the deal we work out on the digital tax,” which “we’re negotiating right now.”

The French officials said France would scrap its tech tax if an international tax deal on digital multinationals is in place by 2020 or 2021 — and could reimburse the companies if the international tax is lower than the French tax.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they could not be named publicly.

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