by Xinhua Writer Wang Jiangang
UNITED NATIONS, March 27 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations on Saturday evening dimmed the lights at its headquarters in New York and other facilities around the world to mark the 10th annual "Earth Hour," a global event to spotlight issues facing the planet and to inspire people to live a more sustainable life.
In a video message, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said: "Climate change continues to imperil lives and livelihoods around the world...The landmark Paris Agreement gives us an unprecedented opportunity to limit global temperature rise, promote clean energy for all and create a sustainable future."
Guterres and his team members has put the Paris deal, a legacy from his predecessor Ban Ki-moon, high on agenda.
In his remarks at the High-Level Meeting on Climate Change and the Sustainable Development Agenda on March 23, the UN chief said, "climate change is an unprecedented and growing threat to peace and prosperity and the same in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals."
"Addressing climate change is a massive opportunity that we cannot afford to miss," Guterres added.
He called for efforts to be made to invigorate political momentum and highlight its deep links with the 2030 Goals of the United Nations.
STUNNING CLIMATE SITUATION
Global temperatures set yet another record last year, hitting a remarkable 1.1 degree-Celsius above the pre-industrial period, the UN specialized agency World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said.
The agency reported in its Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2016 that global sea-level touched record highs and the planet's sea-ice coverage dropped more than 4 million sq km below average in November, an unprecedented anomaly for that month, warning that the extreme weather and climate conditions have continued into 2017.
"With levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere consistently breaking new records, the influence of human activities on the climate system has become more and more evident," said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.
Latest available WMO data show that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere reached the symbolic benchmark of 400 parts per millions in 2015, and will not fall below that for many generations to come.
The agency also reported the past decade as the hottest on record.
"This trend is indisputable," said Guterres at the March 23 high-level meeting on climate change, adding that human activity is undoubtedly causing dangerous global warming.
Peter Thomson, president of the General Assembly, cited WMO chief Taalas as confirming that the world is currently on track towards a 3 to 4 degrees Celsius increase in global temperatures.
Thomson said it is his understanding that once the global temperatures rise to that range, "humanity's survival on this planet will be put in jeopardy."
SCIENTIFIC FACTS, NOT POLITICS
"We are dealing with scientific facts, not politics," Guterres warned.
"The facts are clear. Climate change is a direct threat in itself, and a multiplier of many other threats," he added.
"We face serious risks across the whole of the 2030 Agenda. Food security is under threat around the world due to more droughts. With food insecurity, we must add economic insecurity as scarcities of staple crops cause price surges," he said.
According to the UN chief, water insecurity is too growing. One-third of the world's population already lives in countries experiencing water stress. As water gets more scarce, it threatens to become a catalyst for conflict.
Climate change is a menace to livelihood, to property and to business, he noted.
The UN chief also talked about rampant wildfires, floods, and threats to the existence of low-lying nations and cities due to sea-level rise, among others.
"All these risks mean poverty will worsen and people will be forced to move from degraded lands to cities and other nations," he said, while calling for actions in response.
COMMITMENT URGED TO PARIS DEAL, 2030 AGENDA
Guterres praised the December 2015 signing of the Paris deal in a global joint move against climate change as "unique in its universality."
"To date more than 130 parties have ratified it," and the numbers are growing monthly, he said, adding that UN is committed to helping implement both the agreement and the 2030 agenda that all the UN members have showed support.
"And the reason for this consensus is clear: all nations recognize that implementing the 2030 Agenda goes hand-in-glove with limiting global temperature rise and increasing climate resilience," said Guterres.
Countries are turning pledges into national climate action plans, he said, while some cities and businesses are also taking a lead.
Guterres said they know fighting climate change can also "unlock vast potential economic growth in all regions and for all people."
According to the UN chief, over half of new power generation capacity now comes from renewables. In Europe, the share is more than 90 percent.
In the United States and China, new renewable energy jobs now outstrip those created in the oil and gas industries. Globally, over 8 million people work in the renewables sector, he said, while noting a clear worldwide trend towards green economy.
"This challenge is immense. Inaction or insufficient action will destabilize the natural systems that underpin all social and economic development," said Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, who urged a concerted effort.
"We have truly entered the era of implementation. It is up to us, collectively as one community of nations, to accelerate action that builds a better future for all," she said.