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Antonio Guterres: The World Is On The Edge Of An Abyss

United Nations: Guterres warns ‘we are on the edge of an abyss’

The world has never been more threatened or more divided, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told nations of the world on Tuesday as he kicked off the 76th General Assembly session, urging all 193 member states to “wake up” and realise that solidarity is the only way out of disaster.

“We are on the edge of an abyss,” Guterres said to an assembly hall meeting together for the first time since last year’s suspended in-person session due to the coronavirus pandemic. “We face the greatest cascade of crises in our lifetimes.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has supersized inequalities, the climate crisis is pummeling the planet, upheavals in Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Yemen have thwarted peace and a surge of misformation is polarizing people everywhere.

“Human rights are under fire. Science is under assault. And economic lifelines for the most vulnerable are coming too little and too late —if they come at all,” the UN chief said.

While vaccines have been developed in record time, they are missing for far too many people.

“A surplus in some countries. Empty shelves in others,” he said. “This is a moral indictment of the state of our world. It is an obscenity. We passed the science test. But we are getting an F in Ethics.”

More than 90 percent of Africans are still waiting for their first dose, he added, calling for a global vaccination plan to ensure that vaccines reach 70 percent of the world’s population in the first half of 2022.

The secretary-general sounded the alarm on global warming as well, citing a recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the vivid warning signs sweeping every continent.

“As we saw recently, not even this city — the financial capital of the world — is immune,” he said, referring to the deadly remnants of Hurricane Ida that ravaged New York earlier in September.

The window to keep alive the 1.5-degree-Celcius (2.7-degree F) goal of the Paris Climate Agreement is quickly closing, Guterres warned, and urged the world to commit to a 45 percent cut in emissions by 2030.

Citing a recent UN report that predicted emissions to go up by 16 percent by 2030, he said that would condemn the world to a “hellscape of temperature rises”.

“We are weeks away from the UN Climate Conference in Glasgow, but seemingly light years away from reaching our targets,” he said.

Developing countries must finally see the promised $100bn a year for climate action, said the UN chief. Taxing carbon and pollution instead of people’s income would encourage the switch to sustainable green jobs and ending subsidies to fossil fuels would allocate funds to invest back in education, renewable energy and social protections.

“The people we serve and represent may lose faith not only in their governments and institutions — but in the values that have animated the work of the United Nations for over 75 years,” Guterres warned.

The Secretary-General’s Common Agenda, which builds on the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Paris Climate Agreement, is a tool to bring the UN forward, he added.

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