The head of the United Nations blamed lack of leadership Wednesday for the world’s failure to take tough decisions needed to stop global warming, warning that a key goal of the Paris climate accord is at risk.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres bluntly told leaders gathered in New York that unless current emission trends of greenhouse gases are reversed by 2020, it will be impossible to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). The target was set in the 2015 Paris agreement, but the U.N. says government commitments so far only achieve a third of cuts needed.

“Why is climate change faster than we are?” he asked. “The only possible answer is that we still lack strong leadership to take the bold decisions needed to put our economies and societies on the path of low-carbon growth and climate-resilience.”

Guterres’ comments echo those of climate researchers, who say the world could miss even the less ambitious goal of the Paris accord of keeping temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century compared with pre-industrial times.

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

The U.N. chief challenged governments to end fossil fuel subsidies, help shift toward renewable energy and back a price for carbon emissions that reflects their actual cost. Guterres said climate-related disasters already cost the world $320 billion last year, a figure likely to grow with increased warming.

He singled out the world’s 20 leading and emerging economies — known as the G-20 — saying they account for about 80 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

As Guterres spoke at the United Nations, across town corporate leaders and government officials announced a range of programs intended to pump billions of dollars in public and private funds into what’s often referred to as the “green economy,” which aims to reduce the environmental impact of business.

The coming months will see a flurry of negotiations over the rules that countries will have to follow as part of their commitment to the Paris accord. Signatories have set themselves a deadline of agreeing to rules by the time leaders meet in Katowice, Poland, in December.

Source: The Associated Press

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