UN chief Antonio Guterres warned of the threat of fossil fuel addiction as emissions are still set to rise 14 percent before the end of the decade.

Guterres described Covid recovery spending as
Guterres described Covid recovery spending as "scandalously uneven" and a missed opportunity to accelerate the turn toward clean energy. (Reuters Archive)

UN chief Antonio Guterres has said the world is "sleepwalking to climate catastrophe", with major economies allowing carbon pollution to increase when drastic cuts are needed.

The planet-saving goal of capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius is already "on life support," he told a sustainability conference in London on Monday.

Guterres’ comments came only hours before the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) kicks off a two-week meeting to validate a landmark report on options for reducing carbon pollution and extracting CO2 from the air.

The report is expected to conclude that CO2 emissions must peak within a few years if the Paris temperature targets are to be met.

Guterres described Covid recovery spending as "scandalously uneven" and a missed opportunity to accelerate the turn toward clean energy.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine, he added, could further derail climate action with importers locking in fossil fuel dependence as they scramble to replace Russian oil and gas.

READ MORE: The small window to act on climate change is closing – IPCC

Continued rise in emissions

Keeping 1.5C in play requires a 45 percent drop in emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by mid-century, according to the IPCC.

But even if nations honour newly revised pledges under the Paris Agreement, emissions are still set to rise 14 percent before the decade ends.

"Countries could become so consumed by the immediate fossil fuel supply gap that they neglect or knee-cap (climate) policies," Guterres said.

A report last year from the intergovernmental International Energy Agency (IEA) concluded that a 1.5C world was incompatible with any new oil or gas developments, or new coal-fired power plants.

Breaking with the usual practice of not singling out countries, Guterres called out Australia and a "handful of holdouts" for failing to lay out "meaningful" near-term plans to slash emissions.

Wealthy nations in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) must phase-out coal by 2030, and all other countries by 2040, Guterres said.

Rich nations should provide money, technology and knowhow to help emerging economies purge coal from their energy portfolios, he added, pointing to a pathbreaking deal for South Africa unveiled at the COP26 climate summit last November in Glasgow.

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Source: AFP