UN chief Antonio Guterres warned Monday of a dire climate emergency and urged world leaders to combat historic carbon emission levels as they huddle in France.
Carbon emissions are the "highest" in recorded human history, Guterres cautioned, warning of what he called dramatic ice cap melt in Greenland, and wildfires that have ravaged parts of the Arctic Circle and currently in the Amazon.
"We are now facing a dramatic climate emergency," Guterres said in Biarritz, France where the leaders of the world's top seven advanced economies are gathering. "It’s absolutely essential that countries commit themselves to increase what was promised in Paris because what was promised in Paris is not enough and what was promised in Paris is not even being implemented at the present moment."
Guterres was referring to the Paris Climate Accord signed in 2015 by nearly every country in the world. President Donald Trump chose to withdraw Washington from the agreement the year after it was signed under his predecessor because of what he said are unfair requirements it placed on the U.S.
The decision has placed the agreement's future in jeopardy. The U.S. is the world's second-largest carbon polluter.
Trump skipped the G7 panel on climate change earlier Monday, and Guterres appeared to brush aside concerns about the U.S. president's lack of involvement in fighting climate change.
Guterres said "more and more" it will be sub-national actors such as local governments, civil societies and businesses "that will determine the level of emissions and that will determine the contribution of the country to the climate action."
"And so I am very optimistic about the American society and its capacity to deliver in relation to climate action," he said. "What matters here is to have the strong engagement of the American society and of the American business community and the American local authorities."
By Michael Hernandez in Washington