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story.lead_photo.caption United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres talks to the audience at the opening ceremony of the United Nations climate change summit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, June 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates -- U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sunday urged officials gathered in the United Arab Emirates to take immediate action to cut greenhouse-gas emissions.

Guterres is calling on governments to stop building new coal plants by 2020, cut greenhouse emissions by 45% over the next decade and overhaul fossil fuel-driven economies with cleaner technologies like solar and wind. The world, he said, "is facing a grave climate emergency."

In remarks at a conference in Abu Dhabi, a region where the production of hydrocarbons remains a key driver of the economy, he painted a grim picture of how rapidly climate change is advancing, saying it is outpacing efforts to address it.

He lauded the Paris climate accord, but said that even if its promises are fully met, the world still faces what he described a rise in global temperatures of 3 degrees by the end of the century, which he called catastrophic.

Arctic permafrost is melting decades earlier than even worst-case scenarios, he said, threatening to unlock vast amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas.

"It is plain to me that we have no time to lose," Guterres said. "Sadly, it is not yet plain to all the decision makers that run our world."

He spoke at the opulent Emirates Palace, where Abu Dhabi was hosting a preparatory meeting for the U.N. Climate Action Summit in September. Guterres was expected to later take a helicopter ride to view Abu Dhabi's Noor solar power plant.

When asked whether the conference and the helicopter ride undercut Guterres' message of limiting emissions, U.N. representatives replied that both events would be carbon-neutral, meaning that their effects on the environment would be balanced by efforts like planting trees and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, also known as sequestering emissions. The U.N. says carbon dioxide emissions account for around 80% of global warming.

Guterres was in Abu Dhabi fresh off meetings with the Group of 20 leaders in Osaka, Japan. There, he appealed directly to heads of state of the world's main emitters to step up their efforts. The countries of the G-20 represent 80% of world emissions of greenhouse gases, he said.

Nineteen of the 20 countries at the G-20 meeting expressed their commitment to the Paris agreement. Only the United States dissented. In 2017, President Donald Trump pledged to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement as soon as 2020, arguing that it puts American workers and taxpayers at a disadvantage.

The secretary-general's special envoy for the climate summit, Ambassador Luis Alfonso de Alba, told The Associated Press it was disappointing that the U.S. has pulled out from the accord. However, he said there are many examples of efforts at the local and state level in the United States to combat climate change.

"I think it is very important to have all countries committing to this cause ... even more when we are talking about the country of the importance and the size -- not only in terms of the economy but also the emissions -- of the United States," he said.

A Section on 07/01/2019

Print Headline: U.N. leader urges climate-change action

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