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War in Ukraine cannot make us neglect the importance of climate change

"We can see its impacts everywhere," says UN leader on global warming and calls for action against a phenomenon that threatens humanity
Panoramic view of the Austrian capital Vienna

Unsplash/Jacek Dylag  -   Panoramic view of the Austrian capital Vienna

Despite the devastating consequences of the war in Ukraine, the UN Secretary-General in Vienna on Wednesday recalled that we cannot neglect the "existential threat" that climate change poses to the entire world.

"We can see its impacts everywhere, including right here in the Austrian Alps, where glaciers are retreating and ice and snow bridges are disappearing," warned António Guterres after a recent trip to the Sahel.

The head of the UN stressed that, in order to limit the increase in global temperatures to a maximum of 1.5ºC, as established in the Paris Agreement, "we must reduce global emissions by 45% this decade", a scenario that seems complicated since "the current climate treaties would mean a 14% increase in emissions".

Food production in Ukraine and Russia needs to be rebuilt

On the conflict in Ukraine, he said it has triggered a triple crisis: food, energy and financial, which is having "devastating effects" both for people and for the most vulnerable countries and economies. "This senseless war must stop," he reiterated.

For Guterres, the ensuing food crisis caused by the war calls for "swift and decisive action" to ensure a steady supply of food and energy to markets, "removing export restrictions, allocating surpluses and stocks to those who need them, and addressing rising food prices to calm market volatility".

However, he acknowledged that, despite the war, a solution to global food insecurity lies in restoring both agricultural production in Ukraine and food and fertiliser production in Russia and Belarus.

"I am working hard to help facilitate dialogue to make this a reality," he said.

Guterres further elaborated his response in statements to the press and indicated that hostilities will stop at some point as the war "will not last forever".

"There will be a time when peace negotiations will be on the table, there will be a time when I hope it will be possible to have, in line with the UN Charter and international law, a solution to the problem. And, of course, as I mentioned, my good offices are fully available, and I am ready to do everything I can to be able to cooperate when we seize that moment. But it is not on the immediate horizon," he explained.

El secretario general António Guterres (izquierda) y el presidente de Austria, Alexander Van der Bellen, durante una conferencia de prensa conjunta en Viena, Austria
UNIS Vienna/Dean Calma - Secretary-General António Guterres (left) and Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen during a joint press conference in Vienna, Austria.
Busy institutional agenda

The Secretary General later met with Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, to whom he expressed particular concern about the continuing air strikes on urban centres in Ukraine, and with the President of the National Council, Wolfgang Sobotka, with whom he also exchanged views on the conflict.

In the afternoon, he travelled to the Vienna International Centre, which houses the main UN agencies in the Austrian capital, where he met with the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, and later held a meeting with the Organisation's staff in that city.  

He will inaugurate the meeting of the United Nations Chief Executives Board, organised by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).