UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres warned during a speech about the state of nature on Wednesday that humanity is "waging war" on the planet.
"We are facing a devastating pandemic, new heights of global heating, new lows of ecological degradation, and new setbacks in our work towards global goals for more equitable, inclusive and sustainable development," Guterres said in a speech at Columbia University in New York. "To put it simply, the state of the planet is broken."
Guterres pointed to two reports — one from the World Meteorological Organization and one from the United Nations Environment Programme — that he said "spell out how close we are to climate catastrophe," adding that countries should use the pandemic to refocus on climate change.
The World Meteorological Organization released a report on Wednesday that showed 2020 is on track to be one of the three warmest years globally. Ocean heat has reached record levels and Arctic sea ice saw record lows in July and October, the report said.
"Humanity is waging war on nature. This is suicidal," Guterres said. "Nature always strikes back — and it is already doing so with growing force and fury."
Guterres said that he is concerned about overfishing and plastic waste in the ocean, dying and bleached coral reefs, air pollution, and expansion of people and livestock into wild spaces, which he said could cause "more viruses and other disease-causing agents jump from animals to humans."
The UN official said he wants to prioritize reaching global carbon neutrality within three decades, align global finances with the Paris Agreement to limit global warning, and focus on finding breakthroughs that will help the world adapt to changing climates.
"Let's be clear: human activities are at the root of our descent toward chaos. But that means human action can help solve it," he said. "Making peace with nature is the defining task of the 21st century. It must be the top, top priority for everyone, everywhere."