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Guterres tells world leaders to fight climate change by stop using fossil fuels

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

At a climate summit in New York yesterday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had a strong message for world leaders on climate change.

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ANTONIO GUTERRES: Humanity has opened the gates of hell. Horrendous heat is having horrendous effects.

FADEL: He urged countries to transition more quickly away from fossil fuels. At the same time, one country announced its backtracking. Lauren Sommer has more from NPR's climate desk.

LAUREN SOMMER, BYLINE: On climate change, the numbers are still going in the wrong direction. Greenhouse gas emissions are still going up, so temperatures are still going up. Dangerous storms and heat waves, also getting worse. The answer, Guterres told world leaders, is ending the use of fossil fuels without delay.

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GUTERRES: We must make up time lost to foot-dragging, arm-twisting and the naked greed of entrenched interests raking in billions from fossil fuels.

SOMMER: He spoke at this week's Climate Ambition Summit, where he urged richer countries to get off coal power by 2030 and to cut emissions more quickly. The U.S. and China, the two largest emitters, didn't offer new pledges, but a few countries did, like Brazil. But even as the summit was underway, U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak made his own speech in London.

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PRIME MINISTER RISHI SUNAK: When our share of global emissions is less than 1%, how can it be right that British citizens are now being told to sacrifice even more than others?

SOMMER: Sunak announced he'd be rolling back some of the U.K.'s ambitious climate policies. A ban on selling gas and diesel cars will be delayed by five years to 2035. Requirements to make home heating more efficient will also be eased. He said the country will still meet its international climate commitments, but the announcement did not go over well for countries where climate change threatens their very existence. Mia Mottley is the prime minister of Barbados.

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PRIME MINISTER MIA MOTTLEY: We are in the final stages of what actions are needed to preserve this planet. And regrettably, I'm not sure that everyone is getting it.

SOMMER: Mottley called for more action and for debt relief for countries like hers that have done little to cause climate change. She wants to free up that money to help prepare for climate impacts like hurricanes and sea level rise. She says the current system makes them more vulnerable to climate change.

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MOTTLEY: It is unconscionable, and it is almost a crime against humanity.

SOMMER: These issues will be at the top of the agenda at climate negotiations in two months in Dubai.

Lauren Sommer, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Lauren Sommer covers climate change for NPR's Science Desk, from the scientists on the front lines of documenting the warming climate to the way those changes are reshaping communities and ecosystems around the world.