We are at a “point of no return.” UN secretary general sets out the case for immediate action to tackle a global climate crisis, as latest talks open in Spain.

The 25th Conference of the Parties (COP25), gets underway in Madrid this week, bringing together negotiators from around 190 countries to find ways to neutralise the threat of global warming.

Speaking ahead of the session, the UN secretary general António Guterres said the response from leading nations has been "utterly inadequate" so far and there is real danger that global warming could pass the “point of no return.”

He told delegates that the world has the scientific knowledge and the technical means to limit global warming, but criticised world leaders for their lack of “political will.”

The Paris Agreement 2015 was a landmark, in building political consensus towards a 1.5°C cap on global warming by 2050. But while all 180+ countries signed the Agreement, most have so far failed to ratify their contribution to emissions reduction, while President Trump is pulling the US out of the Agreement altogether.

Sonam Wangdi, the Chair of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) group in UN climate change negotiations said all countries must follow through on their commitment. "Some 70 countries have pledged to become carbon neutral by 2050, this must be carried on at Madrid COP. There must be an agreement among us all to do our fair share. If it doesn't happen in Madrid it could be too late for 2020 pledges."

A report published last month by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), confirms greenhouse gas concentrations reached their highest recorded level last year. The report also points out that the world’s 20 wealthiest countries (G20) are responsible for 78% of all emissions.

"We simply have to stop digging and drilling and take advantage of the vast possibilities offered by renewable energy and nature-based solutions," Mr Guterres said.

A key objective of COP25 this week is to raise overall ambition that the Paris Climate Change Agreement to be fully operational in all ratified countries. Negotiations will focus on finding ways for countries to upgrade their carbon plans and prepare new plans for net zero emissions by 2050.

Progress at COP25 is essentially a stepping stone to the 2020 global climate summit, which is billed as the most important year for global climate efforts since the Paris deal was agreed in 2015. This event, COP26, will be held in Glasgow next year.

Last reviewed 2 December 2019