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As an extreme year for hurricanes, wildfires and heat waves comes to an end, the head of the United Nations challenged world leaders to make 2021 the year that humanity ends its “war on nature” and commits to a future free of planet-warming carbon pollution.

It was tinged with optimism but delivered dire warnings,

“The state of the planet is broken,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a speech, as the UN gears up for a December 12 virtual climate summit in France on the 5th anniversary of the landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement.

“Humanity is waging war on nature. This is suicidal.”

“Apocalyptic fires and floods, cyclones and hurricanes are increasingly the new normal,” he said.

Guterres saw hope in promises by more than 100 countries that by mid-century they will not be adding more heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere than trees and technology can remove, along with shorter term pollution cuts. China and US President-elect Joe Biden have pledged net zero carbon emissions.

“I firmly believe that 2021 can be a new kind of leap year — the year of a quantum leap towards carbon neutrality,” Guterres said.

But he said the two UN reports Wednesday “spell out how close we are to climate catastrophe.”

When countries spend trillions of dollars to recover from the pandemic-triggered economic slowdown, Guterres said they must to do so in a way that emphasises clean energy.

Nations should stop funding and subsidising fossil fuels, he said. And countries need to fulfill their Paris promise to spend US$100 billion ($135 billion) annually to help poorer countries develop cleaner energy.

An overheating world obliterated weather records in 2020 — an extreme year for hurricanes, wildfires, heat waves, floods, droughts and ice melt — the United Nations’ weather agency reported December 2, 2020. (Source: AP)

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